With climate change and sustainability now high-agenda topics for individuals and companies, Shannon Chamber engaged world-renowned expert on the Circular Economy, Catherine Weetman, to address members on the topic at a recent webinar.
An international speaker, workshop facilitator, coach, and consultant who helps businesses, social enterprises and community groups to use circular economy approaches to build a better world, Ms Weetman’s address to Chamber members was enlightening, informative and extremely thought provoking.
She explained the risks and headwinds facing ‘business as usual’, including resource pressures, carbon and biodiversity footprints and presented a case-based rationale on why the way to succeed in business in the years and decades ahead will be to go circular.
“Circular is not recycling; it’s a fundamental rethink of how business operates, a shift from take, make, use, dispose and pollute to make, use, reuse, remake and recycle,” she said.
Stating that only 8.6% of the global economy is now circular, with less than one-tenth of what is produced returned to be made into new products, and that global material use could more than double by 2060, Ms Sweetnan warned that we have reached a massive tipping point.
“We’re in the decisive decade,” she said.
“Companies will need to look at designing products and systems that care for and conserve resources and ecosystems, and avoid waste, and consumers will need to start keeping things for longer, use them again and again, and recover and recirculate products when they are finished using them.
“Companies will need to move away from using planned obsolescence tactics and selling more products to more people to assessing what they can put back into their products, make products more sharable, remanufacture, develop exchange and sharing platforms, design to simplify recovery and use safe, sustainable materials.
Pointing out that seventy-four per cent of the world’s population are saying that going green is more important than economic growth and that in the next three years, sixty per cent of people will expect to repair products instead of discarding them, Ms Weetman told webinar attendees that companies will experience a backlash if they don’t limit their environmental impact.
“Circular will be as disruptive as digital,” she said.
“When you consider that each year, we throw away 300 million tons of plastic, 50 million tons of electronic waste, and one-third of all food products, there is a $4.5 trillion economic opportunity to be had from creating a circular economy.
“The world is changing fast, resources are under pressure, our planet is fragile. This clearly signifies that business as usual is inefficient and wasteful. We simply have to think circular. It’s not going to be easy but there are big gains to be had from rethinking business strategies and slowing things down. Producers need to question if, by not thinking circular, they are leaving value on the table for someone else. They need to assess how sustainability can give them a competitive edge,” Ms Weetman added.
Speaking after the webinar, Shannon Chamber CEO Helen Downes said: “This was an eye-opening presentation and one that we wish could have been heard by so many more people. We will definitely be inviting Ms Weetman to Shannon to address our members in person as soon as this is feasible. The examples she gave of companies, across so many sectors, that are producing circular products, reinforced the value of thinking circular – companies such as Numatic with their Henry vacuum product, Circular&Co’s reusable cups with a ten-year lifespan, Algramo with reusable household products’ packing and so many more examples. We will certainly be keeping the Circular Economy high on the Chamber’s agenda in the years ahead.”
Further information on Shannon Chamber’ upcoming events can be found at www.shannonchamber.ie/events-training/.
Shannon Chamber is part of Chambers Ireland’s network of Chambers of Commerce in Ireland. Chambers Ireland is Ireland’s largest business organisation with a network of Chambers of Commerce in every major town and region in the country. It facilitates the growth and development of the Irish chamber network and enables the chambers in the network to effectively promote the long-term development of their locality on behalf of their members as well as working towards creating a better environment for business by lobbying the Government and other stakeholders on key policy issues.