Our world is only 9% circular. Do all startups need to be circular?
According to the first Circular Gap Report launched at the 2018 World Economic Forum in Davos, our world is only 9% circular. I'm a newbie. But the idea of a Circular Economy can be traced back to the late 1970’s. The Cradle to Cradle approach has been around for over a decade now with it’s beginnings going back to the early 90’s. There are 20,000 certified C2C products available globally. Whilst all this fantastic work has been bubbling away, this newly reported 9% gap feels like a (polluted) world away from where we need to be.
The circular economy is bringing about a new revolution. Our make, take, waste lifestyle has caused overflowing landfills, put our oceans under threat and is depleting our natural resources. Our unintentional actions in the name of progress have created a world that cannot continue without the real positive change that we are now seeing in the mainstream.
However, the gap shows that the majority of new and existing businesses are carrying on regardless, collectively introducing hundreds of thousands of new linear products every year to the market. Electronics, make-up, food and drink, clothing, household goods. The list goes on. This business as usual approach is not working and when we (and they) know what they are doing is not good for humans or the planet, it feels even worse.
Design must be considered and thoughtful so that consumers/users aren't left with the responsibility of cleaning up the mess made by those at the beginning of the chain. Businesses must create a world where we respect our environment and use it in a way that is resourceful, not harmful. Where we care more and waste nothing. And this has to happen in business.
I recently attended a Zero Waste Scotland lecture with Mark Dempsey, UK Sustainability Manager and WEEE Programme Manager for HP Inc who commented that he viewed the business as a startup in order to implement circular strategies. It was fascinating to hear the processes, procedures and initiatives at HP Inc on such a large scale.
Startups, I believe, are in a perfect position to affect change. What better place to introduce circularity/Cradle to Cradle than from the very beginning?
There are many startups in Scotland that are embracing the circular economy and it's fantastic to see - a quick visit to the Zero Waste Scotland case study page shows some of the brilliant work going on by startups. However, there are a great many more startups who aren't considering their material use, waste, plastics, water usage, social aspects or any circular aspects. They are entering into the linear market place and adding to the take, make, waste society. And potentially creating a rod for their own back as surely there will come a day when every business will need to produce safe products? Then it's back to the drawing board...
I wonder if the collaborative aspect of the Circular Economy could be introduced to everyone that is embarking on starting a new business? Should Business Gateway, startup support networks, business incubators, startup competitions and funding/grant providers be offering courses about, and assistance with, circular strategies? Should we even be allowing any new business to start unless they show circularity in their business model or business plan?
In doing so, we plant the seed of circularity to every single budding entrepreneur. We grow Scotland's circular network and points on the circular map. And we encourage collaboration. And of course, reducing the waste produced whilst protecting our planet and caring for future generations.