Growth of the circular economy among UK manufacturing firms and the direction of travel for this vital initiative is a conversation that is fast becoming central to many a boardroom meeting.
British businesses are under increasing pressure to consider seriously the environmental impact of all aspects of their sustainability piece in much broader terms than company revenue, profit and shareholder price.
A major hurdle to progress on company-level terms is not necessarily their individual commitment or belief in the necessity for a circular economy, but the most effective way to implement step-change acceleration within their own organisations.
Lean manufacturing processes continue to present very real and exciting opportunities for UK manufacturers to become more agile and competitive in the long-term, but carry with them fundamental changes with perceived knock-on effects that could pose a real risk to those same values in the short-term – and in the era of Industry 4.0, the race towards digitalisation is one in which we must all participate if we want to endure.
So, how can UK manufacturers adopt circular economy values and practices, while retaining a competitive edge, and transforming their digital capabilities?
One method might be to adopt innovations that tie in all three ideas on a more manageable scale.
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation Test Case
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has launched a piece of software designed to track a company’s circular economy performance that has already been implemented by more than 30 firms including British international packaging company DS Smith, and Unilever.
The Circulytics technology provides reports to companies by harnessing performance data against key metrics over time and potentially highlighting opportunities for innovation.
The process is designed to enable businesses to “fully realise circular economy opportunities to generate revenue, design out waste, keep materials and products in use, and create environmental benefits”.
Companies can also choose whether to publish their results.
The Circular Economy
The current ‘take, make, waste’ industrial model is unsustainable and circular economics poses a way forward for UK business with wider social benefits that are scalable to a global level.
It means reshaping attitudes towards material resource and consumption founded on production systems that rely on “economic, natural and social capital”.
On a wider scale, this must be supported by a transition to renewable energies.
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation Circular Economy Three Principles
- Design out waste and pollution
- Keep products and materials in use
- Regenerate natural capital
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