Embracing Circular Economy: A Profitable Way to Sustainability


Environmental concerns are gaining momentum. Businesses are exploring sustainable practices. In a previous video, Lindsay and Aashita delved into sustainable procurement. This time, we shift the focus to the circular economy—a concept that goes beyond a linear business model, aiming to eliminate waste, promote circular products and materials, and regenerate nature. In this blog, we’ll explore the key principles of circularity, the nine Rs, and why small businesses should actively participate in this transformative approach.

Understanding circularity principles as a small business

The circular economy revolves around three core principles:

  1. Eliminate Waste and Pollution: Unlike the traditional linear model, circularity aims to minimize waste and pollution, emphasizing responsible production and consumption.
  2. Circular Products and Materials: This principle encourages designing products and materials with longevity in mind. Reusing, refurbishing, and recycling become integral components of this approach.
  3. Regenerate Nature: Circular businesses aim to contribute positively to the environment by restoring and preserving natural resources, fostering a symbiotic relationship between business operations and the ecosystem.

The Nine Rs of Circularity

We want to introduce the 9Rs as a framework for businesses to adopt circular practices. Let’s briefly delve into each:

  1. Refuse: Businesses can refuse to use certain products, opting for alternatives that generate less waste. For instance, eliminating single-use items like plastic straws or embracing a straw-less approach can be a viable strategy.
  2. Rethink: Companies should rethink their product usage, encouraging more intensive and shared usage. This involves evaluating the necessity of products and considering alternatives to meet consumer needs sustainably.
  3. Reduce: Reducing waste involves minimizing the use of toxic materials and embracing natural alternatives. It also includes reducing overall consumption, as seen in examples like carrying reusable cups to avoid disposable ones.
  4. Reuse: Encouraging consumers to reuse products can significantly contribute to circularity. Thrift shopping and purchasing items with multiple purposes, like Dr. Bronner’s versatile products, exemplify this principle.
  5. Repair: Repairing products extends their lifespan, reducing the need for frequent replacements. Brands like Patagonia actively promote repair initiatives, fostering brand loyalty and contributing to a circular economy.
  6. Remanufacture: Remanufacturing involves restoring products to their original condition, reducing the demand for new manufacturing and minimizing waste.
  7. Repurpose: Instead of discarding materials, repurposing them for other uses contributes to circularity. This creative approach can lead to cost savings and innovative product development.
  8. Recycle: While recycling is not the ultimate solution, it still plays a role in circular economy practices. Efficient recycling processes can transform waste into valuable resources.
  9. Recover: Recovering materials from products at the end of their life cycle contributes to resource conservation and minimizes environmental impact.

How can your business use circularity? Watch our Circular Economy 15-minute videocast, below.

Why Should Small Businesses Embrace Circularity?

Despite the challenges small businesses face, embracing the circular economy can be a strategic and profitable move. Here’s why:

  1. Compliance with Laws and Mandates: Governments worldwide are introducing laws and mandates related to sustainability. By adopting circular practices, small businesses can ensure compliance and avoid penalties.
  2. Cost Reduction and Revenue Increase: Circular practices often lead to reduced expenses, such as lower material costs and efficient manufacturing. Moreover, consumers are willing to pay a premium for sustainable products, enhancing revenue streams.
  3. Customer Loyalty: Prioritizing sustainability enhances customer loyalty. Studies show that consumers are willing to pay more for products from environmentally responsible businesses.
  4. Innovation Opportunities: The circular economy encourages innovation. Small businesses can observe industry leaders, adopt best practices, and create unique solutions that set them apart from competitors.
  5. Job Creation: Embracing circular practices contributes to job creation. According to reports from organizations like the International Labour Organization (ILO), millions of new green jobs are expected to be created by 2030.

Making your business a part of the circular economy

The circular economy is not just a buzzword; it’s a chance for small businesses to thrive sustainably. By adhering to the principles of circularity, adopting the nine Rs, and leveraging the potential benefits, businesses can contribute to a healthier planet while boosting their own profitability. As Lindsay and Aashita aptly put it, the circular economy is not a choice but an opportunity waiting to be seized. It’s time for businesses to start small, think circular, and make a lasting impact on the world.

Visit the Ellen MacArthur Foundation to learn more about how to build a circular economy.