While welcoming the UK’s Net Zero pledge, leading sustainability authority Bureau Veritas has asserted that a transition to the circular economy business model will be a key initiative if the UK is to truly realise a low carbon future.
In continuing to lead the march on climate change, June 2019 saw the UK government set out new legislation designed to reduce emissions to net zero by 2050 — the first target of its kind set by any major economy. The move is a significant progression on the original one proposed in the 2008 Climate Change Act — a reduction of 80%. It followed the UK’s Committee on Climate Change publication, which responded to the latest available climate science and the failure of existing policies to meet the UK’s obligations under the Paris Agreement. Moreover, it is intended to reflect the severity of the present situation, which resulted in the declaration of a climate emergency earlier this year.
For UK businesses, this means new pressures to embed sustainability into their operations. This requires a holistic approach, which would have to consider emissions across the entire supply chain — from procurement to disposal — in addition to improving the social sustainability of their practices. This shift to a more sustainable business is also driven by an increasingly eco-aware public, as more and more consumers gravitate towards businesses that demonstrate an ethical corporate conscience.
The result is a pressing need for organisations to drastically reduce, if not negate, their environmental and social impact — a daunting task, which may only be achievable through the transition of business towards a circular operational model.
David Murray, Technical Director for Sustainability at Bureau Veritas, explained: “The sustainability crisis we face is two-fold; the global population continues to rise and the associated demands of individuals is ever-increasing, a key product of rapid urbanisation. This intensifies the strain placed on the planet and its natural systems. Demand for our finite natural resources is steadily increasing, and waste generation is expected to continue to grow across the world — directly contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. For businesses this means a solid Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) profile which goes the extra mile in reducing environmental and social impact is no longer a ‘nice to have’ but rather absolutely essential for long-term profitability.”
Circular economy approach
Interest in the concept has surged in recent years, with organisations such as the Ellen MacArthur Foundation helping to popularise the term and policymakers embedding the principles into legislative measures, highlighting the attention both the public and governments are lending to the notion. Increasingly this means companies are considering how they can move away from the linear ‘take-make-waste’ to a circular model which reduces the business’ reliance on virgin materials, aims to limit the levels of waste produced and consequently minimise environmental impact.
David added: “The circular economy approach to business should consider the whole organisation and the life cycles of its products. We have seen businesses in various sectors placing a greater emphasis on the utilisation of recycled materials as well as seeking more radical and systematic innovation, such as optimising product design and establishing new business models; all of which can reduce waste output.
“Of course it’s a huge and complex task, however the business benefits in terms of revolutionising efficiencies, reducing cost, meeting future legislation and an enhanced CSR profile are huge. Plus, help is at hand from many market leaders; at Bureau Veritas, for example, we have specifically developed Circular+, a suite of sustainability auditing and certification services to help companies develop a powerful approach to the circular economy.
“As we look to the future of corporate world, the reality is that businesses simply must go greener and reduce their carbon footprint. Thus the recommendation is to take heed now and embrace the circular model as the blueprint for a new sustainable economy.”