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The Circular Economy| Four Things Every Business Should Know Before Changing Their Business Model

October 28, 2021

You may have heard people use the words ‘circular economy’ or ‘circular model’ when discussing sustainability, but perhaps you don’t understand what it means.

Circularity should be looked at quite literally. Think of a circle. A circle is complete; there is no gap, no stop, it is continuous. It goes round and round with no clear beginning or ending. This is circularity. It is about giving something the ongoing chance of survival. The product may not look the same at all points of the cycle, but it is about redefining the idea of trash being trash and actively considering the product’s afterlife.

Changing your business model is complex, and many companies are now looking at ways to integrate sustainability into everyday processes. However, this requires a lot of thinking and analysis, which can be extremely daunting for any business. The questions start to come up about the durability of the products, whether they are repairable, recyclable, reusable or upgradable — so we must ask ourselves where do we start.

The important this is to get your business in the right space to start the process, so here are four things to bear in mind when exploring a more circular business model:

UNDERSTANDING

Without a thorough breakdown and analysis of where you are & what your environmental impact is, you won’t have the tools needed to move forward. Your business needs to understand what you are doing wrong, what needs to change, where you can start, and how you can monitor these plans’ effectiveness. Another key thing to note is that it is not just restricted to internal work; if you have suppliers that you work with, this will need reviewing too. I know many people won’t like this part, but the only way to ensure you’re making a business-wide change is by ensuring all key touchpoints are looked at; this includes your customers/clients too.

Once your business gets an overview of where it is, you can set targets to help tackle the issues identified. The great thing about this part of the process is it will give you the insight you need to act accordingly, and you can look at the aspects of the business that may be failing more than others. For example, you may find that you eliminate a large part of the company’s emissions by switching suppliers or asking to change a particular product.

RESPECT THE PROCESS

Some businesses are not convinced by the idea of circularity and its effectiveness because sometimes they believe it won’t be beneficial for them. However, it is important to remember that switching up your model to become more circular will serve both you and the environement well. Unfortunately, many companies have found that due to a lack of understanding, they hadn’t considered the economic benefits of this shift due.

A great example of the benefits can be seen in Adidas. FUTURECRAFT.LOOP is Adidas‘ first running shoe that was“made to be remade.” The high-performance running shoe was carefully designed with manufacturing and recycling partners so that “it can be returned to Adidas, broken down and reused to create new performance running shoes.”* Adidas now have a product that they encourage to be brought back and remade — ensuring full use of the product even when the customer is finished with it.

Another tip would be to encourage a shift in culture company-wide, make changes beyond the product or service cycle and look at ways to cement this way of thinking. As a result, your company could save a lot of money!

THINK LONG-TERM

It is easy to believe that switching to more sustainable, biodegradable solutions could solve your problem, but it is more intricate than that, and this is why it is imperative to look at your business as a solo entity— do not compare or copy and paste strategies. This isn’t always effective.

If you break things down well, you may find that although you have a sustainable product or have made the more conscious switch, there are issues with the delivery of the product. You may also find that although a product ticks the eco-friendly boxes, it may not be the right move for your business, and in fact, the more sustainable option is something that shocks you. If you can afford to get a consultant on board — do it! It is always great to look at what works best, which isn’t always the most obvious choice.

JUDGE NOT

Do not dive in prematurely. This could cause you more issues in the long run. Most importantly, think before you engage your marketing department in this. Many businesses are fearful of not looking like they are saying enough or doing enough about climate change, and unfortunately most of their activations and efforts come across or, in many cases, are forms of greenwashing.

First, take a deep breath; this won’t happen overnight, especially for medium-large sized corps/brands. This will be a journey. Of course, you can communicate this journey to your customers but do so mindfully and truthfully. Layout your plans, set realistic goals and targets and tell them to join you on the journey of change. In this space, honesty will serve you best because the deeper we go, the more regulations come in, so there will be nowhere to hide. Be honest.

Those are four tips to think about before shaking up your current strategy and making the bug switch. The fact you are here, reading this article is one step in the right direction; now time to get onto step one. Time to act!

Good luck.

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