The Circular Economy: A Starter Guide

circular economy

Back in July 2021, the Innovate UK EDGE team held a Circular Economy webinar with guest speakers (watch it here if you weren’t able to attend). We had businesses who are already successfully implementing sustainable business models as well as presentations from other experts in the field. In this webinar we discussed widely around the topic, but we became very aware that a lot of businesses can be inundated with information and jargon and maybe don’t know where to start. So we thought we would write this blog to help you!

 

So what is The Circular Economy? The Circular Economy can be simply defined as a business model that is moving away from the linear concept of producing a product that then gets used and disposed of, creating waste as a bi-product; to a circular model that eradicates this waste by re-designing the way products are made to reduce waste, change how they are disposed of and reused to bring them…you guessed it…full circle! That’s the simple explanation anyway.

 

The Circular Economy can have various life-cycles throughout the production process and the aim is to make the production and re-use of products as energy efficient and clean as possible to reduce the environmental impact.

 

See the above infographic from the Ellen Macarthur Foundation which shows just how each stage of a business model can be changed to suit a more circular economy business model.

 

Being mindful of the environmental impacts at all stages of the life of your goods will help you on your way to achieving a more sustainable business model.

 

So where do you start? The first thing you need to do is get your head around all the jargon and terms that are thrown about, so you know what people are on about! Handy jargon busters can be downloaded from either https://www.edie.net/jargon-buster/  or  https://www.ceguide.org/Glossary.

 

Now you have the lingo down, let’s find out what your carbon footprint is! This is useful so you have a starting point to work from, to try and reduce your emissions. There are a number of carbon emission calculators out there, here is one from the Carbon Trust and another from Greenhouse Gas Protocol that you could use to calculate your carbon footprint.

 

Now you have your carbon footprint baseline figure, let’s look at the support available to help you reduce it and move to a more circular business model. The UK government has different schemes to help businesses like you, to support them with their green goals and help us as a country on our path to a 2050 net zero target.

 

At Innovate UK EDGE, we would recommend joining the SME Climate Hub. The hub is a great source of tools and a good place to start to help you reduce your emissions and get you on your way to a greener future.

 

Identifying areas where you can become more sustainable, both in your business processes and your products, is just as important. Quick steps that can be put into place are things such as power saving exercises (energy efficient light bulbs, turning computers off at night etc.), “think before you print” initiatives, introducing cycle to work schemes and lots of other things. But to really take your business model circular, you will need to look at your product, audit each stage of the process and see what you can do to make a difference. This is where being part of a hub with support really helps, with materials to guide you through the process.  

 

Creating a circular business model and spending the time to adjust things can come at an initial cost to businesses, but there are funding streams available from various outlets to help support you at various stages with your carbon reduction goals. Although there is a cost involved, sustainable business practice and the circular economy has been proved to save money in the long run for businesses and of course to reduce their impact on the environment.

 

At Innovate UK EDGE, we can help both with any initial enquiries and with looking at adaptation of your business growth strategy to a more sustainable approach.  We can also help you access funding or specialist support.
 

 

So with this brief breakdown of the circular economy and an idea of where to start, are you ready to get carbon savvy and join the circular economy? If you want to know more on what you can do or where to turn, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team to help and support you on your way.

 

Let’s do this, there is no time like the present!

 

0300 123 3144

contact@innovateukedge.ukri.org