Here, Kate Hill from Sheffield-based IT and innovative technology company Simoda explains the importance of creating a sustainable circular economy across South Yorkshire.
Sustainability is a topic that is not going away. As businesses put more pressure on supply chains to be transparent about strategies and net zero targets so that scope 3 emissions can be reported on. One of the many topics that is getting more attention is the idea of a ‘circular economy’.
So, what is a circular economy?
A circular economy is an economic system of supply chains that is restorative and regenerative by design and aims to keep resources in use for as long as possible. This can include purchases and sold goods such as laptops, paper, clothing, and even natural resources such as water and oil.
This system works by reducing waste and pollution and by encouraging the reuse of resources, minimising the use of new materials.
Designing for circularity. This means considering the entire life cycle of a product or service, from raw material extraction to end-of-life disposal and designing it to be as sustainable as possible. This could involve using recycled materials, designing products that can be easily repaired or reused, or developing business models that are based on sharing or leasing rather than selling.
Reduce the amount of waste produced. This can be done by designing products and services that are durable, reusable and recyclable. Businesses can also work to reduce their waste by adopting circular practices, such as using recycled materials in their production processes.
Increase the reuse and recycling of waste. This requires developing better infrastructure and systems for collecting, sorting and processing waste. Businesses can also play a role by offering take-back programmes and designing products that are easy to disassemble and recycle.
“Opening the conversation between businesses, experts in sustainability, organisations like the universities and technology providers is one of the best ways businesses across South Yorkshire can start to build momentum in achieving this goal.”
Invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency. This will help to reduce the region’s reliance on fossil fuels and create new jobs in the clean energy sector.
Support the innovation and development of circular businesses and initiatives. This can be done through government funding, tax breaks and other incentives. Businesses can also partner with universities and research institutions to develop new circular technologies and solutions.
Working with other businesses and stakeholders. One of the simplest things for businesses to do is collaborate with other businesses and stakeholders in the region to develop and implement circular economy initiatives. This could involve collaborating on research and development, sharing resources, or developing new supply chains that are more sustainable, i.e. refurbished equipment.
The wider benefits of working towards a circular economy are not well understood. However, ultimately, taking action can lead to many positive social and economic impacts, as well as environmental ones. The businesses involved are also likely to see positives if sustainability is taken seriously by boards and senior leadership teams. A more effective circular economy can:
- Create more jobs
- Improve quality of life for workers and residents
- Reduce operational business costs
- Generate economic growth
- Promote social inclusion
- Reduce poverty
- Reduce waste and pollution
To achieve the goal of having a circular economy, more than anything, it requires a shift in the mindset and governance of businesses, as well as the motivation to work together to tackle some of the most damaging environmental impacts locally. Increasing transparency is key to taking the necessary steps forward.
“Educating and raising awareness so that people understand the importance of the circular economy and how they can play a role key to driving change.”
Investing in research and the development of new, innovative technologies enabled by advancements in the technology market mean that all businesses have options to drive efficiencies across their business whilst ensuring sustainability goals are met. Through research into areas such as renewable technology for renewable energy, recycling or re-use of materials and smart manufacturing of products and solutions. To achieve a circular economy in this way, this involves working in collaboration with industry, governments and customers to create a system that works in harmony with the environment.
There are many other examples of positive action being taken by South Yorkshire businesses to create a circular economy. Businesses from all sectors have a responsibility to explore solutions to support the circular economy impact including:
- Investing in retrofitting homes and businesses to make them more energy efficient. This will reduce energy costs and carbon emissions and create jobs in the construction sector.
- Support the development of a circular food system. This could include initiatives to reduce food waste, promote local and sustainable agriculture, and develop new markets for food byproducts.
- Investing in renewable energy projects, such as solar and wind farms. This will help to reduce the region’s reliance on fossil fuels and create new jobs in the clean energy sector.
- Support the development of circular businesses and initiatives. This could include providing funding, tax breaks, and other incentives to businesses that are working to reduce waste and develop circular products and services.
In a nutshell, opening the conversation between businesses, experts in sustainability, organisations like the universities and technology providers is one of the best ways businesses across South Yorkshire can start to build momentum in achieving this goal. Educating and raising awareness so that people understand the importance of the circular economy and how they can play a role key to driving change.
Sharing best practices from businesses, government, and other organisations, seeing that we can learn from each other and work together to develop and implement effective circular economy solutions must be prioritised.