IBM's report: sustainable attitudes growing through pandemic
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in late 2019, trends which have rumbled quietly for years have leapt into the mainstream.
Working from home was previously a luxury for entrepreneurs or artists, but now many businesses are questioning whether they will make a full return to the office in a post-pandemic world, due to the success of remote work and the financial advantages.
Furthermore, due to the pandemic’s origin at a meat market, many have reevaluated their diets. A study by Mintel showed that the COVID-19 pandemic has made a vegan diet “more appealing” to one quarter of British Millennials.
A recent study by IBM has shown that sustainable practices are of growing importance to consumers. IBM, which is based in New York, has a revenue of $73bn and creates computer hardware, surveyed 14,000 individuals. Responses came from the United States, India, United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Mexico, Spain, Brazil and also China, from a variety of employment backgrounds.
The Sustainability Bump report from IBM
The report shows:
- 93% of respondents say the pandemic affected their views on environmental sustainability.
- 54% of consumers are willing to pay a premium for brands that are sustainable and/or environmentally responsible.
- 82% of consumers would choose a more environmentally friendly transportation option, even if it costs more.
- 59% of personal investors expect to buy or sell holdings in the next 12 months based on environmental sustainability factors.
- 48% would accept a lower salary to work for environmentally responsible organizations.
IBM’s sustainable endeavors in India
IBM is pushing for greater sustainability within its own company. In India, the company has introduced a new programme: 'IBM STEM for Girls', across 130 schools. The three year programme will “Advance the skills and careers of close to 25,600 students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields.”
In addition, the Goa State Government partnered with IBM, to start online courses for the students, job seekers and entrepreneurs, to further develop their technical and professional skills. It is hoped that this will upskill 10,000 individuals in one year.
What is a circular economy?
Over the next few centuries, historians will be researching the impact of net-zero targets made during the Coronavirus pandemic. Teachers will be helping students to revise what happened on the day the last drop of oil was burned. Archaeologists will be wondering “How did we get into this mess?” as they dig through ancient 21st century landfill sites, where some of the single-use plastic used this week will be slowly rotting.
A circular economy is a model of production with a sustainable future in mind, where manufacturers are aware of the infinite and finite resources which they use. Let’s break down what a circular economy is - and what it is not.
The linear model of production
A wasteful model of production is ‘take, make, dispose’, with a clear beginning, middle and an ending.
Companies buy the resources needed to make their product at the lowest possible price. The company then sells as many of the product as they can at an affordable price tol make a profit. This profit goes back into buying more resources to make more products and expanding the company. For example:
Take: A manufacturer pays farmers for an ingredient and takes it to their factory.
Make: The ingredient is used to make the desired item and sold to the consumer.
Dispose: When the product is no longer needed by the consumer, it is thrown away. The product may end up in landfill or the sea.
Finite resources and space
Waste is sent to landfills and into the sea, locations which are not sources of infinite space. Some of the ingredients used to manufacture products are also finite..
If production remains at its current rate, the planet is expected to run out of many essential resources throughout the next century:
Fresh supplies of zinc, silver, copper and gold will also be finished, within the next decade.
The ocean is suspected to contain more plastic than fish by 2050. Maybe even earlier if the plastic inside of the fish is included. The world’s largest landfill site is the Ghazipur garbage dump in India, which at one point was taller than the Taj Mahal (73m).
A circular economy seeks to eliminate waste disposed of in the ocean and minimise the use of landfills.
The circular economy model of production
A circular economy respects the space restrictions of current methods of production and waste, as well as the limit of materials and the environment.
Make: Manufacturers create something, with its future in mind. For example,
Use: The consumer buys the item and uses it. When the item has served its purpose, the consumer can return the item to the manufacturer or take it to a dedicated location where it can be repurposed.
Recycle: The item is taken away to be recycled, reused or repaired and begins its journey again, in the circular economy.
Who is implementing a circular economy?
As reported by Sustainability, retailer H&M has started a new initiative, Looop, where customers can donate their old or unwanted clothes at their local branch. These items are sent off to be remade into new products and sold to a new consumer.
Water, our planet's most precious resource, is naturally recycled - we collect water, use it and then flush it away. It is believed that every water molecule has been drunk at least four times, including by dinosaurs. So it’s only natural for recycling to permeate every other aspect of our lives in the circular economy.