What is sustainable business? A better question might be, what is responsible business? That’s right – sustainability strongly correlates with responsibility. And a responsible business owner will be one who strives for sustainability, and the circular economy.
Covid has knocked us all for six. We face problems such as reduced turnover, and there is a temptation to revert to past practices. Single use plastics, with their associated carbon pollution, look like they should concern us less in the light of the bigger picture. But that’s short-term thinking. We need to avoid resorting to landfill, and to maintain the progress that had been achieved pre Covid.
We still need to know where our waste goes, and we still need to care. Our environment requires us to be more conscious than ever about what happens to waste after we are finished with it. That is why we have to push the circular economy, where the byproducts of our business are reused and recycled, cutting our waste dramatically.
The Circular Economy Business Model
The future of plastics is circular. Single use then dump has to be consigned to the dustbin of history. Ponder this – when plastic bottles are recycled, rather than crushed into landfill, they can be remanufactured into new products. A lot of new products, including t-shirts, sweaters, fleece jackets, insulation for jackets and sleeping bags, carpeting, and – yes – more bottles!
That is an example of the Circular Economy in action. Here is how it works in practice. It takes just ten bottles to produce enough plastic fibre to make a cool new t-shirt. And if you are not a t-shirt guy, recycle a few more bottles. It takes 63 bottles on average to make a sweater.
How does Circular Economy contribute to sustainability?
Short answer – by turning waste into raw material. At the most basic level, we could abandon landfill and burn waste to produce power. But we still lose a lot that way. All the value we added to the raw material is lost when we burn it.
To achieve a truly sustainable circular economy we must change both consumption and production practices at the same time. We must design products that are built to last, and that can be reused and repaired. We need to make sure all our products are made of recyclable materials that are easily separated at the end of the shelf life of the product. But we also need to consume less – we need to change our mindset to include repair, reuse, and passing on stuff we no longer need.
By not wasting our precious resources, we are building a sustainable economy.
Why is sustainable business important?
Again, the answer is simple. Resources are limited. When they run out, they run out. And as supplies dwindle, sustainability becomes more important. Doesn’t it make sense to get ahead of the curve?
You could call that the ethical argument. But it is also the economic argument. Take plastics as an example. Plastics are made from complex hydrocarbons, and we get these from natural, organic materials such as cellulose, coal, natural gas, and crude oil. And where do we get all those raw materials? We drill, we frack, we mine. And every year the cost of those raw materials goes up, as the supply of raw materials goes down. Mines get emptied, wells go dry.
Fifty years ago it wasn’t an issue throwing away a plastic bottle. Now we know how much that bottle costs the planet, wouldn’t it make sense to regard it as precious, and reuse it? If it is recycle or landfill, it is a choice. When that changes to recycle or frack, it becomes an imperative.
Don’t participate in green washing! We love this definition from youmatter.world on it.
Greenwashing is a communication and marketing strategy adopted by companies or other organizations. It consists in putting forward ecological arguments in order to forge an ecologically responsible image among the public. Nevertheless, the reality of the facts does not correspond, or corresponds insufficiently, to the content of the messages shared.
Our waste management software means you get data, real measurable results, and get zero waste certified with CEC.
How much money can a business save by going green?
We know how important for the planet it is for our company to go green. And we know how it will make our customers feel. But that feel-good factor is just a nice side-effect. The true benefit is to our bottom line.
And it can be quite an impressive saving. One report from 2012 found that hospitals that reduce energy consumption and waste could save over a billion dollars a year. That was an American study, and was looking at large urban hospitals. For smaller companies the savings will be smaller, but still significant.
A UCLA study found that employees of eco-friendly and green companies were 16% more productive, probably due to being better motivated by the caring ethos of their workplace. And more productivity means more profit.
Here is a simple way to save even the smallest company some serious money – go paperless. Do you really need to print out that 50 page report? Everyone can read it onscreen. You save not just paper, but printing costs. And if you make the change permanent, you save the cost of the printer itself. It adds up. A report suggested that global giants like Lockheed Martin or General Electric could save several million a year by digitizing paper manuals alone.
So yes, going green can help your company make more money. Our experts at CEC would love to talk you through the finer details of achieving a sustainable business.