How can partnerships across sectors achieve a circular economy?

circular economy

In order to take adequate climate action and ensure sustainable growth, we need circular economy solutions. According to the Circularity Gap Report 2022 by Renewable Matter, just 8.6 percent of the global economy is actually circular. We have consumed five hundred billion tons of resources globally over the last six years.

We need to nearly double the amount of the world that is circular to reduce our carbon footprint and address issues like resource depletion and waste generation proactively. The circular economy cannot be achieved by individuals alone; action must be collective. Even better through partnerships and collaborations.

People at different ends of the value chain often do not engage with one another. As a result, circular innovations are generally costly, and there are low levels of adoption. Collaboration solves these issues, and if we want to speed up the implementation of circular economy practices, we must join forces. 

Why collaboration is a key piece of the puzzle to go circular

Businesses are traditionally based on competitive self-interest. Collaboration may seem to work against this, but it is essential if we are to achieve a circular economy. It is already becoming more prominent in the business arena. Brands are teaming up to have a positive impact. 

It is a crucial factor in the transition to a just, resilient, and circular economy. Each stakeholder is crucial to the solution. Partnerships and collaborations are absolutely essential to nurturing cooperation across countries and industries. Not to mention enabling organisations to pool resources together to power their efforts collectively.

Solving our waste issues and transitioning from a linear economic model is a huge undertaking and is incredibly complex. It involves so many different actions from businesses to regulators, governments, retailers, product designers, waste management companies, industry bodies, and much more.

How can we collaborate for a circular economy?

There are several ways we can collaborate for a circular economy. Firstly, engaging in cross-sector solutions. This involves coordinating multiple stakeholders, geographies, and sectors. While this is a significant challenge, it is crucial to ensure products are correctly disposed off to drive circularity. 

For example, chemical companies should join forces with brand owners to enhance the recyclability of packaging. Clearer standards are also needed on the circularity of recycled products, so customers are aware of what they are paying for. Research and development (R&D) partnerships are also required since many of the circular solutions will be based on new technology and science.

For instance, we need to determine how to help worldwide consumer goods organisations meet their sustainability goals. Significant R&D can make these solutions both cost-efficient and scalable, enabling quality collaboration. Consumer goods organisations do often have in-house research teams, but they would still very much benefit from R&D collaborations. 

Many examples of this are already occurring worldwide. For example, Nestle and Procter & Gamble are collaborating with various research institutes. These collaborations can drive the adoption, development, and commercialisation of circular innovations. Finally, even when we have reached a sufficient degree of technological readiness with our circular innovations, we still need to strengthen commercial viability.

Summary

Transitioning to a circular economy is not a simple task, but we absolutely must do this. Our current economic model – the linear economy – is no longer sustainable. To achieve systems change, we must become powerful enablers, and collaboration will allow us to do this. Collaboration will see us drive innovation and establish a supportive ecosystem where we can pool resources to protect the environment. 

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