Stepping into the circular economy – the fourth industrial revolution
The ‘circular economy’ is a term that’s been around for a while but has only come into the limelight recently. As businesses are taking steps to become more environment-friendly, imbibe ethical practices, reduce waste and follow more sustainable practices; it marks the beginning of something deeper brewing in the corporate culture.
These initiatives are just the first inroads towards the creation of a circular economy, where the waste of any kind is minimised to zero by incorporating more restorative and regenerative practices. Companies are embracing practices that incorporate the change in every step of the design process, such that it creates renewable energy, eliminates toxic chemicals and environmental harm, and prevents discarding of waste into the surroundings.
It’s different than recycling which requires additional high energy sources to complete recycling processes. In a circular business model setup, the design process is so precise that energy doesn’t get wasted in additional activities, but rather gets reused or stored for future activities.
This is an encouraging shift from the traditional ‘linear economy’ which focuses more on utilising resources to the maximum possible till it’s completely rendered useless and disposed of into landfills and water bodies.
India’s Readiness for the Circular Economy
It’s time for start-ups to rethink growth for long-term prosperity and sustainability. Especially in India, this is the right time to shift to this model of business. India’s high economic growth rate coupled with increased industrialisation and heavy dependence on raw materials, resources, and energy, makes it highly compatible for this positive transition.
Becoming self-reliant at a time of high production costs and a shortage of raw materials can only yield a positive outcome, both in terms of profits and operations management. Moreover, India is also making massive inroads in the digital space, being the second largest smartphone market in the world, opening up access to new geographies.
This new digitally enabled, circular development model with India’s inherent will for ‘Jugaad’ or refurbishment can empower people across the length and breadth of this country. According to a study by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and ClimateWorks, Indian sectors that can readily see the effects of a circular economy are; cities and construction, food and agriculture, and mobility and vehicle manufacturing.
If these sectors implement a circular business model, we can expect annual yield benefits of ₹40 lakh crore by 2050 which will be 30% of India’s current GDP, while reducing the harmful effects of greenhouse gas emissions and pollution. India can expect a high rate of improvements to both health and economy.
Companies that have embraced the Circular Way of Life
Levis Strauss realised that a large number of their products go into landfills. To address this issue they partnered with a company called ICO to collect old, unworn garments to refurbish the material and create fabric for new clothing.
Timberland, the shoe brand has partnered with a tire manufacturer Omni United to use their old and worn out tires to be recycled for use by Timberland. What this does is that it reduced the burden of the requirement of the virgin raw material rubber and replaces it with used rubber from one industry for another reducing cost and at the same time saving the environment.
The battery Giant Energiser has also taken steps to convert hazardous battery waste into new ones. Currently, they have launched EcoAdvanced – a new range that uses 4% of recycled batteries, which this is not much it is a good start in this direction.