Circular economy

Conscious Commerce Predictions: Accelerating Transition to a Circular Economy

Our turbulent political climate, world disasters and unprecedented events is fueling businesses, individuals to collaborate on tackling key challenges facing the planet and threats to humanity.  

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By 2050 there will be 9.7 billion people on the planet, half of them will be in water-stressed regions, requiring 50 percent more energy. 

While progress has been made in support of the Sustainability Development (SDG’s) goals, gaps ensue mitigating climate change’s disruptions on peoples lives and economies, the circular economy, a $4.5 trillion opportunity, according to Accenture, is the new driver for innovation across industries, product lifecycles and global supply chains.

While attention on plastic waste, including bans on plastic bags and straws, is advocating sustainability, more effective programs are needed to address resource scarcity and climate threats, respond to societal pressure to preserve our planet for future generations. 

This transition requires companies, retailers, and consumers to adopt a systemic approach to developing new models that use less natural resources, tackle climate change, generate more economic growth and influence buying patterns. 

With escalating concerns about pollution, habitat loss and exploitation of natural resources, businesses are under pressure from investors, civil society and consumers to tackle these challenges.

A recap of the top realities we face:

Oceans: Nearly half of the ocean’s marine populations have declined over the last 45 years. About 13 million tones of plastic leak into our oceans every year, harming biodiversity, economies and health.  By 2050, there will be more plastic than fish if we keep producing (and failing to properly dispose of) plastics at predicted rates, plastics in the ocean will outweigh fish pound for pound in 2050, according to a report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and World Economic Forum. 

Wildlife Species:  In just 20 years African elephants could be gone.  Despite the ivory ban in 1989, elephants continue to be slaughtered with only half the number of elephants left. Approximately 100 African elephants are killed each day by poachers seeking ivory leaving only 430,000 remaining. Elephants are a critical species as they create and maintain the ecosystems in which they live and for other plant and animal species to also survive.

Waste: Businesses are the largest producers of hardware waste and recyclables, with a study finding that £40 billion worth of hardware materials are in the bin. Consumers are discarding usable devices to get the latest new gadget or technology. The amount of annual waste is expected to increase globally to 51 million tons a year due to the digital economy. 

Forests: Warmer temperatures and changing precipitation patterns are driving forests northward, to higher elevation. Changing forest health and range has implications far beyond what types of trees will succeed. Trees are a major backbone of ecosystems that birds and other wildlife rely on for survival. If there is such an abrupt change in the natural landscape, the wildlife, the human systems, and the economies that rely on those systems will be challenged to keep pace with the rate of change.

Global Warming:  Global emissions are reaching record levels and show no sign of peaking. The last four years were the four hottest on record, and winter temperatures in the Arctic have risen by 3°C since 1990. Sea levels are rising, coral reefs are dying, and we are starting to see the life-threatening impact of climate change on health, through air pollution, heat waves and risks to food security. 

Reputation Dynamics Predictions:

What will be key to success for a circular economy for the long-term will be ‘inclusiveness’ towards devising holistic approaches to embrace key social and environmental trends:  

Growth of Consumer Power and Activism:  Recent research by consultancy firm Deloitte revealed over 80 percent of Millennials across Australia, Canada, China, India, the UK and the US find it important for companies to behave ethically and take steps to diminish their environmental impact. Consumers aged 25-35 are projected to spend 150 billion US dollars on sustainable goods by 2021.

Disaster Relief and Recovery: With the increasing number of natural disasters, corporations, emergence of mission-critical foundations and nonprofits are re-thinking approaches to disaster relief and recovery efforts. While many organizations will continue to provide immediate relief to victims of natural disasters through cash grants and product donations, companies are taking a more pro-active approach to restoring and building resilient communities for the long-term, such as affordable housing, trees and parks, mass transport and urban infrastructure; and resilience for the urban poor.

Growth of Sustainability Incentives: As corporations determine metrics, suppliers are incentivized to be more sustainable. For example Project Gigaton is a Walmart initiative to avoid one billion metric tons (a gigaton) of greenhouse gases from the global value chain by 2030. Suppliers can take their sustainability efforts to the next level through goal setting and receive credits. 

Urbanization: Nearly 70 percent of the world’s population (6.7 billion), are projected to live in urban areas. This calls for new innovative designs for cities and living spaces to include water resource protection, renewable energy, food is grown locally, supporting diverse cultures, population migration patterns and carbon-neutral infrastructures. 

Plant a Tree: Urban forests are dynamic ecosystems that provide critical benefits to people and wildlife. Urban forests help to filter air and water, control storm water, conserve energy, and provide shade. By reducing noise and providing places to recreate, urban forests strengthen social cohesion, spur community revitalization, and add economic value to our communities. American Forests, the oldest conservation organization in the US, is dedicated to protecting and restoring healthy forest ecosystems with a goal to plant a further 3 million trees.

Conclusion: A strong business case is a priority for companies looking to adopt effective circular economy practices. With financial incentives for businesses to shift to 100% renewable energy, adopting the circular model represents environmental conservation as an economic opportunity while restoring and building resilient communities for the long-term. 

It will transform our relationships as consumers, our buying habits, selection of clothes, food, utilities and choice of materials. 

However, what is fundamental to success is to treat our materials as precious resources, convene more alliances, work across multiple industry sectors, break down silos, and enforce action on a united front.   

It’s that Simple. Plant a Tree Today: www.americanforests.org

By: Samantha Taylor - Founder of Reputation Dynamics 

Since 2005, Reputation Dynamics (RD) has been committed to addressing social, environmental and human justice issues. RD mobilizes corporations, NGOs/civil society and academia to devise share-valued approaches and develop inclusive partnerships.

I look forward to connecting with peers who are making the world a better place, advancing the Sustainable Development Goals. Please contact me at:  

sam@reputation-dynamics.com