How to foster circular economy within organizations

Approximately $57 billion/year of e-waste is generated worldwide. In addition, food losses and waste represent $950 billion in lost value - the equivalent of the annual GDP of the Netherlands (World Economic Forum).
February 24, 2021
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Approximately $57 billion in e-waste is generated worldwide each year. In addition, food losses and waste represent $950 billion in lost value – the equivalent to the annual GDP of the Netherlands, according to the World Economic Forum.

The global economy, meanwhile, was only 8.6% circular in 2019, compared to 9.1% just two years earlier according to the annual Circularity Gap report. In other words, the small fraction of the economy that keeps products and materials in use is shrinking day by day.

The challenge is therefore to reverse these negative trends, encouraging not only governments, but also businesses to prioritize the circularity transition.

But how can this be done?
Before going any further, it is perhaps time to define what we mean by circular economy and sustainable development.

Circular economy:
A circular economy (also called “circularity”) is an economic system that aims to eliminate waste and the continued use of resources. Circular systems use reuse, sharing, repair, refurbishment, remanufacturing and recycling to create a closed-loop system, minimizing resource use and the creation of waste, pollution and carbon emissions.

Sustainable development:
Sustainable development is the organizing principle for achieving human development goals while simultaneously supporting the capacity of natural systems to provide the natural resources and ecosystem services on which the economy and society depend.

Now that there is no ambiguity on the terms we’ll be using in this article, let’s move on and discuss how you can implement circular economy principles within your organization.

Here’s a three-step approach:

Step 1: Audit.

Before defining its sustainable development strategy, the organization must first conduct an audit, to understand where it currently stands.

This audit can take into consideration different initiatives, such as running an inventory of its residual materials, measuring the carbon footprint of its production chain, and conducting a study on the recyclability of its packaging, for example. 

You will need the results of this audit to be able to set your organization’s sustainability and circular economy goals. The audit will also enable you to craft a strategy to achieve these goals, while ensuring that they are promoted and monitored both inside and outside the company. 

Sustainable development is everyone’s business, and should not be limited to your organization. Everyone is concerned. 

It is therefore important that your circular economy objectives are achievable by the company, and that your entire staff feel involved in their achievement. 

The objectives could be those as defined by the United Nations, such as SDG  9, SDG 12, SDG 15 and SDG 17:

Step 2: Motivate and mobilize.

You can have the best strategy but, if nobody feels concerned or mobilized to follow you, your efforts will be in vain. The goal here is to align the personal objective of individuals with that of the organization, in order to stimulate the creativity, motivation and performance of your employees.

In his book, “Drive. The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us”, Daniel H. Pink emphasizes the importance of empowerment and meaning in motivation.

You can easily make sense with the idea of having a cleaner planet and a more environment-supportive company. 

Empowerment, on the other hand, is about making employees more responsible by giving them the opportunity to act more autonomously and by trusting them. 

According to Edward L. Deci and Richard M. Ryan, a sense of empowerment would have a significant effect on an individual’s performance and attitude.

One way to stimulate innovation could be to give your employees the freedom to organize themselves by setting up a Results Only Work Environment (ROWE), or to use other employee-focused methodologies.

Step 3: Take action.

Once you’re ready to further act for the planet and the environment, your employees will want to take action.

For instance, 3M, Google and Atlassian allow their employees to devote 15% to 20% of their working time to projects of their choice.

This is when the use of a platform could prove very useful.

Community engagement platforms can centralize all projects, and allow management and employees to communicate on their initiatives.

Your community-focused initiatives could gather more visibility, and support. 

And you could also put a spotlight on the teams that initiate these great programs. They could become a source of inspiration for others to further create a positive dynamic within the company.

Conclusion:

It is now more pressing than ever to help companies limit their environmental impact. To do so, organizations need to carefully and clearly define the best sustainable strategy, and implement the right tools to implement their strategy.

Achieving your sustainability objectives can only be done with the participation of your employees.

 

Patrick Vieljeux

 

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