From linear to circular: the business transition to sustainability

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By Nicolas Breyton, Electrical Distribution & Power Products Strategist, Schneider Electric.

Today’s economy has the potential to become sustainable if companies thought of the world as an island in the middle of an ocean of inhospitable space.

This island – our Earth – provides us fresh air to breathe, freshwater to produce enough food, and provides an abundant amount of energy to distribute food and to build all the necessary materials around us.

All resources on a large island can seem abundant, but they will eventually, become constrained.

Sustainability is systemic: either we all succeed together to create a sustainable business ecosystem, or we all will face shortages of critical resources.

We must decouple the production of all companies from the amount of energy consumed and the raw materials necessary to manufacture final products.

It is also about maximising business turnover by reselling the same repaired product many times. And ultimately, it is about designing modular and robust products that are easy to dismantle and repair, to enable a new profitable and high-quality second-life business.

The understanding of material density is key to improving sustainability. We must reconsider just how much metal, other materials, and energy are necessary to produce goods. The denser our world becomes in material used for energy and resource production, the more sustainable wealth we will keep.

Companies expected to succeed in the 21st century are those that are conscious of the limits of physics on energy and minerals. Further, they will move their core business towards the highest density and resiliency to transform the weakness of scarcity into a business strength.

And that strength will precisely come from embracing the circular economy concepts in the core business.

The concept of a circular economy is very simple: it is about closing all the loops of the linear economy to optimise resources.

It is about prolonging product lifespan by refurbishing, repairing, and remanufacturing products to extend their functionality as long as possible, and it is about reusing parts and components in new manufacturing processes.

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