The circular economy: the economic disruptor of our age?

By William Girling
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has launched its new digital tool ‘Circulytics’, enabling companies to clearly see the ‘circularity’ of their ope...

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has launched its new digital tool ‘Circulytics’, enabling companies to clearly see the ‘circularity’ of their operations.   

Applying the expertise and analysis of a dedicated ‘Data and Metrics team’, Circulytics utilises data received from a company and points out nascent opportunities for improving sustainability. The software has the potential to shape overall business strategy, rank circularity among competing companies in the same industry, and illuminates the concept of the circular economy for those wanting to move away from the ‘linear’ or ‘take, make, use, dispose, pollute’ model. 

Exploring the circular economy

At its core, the circular economy is an economic model that seeks to eliminate ‘one-use’ materials and methodology in the production of goods. Focusing on the ouroboric tenets of ‘make, use, reuse, remake, recycle, etc’, a company would focus on minimising resource inputs and therefore also waste, including carbon emissions. It is essentially business efficiency writ-large: each stage of production fuels another.

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“There are a small number of companies that are purpose-built for the circular economy and, therefore, performing well across all three principles,” said Andrew Morlet, CEO of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. “For most of the others – particularly the big incumbents – the circular economy is a small part of business today.”

Early adopters

Although the concept has only started to gather steam in the last few years, a range of companies across myriad sectors have started to adapt to the circular economy way of thinking. These include utilities (Winnow), textiles (DyeCoo), tech (Schneider Electric), and communications (HYLA Mobile).

The uptake is gathering momentum, but there’s still more improvements to be made. This is where Circulytics comes in: helping big industries find ways of eco-streamlining the way they do business. The change might start from individual efforts, but the greater task will be in companies working together to make the circular economy possible. 

“The systems narrative is becoming more popular and more prevalent; people are talking about the need for collaboration and systems change,” Morlet commented. “The one-offs and the end-of-pipe solutions and the waste agenda are important but ultimately won’t deliver the magnitude of change that’s needed. We have to go upstream and we have to collaborate."

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