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THE CIRCULAR ECONOMY : How does your business stack up to needs of the future?

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Do you think you run a business with sustainable practices? That you care for the environment and have found ways to lower the carbon footprint? 

Are you scratching the surface still or is your business sustainable all the way through from conceptualization, day to day operations to end-of-life stage?

Ponder this.

Having made the switch from CFLs to LEDs eons ago, we have managed our goal of energy efficiency and resultant reduction in our carbon footprint. But what happens to the LED bulbs after they have served their purpose and are no longer of use? They join the 62 million tons of garbage generated in India, annually. 

If today, Philipps, Havells and Wipro were your ideal contenders in purchasing LED bulbs for your workspace and one out of the three offered to recycle, refurbish and send them back to you to reuse, the top contender for your purchase should be that company. Even if you have to shell out a higher price for it, today. That’s circular economy and your commitment to being part of preserving the environment.  While we have embraced smart buildings, energy-saving systems and recycling methods to a large degree in our day-to-day operations, very little thought has been given to ensuring that from supply chains to materials, interiors and consumption are all aligned to ensure the 5 R’s – Refuse, Reduce, Reuse Repurpose and Recycle. According to the sustainability guide, “Circular businesses are deeply involved in the product usage phase; they generate revenues through provisioning services instead of selling physical products; they rethink the conventional producer-consumer-relationships, value creation activities and the structure of value chains. It is based on supplying fully renewable, recyclable, or biodegradable resource inputs that sustain circular production and consumption systems.”

Aiming at maximizing the utility and life cycle of existing materials and minimizing waste accumulation and the need for raw materials, this model looks at closing the loop and is being widely applied to offices as well. So while avoiding landfills and a mounting garbage crisis is ample motivation, some brands have upped the ante with their incentive based recycling. H&M, for instance, offers a 15% discount with your next purchase on handing in old or unwanted clothing from any brand, which is then segregated and recycled in manufacturing or for social or charitable purposes. PwC has recovered over 91% of its waste and even refurbished and sold laptops and smartphones along with other components to recover a value of more than £500,000 a year. 

With IT and e waste proving to be one the most hazardous, Dell is another brand recovering e waste and introducing reclaimed carbon fiber source materials into some of its products, making it an easy choice for purchasing office IT infrastructure. 

Manufacturing company Herman Miller works with its clients to plan for asset disposal. Through repurposing, donating and recycling, they have diverted more than 27,000 tons of product from landfills and generated $18 million in charitable in-kind donations since 2009.

Imagine now, that you had the choice and option of purchasing your office desks from a similar manufacturer who offered to repair it when needed, or dismantle and reuse it when shifting? Not just the desks, but the entire office interiors which are simply thrown out with a change of occupier or location can now be repurposed and reused. That’s a big step towards circular economy and when corporates decide to use the services of an interior fit-out and services company which can follow this model, they are taking a conscious value based decision towards sustainability. 

 Witnessing a shift from ownership of products to the purchase of services, the circular office is about conceptualizing and implementing a flexible, adaptable modular space where various components can be reconfigured based on requirement and facilitate day-to-day operations that are less harmful for the environment.

From using recycled paper to refashioning furniture, to donating hardware or repurposing it when the time comes, the circular model is driving the business of the future and will have a considerable impact on the reputation and brand ratings of organizations. It not only helps save costs, turns waste into assets and conveys the company’s values and drive towards sustainability, it also puts the organisation way ahead on the map for attracting and retaining the Gen Z talent, which is way more conscious of its carbon footprint and climate change.  

Infact, with Citibank announcing a $100 bn Environmental financing goal and putting out a stated goal of responsible finance, the message is loud and clear. There is no other way to do ethical business, but to assess and evaluate every process, supply chain and product use, to ensure your business and office becomes a part of the much-needed circular economy. A climate resilient future is no longer optional. 

“We have become a producing industry where square meter to square footage has become the driving factor. And when you start with square meters and try to sell that, you end up with buildings. But if you don’t start with your values and principles and a vision of what that world would look like, then you will never come to something that is truly valuable. I have one of the most beautiful professions where I can build tomorrow’s world and my business is an engine for change…” Coert Zachariasse

Written by Manya Tandon

REFERENCE LINKS:

Read what defines a circular business model. 

https://sustainabilityguide.eu/methods/circular-business-mode

Listen to Coert Zachariasse on Rethinking buildings

Read more on companies incorporating circular economy

https://www.greenbiz.com/article/8-companies-watch-circular-economy

Read about circular office efforts

Read more on organizations leading the charge

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/02/companies-leading-way-to-circular-economy/

Posted by: Manya Tandon

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