I’m very excited to be a part of Business in the Community’s newly formed Circular Economy Taskforce.
The issues of plastics and packaging provides a great example of a shared challenge for which the solutions lie in collaboration. Even well-designed plastic packaging that is 100% recyclable needs to be correctly disposed of by individuals and companies to find its way back into supply chains, and manufacturers and others need to create value from waste through fostering the demand for recycled plastics in product development.
I would like to thank HRH The Prince of Wales for his leadership on this subject, for bringing business leaders into the circular economy debate last year and being instrumental in setting up the Circular Economy Taskforce
The circular economy is fast becoming central to many companies’ business strategies, with firms looking at ways to be more resource-efficient and create more cost-effective business models. Not only does this offer a way for us to address some of our most pressing environmental challenges, it also has the potential to create new commercial opportunities and deliver savings. And through creating new business models and local employment, it brings opportunities to address the social challenges so evident in our communities.
To move at the pace of change required to realise these commercial opportunities and drive environmental innovation, we need to be creative and ambitious in forging new alliances – learning from each other, piloting new ideas and identifying opportunities where practical collaboration can accelerate and scale up action. The recent commitments by major supermarket chains to end the sale of cotton buds with plastic stems, the most common litter from toilets flushed on to the country’s beaches, shows what successful collaboration can bring.
While it is important that we all have our own programmes in place, acting in isolation, however, is not enough. We are going to have to ‘close the loop’ and that means all stakeholders working together in new ways.
- Within our own businesses, we need procurement teams to work with designers, innovators and marketers to bring circularity to all aspects of our operations, and we need senior level commitment to enable this.
- We need to work with every layer of our supply chains to maximise resource efficiency and minimise waste, and to ensure where possible our waste products are being fed back into the loop through reuse and recycling.
- We need Government to provide an enabling environment, the new Industrial Strategy must play an important part in this.
- We need our customers to understand the critical role they play in ensuring that waste products are correctly disposed of to enable them to re-enter the supply chain rather than ending up in landfills, waterways or oceans.
- And finally we need to work with NGOs to help to foster these collaborations and deliver these messages in an impartial way. We have seen in our own work on Keep It Clear and changing behaviours on disposing of Fats, oils, grease and unflushables – that the messenger it critical to successful behavioural change.
There is a lot of energy and commitment within the Taskforce, with a strong sense that we all recognize this as a unique opportunity. The time is right to take action and to bring the circular economy to scale.
Our ten-year vision is for the UK to be at the heart of driving a new model of ‘smart’ economic growth that unleashes the opportunities the circular economy brings to drive innovation; improve productivity and global competitiveness; create new skills and employment opportunities; and achieve broader societal and environmental benefits.