The four problematic squares - how to deploy healthy circular economy
Updated: Mar 29
In this article you will read how internal barriers within industry will impede circular economy progress if you do not understand internal dynamics and their affects.
Table of contents
What is a circular economy?
A circular economy is an alternative to a traditional linear economy. In linear there is a 3 step model: make, use, and dispose. When circular model keeps resources in use for as long as possible, extract the maximum value from them whilst in use, and then recover and regenerate products and materials.
Circular economy model manifests and highlights business opportunities where cycles. It aims to keep products, components, and materials at their highest utility and value at all times. It shows ways how you can redefine growth, and how you can focus on positive society-wide benefits. It entails gradually decoupling economic activity from the consumption of finite resources, and designing waste out of the system. Underpinned by a transition to renewable energy sources, the circular model builds economic, natural, and social capital.
The circular economy model is based on three principles:
designing out waste and pollution,
keeping products and materials in use,
regenerating natural systems.
Companies that are considering the adoption of the circular economy into waste should understand that it is not the domain of one. Rather the best circular solutions are best deployed when network infrastructure is deployed. Part of the rethink is to recognise that waste is not another's problem, it is no different to purchasing in that it requires collaborative supply chains or more circular value chains.
A healthy circular economy model requires a number of principles:
Think network rather than the domain of one,
Waste cannot be solely relegated outside the gate, rather real impact inside,
Adopt design out LEAN management practices
Set a goal to reduce waste by 40%
Deploy the data first principle to ensure that it is robust, accurate, visible and trustworthy,
Engage new technology that enables complete circular economy ecosystem efficiency.
How Covid-19 affected the economy
Whilst Covid-19 pandemic has been a trauma for the world, the emergence of circular economy as a topic is a light of optimism for the future in what have been difficult and often dark times. What is clear is that Covid-19 now enables us to measure the effects of human activity as well as environmental and carbon emission impact.
How to deploy a healthy circular economy
One only has to look at the sky to see so few trails whilst reflecting environmentally against the backdrop of the economic damage to livelihoods and the airline industry. Integrating and accelerating the circular economy into our lives and business models is an important reset opportunity but as the term Squarcularity suggests, to deploy a healthy circular economy we must first square the circle so that oncoming projects, innovations, and advancements do not become stranded resulting from the barriers that impede progress.
Internal and external barriers for squarcular economy
Activation and deployment of a vibrant, healthy, high-performing circular economy naturally meets both internal and external barriers. A healthy economy must first understand that circularity is not the domain of any one stakeholder, rather its health is defined by the collaborative efforts of many actors. Industry is a critical actor as it is a major contributor to the ever-growing volumes of waste whether directly through post-production or poorly designed / considered post-consumer sustainable impact design.
Production waste at 40% of all volumes
Whatever statistics you agree with, let’s for the purpose of this article make an assumption that industry post-production waste can be levelled at 40% of all accruing volumes. Would be nice, right? This is possible. You can through circular economy adaption transform at least 40% of that 40% into circular assets. All you need is highly developed technology, tools and methodology. Looking factually at that challenge adopted in real industry settings, existing clients are achieving up to 80% transformation to circularity whilst in parallel reducing traditional waste to only 5% and 100% Zero Waste to Landfill and Incineration.
Why you can fail with circular thinking
With such high performance results why would an organisation fail to engage circular thinking against the backdrop of how the world is changing?
For some it is the simple matter of internal dynamics, people are people, some can be described as trailblazers or early adopters whilst other may take a sit on the fence view. Whilst a vibrant and healthy circular economy is as said not the domain of one, it does need the many to deliver high performance.
When circular economy meets internal dynamic barriers
So how does Squarcular economics meet internal dynamic barriers. The first step is to acknowledge its potential presence within the lens of the natural human condition. Not all can be trailblazers, some simply fear change, so how do we change the paradigm?
For industry change is coming, sit on the fence positioning should be balanced with FOMO, the success of their peers, relevance of their products / services to the changing environmental awareness / demands of consumers and the overriding published sustainable health of their businesses.
For some, they may simply see no value.
Systemically a vibrant and healthy circular economy needs participation of many actors including governing authorities. Internal barriers are naturally hardened if external barriers and linear economic models remain rigid or even present. Whilst we will speak of external barriers that inhibit the mobilisation of industry en mass another time, we must be considerate of value or lack of value visibility as a significant barrier to circular engagement from the get-go.
What is the solution
What you need is a modelling which identifies and captures what was waste on the ground in real industry settings transforming the into circular assets. However, having harvested such assets, it is a nonsense that they are impeded because of external systemic barriers that diminish their value.
There are many levels of circular value, whilst transformation from waste to assets is a high value opportunity, value too can be how industry organisations are viewed from:
a sustainability health perspective by the public,
peers and investors.
Whilst waste remains less noticed, stranded, or peripheral against other models such as energy efficiency, you have to use modelling as which brings waste to the centre as a real contributor to organisational health metrics. Whilst many may measure action though the acquisition of badges, labels and memberships, this is a word of caution not to fall into the greenwashing trap.
How to start circular economy modelling
Of the four internal dynamic Squarcularities, ‘don’t know how’ is the most prevalent. It is probably fair to say that the term circular economy has not helped itself. For many it has different meanings, different values, and different destinations. What we must insist upon is that circular economy modelling, and ecosystems must absolutely make change upon the ground it sits upon. We must reflect that it is to economy in circular economy that is paramount.
How can an economy function where its underpinning values are not visible or remain impeded by external barriers and linear economics. Assuming that ‘see no value’ is surmounted, industry needs a model that is the road, fuel, vehicle and destination that transforms en mass with circular technology and infrastructure that delivers value / health.
Use the circular economy roadmap
You need a roadmap that considers domain through its embedded networking capabilities, allowing value chain partners to deliver high performing circular results though collaborative effort. An acronym WITG (waste inside the gate) fully considers internal dynamics, understands resistance as we felt the pain of those early adopters who stoically persisted to drive change and where often they too remained peripherally positioned. It is true that the emergence of the Paris Agreement, United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, European Green Deal and Circular Economy Action Plan adds to reason even urgency, what is required now is clear value visibility and systemic technology that that transforms ‘don’t know how’ to ‘know-how NOW’. Change requires time. Not all benefits are instantly visible and this to can be barrier.
You can bring a horse to water, but...
As children we were thought about our uniqueness and about our place in society. Our interactions with people as we journey through life strengthens our understanding of differences. Squarcularity is a recognition circularity must recognise differences and square them off if we want vibrance and health. The final mindset of the four is that some are simply ‘not interested’. Let us be reminded of the old adage, “you can bring a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink”. You can however, persuade, encourage, incentivise, balanced with peer pressure, visibility of new value proposition and organisation health status. Even so, this may not be enough for the ‘not interested’, therefore impactful measures such as extended producer responsibility may jar the fence position as impact will be seen as a bottom-line issue.
Regardless of soft or hard touch methods, to encourage participation, it is the responsibility of the circular economy to have a clear value proposition and cost benefit analysis that makes it illogical to ignore. Use trailblazing technology that is the road, fuel and vehicle that transforms industry waste from the peripheral to a destination that delivers both VP and CBA, whilst making barriers both internal and external clearly visible. Such visibility enables industry to remove the internals whilst providing measured intelligence as a voice to change the external.
Circular adoption, where bottom up meets top down
Deployment of Smart waste technology systemically embeds software, tools and lifecycle methodologies mobilising industry with know how to accelerate their transition from traditional waste management practices in favor of the Circular Economy. Such Smart technology is not a one trick pony as it too discovers hidden values heretofore unseen.
For example, delivery of multiple sets of data, intelligence and statistics introduces new values such as positive carbon resulting from the transfer of what was waste to circular assets. Delivered intelligence transforms old waste data from simple recycled – recoverd - disposed to United Nations Sustainable Goal 12 and Carbon+ Co2. Organisations are flourished with statistical analysis embedded in an industry first blockchain waste management fit for 2030 but now.
Blockchain as a circular economy enabler
When transition often meets resistance, transparency and traceability can help. You can receive it through blockchain based technology. It mitigates pain ponints, ensures that key personnel have ownership and the capability to maximise the display of their efforts, heretofore often unseen.
We looked at the topic of waste carefully, a topic that is unlikley to be an exciting conversation with friends and colleagues over a cup of coffee. This may appear abstract but if a function has little excitement, you could relate comittment in the same vein.
A transition journey motivates key personnel in visual terms as drab traditional and inefficient reporting systems that often gather dust are brought to life as vibrant circular, environmental and sustainable intelligence invaluable to their organisation. Smart technology underpinned with blockchained circular assets delivers a new and exciting purpose where the adoption of lifecycle lean implementation results in high level data, intelligence and statistics invaluable for top level management, PR and Marketing departments. Rather than a dusty shelf, key personnel will be relied upon and valued more as their content will be of critical importance for flourised annual sustainability reports.
Reskilling motivates to activate new supply chain
Personnel like waste often ignored transform in value as are the assets in their care. Ownership and comittment of key personnel is furthered through education and reskilling delivered by insystem capabilities. For example, having identified and harvested circular assets, existing waste management arrangements may not be fit for purpose to maximise value. Reskilling motivates key personnel to activate smart contracts with new supply chain partners that add through collaboration skills and expertise to bring added value fully visible though blockchain transactions. Deployment of Smart blockchain based technology starts by first building from the ground. Mitigating interuption, valued key personell can drive sucess upward with continuous improvement strategies founded upon real time data delivery insights.
A fish rots from the head down
Deployment of Smart cannot and should not be the domain of any one person as naturally they need many people to support their ambitious transition strategies. Whether cooperation with internal personnel, facility management and external supply chain partners, key personnel need the significant support of top management. If waste as a topic is more often not exciting for those who currently manage, it is logical that this applies to management even more. This returns us to ‘see no value’ or possibly ‘not interested’.
It is unlikely that senior management are not interested, rather heretofore they can’t see value. Covid-19 forced significant burdens upon senior management across the globe as they struggled to meet their goals, investor satisfaction whilst adapting their businesses as safe workplaces. But they adapted and this is a lesson about non resistance to change, innovative thinking and duty of care.
Circular economy is coming
How sustainability, the environment and climate change is viewed in terms of direct commercial impact, change is coming, so why not get prepared now, take advantage of new values, be the envy of peers and / or simply do the right thing as a smart waste contributor to reduce GHG emissions. Senior management are becoming ever more aware of their responsibilities as was published by the World Economic Forum, Business leaders are waking up to their responsibilities to society at large.
It continues, research shows companies with lower carbon emissions have higher valuations than those with the highest emissions, all else being equal and there were $31 trillion in sustainable investments at the start of last year .
A healthy sustainable policy for an organsation is to fully understand the values that Smart waste blockchain enabled waste solutions bring. In doing so, then support those often unseen personnel as it will be key management and their organisations that will be the beneficiaries.