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This article was produced for Investors in the Environment by Trevor Gibson, Smart City Leadership and Development Manager at Opportunity Peterborough.
Covid-19 is starkly illustrating the fragility of our economy on a global scale. With mass disruption of supply chains and markets, many businesses are struggling to cope with new and largely unforeseen challenges, highlighting the need to build resilience against such shocks. Small businesses are particularly vulnerable as they often lack the scale and resources necessary to adapt and cope.
In the midst of the current Covid-19 crisis it might seem somewhat superfluous to raise the issues of environmental sustainability and, more specifically, the circular economy, but these mechanisms have a proven track record of helping businesses build resilience through reduced outgoings, more efficient supply chains, and improved resource efficiency. This could enable them to recover more swiftly when the current lockdown begins to ease.
During these times of severe resource constraints, the pandemic could be regarded as a unique opportunity to innovate through the adoption and embedding of more circular practices and products both during the outbreak and beyond. Resource efficiency (including waste reduction) is a key component of economic growth and can only effectively be achieved through circular economy best practice and principles.
There could be no better time to test these principles than in a multi-faceted response to Covid-19. Rethinking or redesigning the supply chain would bring benefits in the medium to long term including increased efficiency and productivity as well as reduced waste and costs, delivering added value to business bottom lines. Environmental performance will be significantly enhanced as a result.
So what exactly is the circular economy and what does it mean for businesses?
In simple terms, a circular economy maximises the lifespan and value of resources already in use through, for example, re-use, recycling, recovering and re-engineering at the end of a product’s initial life cycle. This means that resources stay in use for as long as possible, creating a more robust economy. It provides a more sustainable alternative to the traditional linear model of consumption typically described as “take, make and dispose”. Circular approaches could mean that waste from one company can be used as a base material for another for example.
“Going circular” has multiple benefits for businesses including: –
There is lots of best practice out there and plenty of sources of advice to get you and your business started. Your business might even be executing some circular concepts already!
Peterborough is at the forefront of the transition from the linear to circular economy at the city scale through Circular Peterborough, an initiative, developed and delivered jointly by Opportunity Peterborough and Peterborough City Council as part of the Future Peterborough programme. The initiative seeks to demonstrate how integrated, participative and innovative approaches to the circular economy can result in smarter, more sustainable economic growth and resilience. We work with partners like PECT at a city level, right down to individual businesses to demonstrate the economic, environmental and societal value that is retained locally, attracting new skillsets and showcasing the multiple benefits to shifting towards more circular business models.
At the heart of Circular Peterborough are a set of core principles referred to as the “7Rs”; Rethinking, Redesigning, Repairing, Reusing, Remanufacturing, Recycling and Recovering. All are aimed at retaining the inherent value of products and services as locally as possible, for as long as possible.
Make a move towards circularity
A good, local starting point for embarking on your circular journey is the Future Peterborough website which provides more detail on the circular economy, the Circular Peterborough commitment and a series of local case studies (http://www.futurepeterborough.com/circular-city/).
You can also use Share Peterborough, a unique platform where businesses and organisations can share equipment, spaces and expertise free of charge
(https://www.sharepeterborough.com). Please note that, due to Covid-19 imposed restrictions, not all sharing opportunities are appropriate at this time.
Adopting new, circular economy focussed practices can help businesses reduce
costs and eliminate waste whilst improving resilience and sustainability performance.
Whilst such approaches can help us build a more viable and sustainable future, They
might also provide the key to rapid business recovery in the midst of the Covid-19
lockdown as well as building resilience against future shocks to economic and social
Smart City Leadership and Development Manager