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Circular Insights #27 – transformational commitments

Transformational climate commitments | Circular isn’t enough |  Podcast 45 with Peter Desmond of the African Circular Economy Network

How’s it going?

Hope you’ve got through January ok…? It’s usually a month I enjoy, as it includes my birthday. This year, though, it was tricky to organise something that felt celebratory. I took the day off and enjoyed a  walk in the snow.

In the last letter, I said I was thinking of this decade as the Transformational Twenties, when we will transform our views of what’s important, and how we can make a better world for all of us.

2020 saw transformational net-zero climate change commitments from businesses, governments and investors. [Net-zero means emitting no more greenhouse gases that you remove from the atmosphere.] Many of those commitments are for net-zero before the scientifically-established deadline of 2050, as called for in the Paris Agreement.

The UK was the first country to pass its net-zero commitment into law, back in June 2019, and in 2020 we saw commitments from China, the European Union and other countries.

Joe Biden, the new President of the US, was elected on a pledge to aim for net-zero emissions by 2050 and rejoined the Paris Agreement on his first day in office.

Blackrock, one of the biggest investment firms, says ‘No issue ranks higher than climate change on our clients’ lists of priorities. They ask us about it nearly every day.’

So what can we do to help the transformation, and make sure our business strategies are primed to capture the opportunities?

Using renewable energy is an integral part of the circular economy, but going circular can make a big contribution to net-zero targets. We need to regenerate those finite materials that are in circulation, or that we’ve already discarded, to avoid the need for further extraction and pollution.

Regenerating natural resources supports climate and healthy planet goals too. I’ll be talking to farmers about this at the Save our Soil conference, 24-26 February.

Keeping products in use for longer, and/or getting more productive use out of them (for example through resale, sharing or pay-per-use) slows down the manufacturing flows.

Aiming for zero waste, ensuring that any unused or excess products and materials become ‘food’ for another process, also reduces the level of extraction and material production.

So we need to aim for zero waste AND net-zero emissions. Whilst that might seem like a massive challenge, a mindset of ‘Zero’ can be transformational. It encourages you to think differently, aim for a ‘moon-shot’ instead of ‘marginal gains’ and focusing on the problem from the perspective of people and planet. Read the full blog here

What about your personal net-zero aims? Remembering that marginal gains are still useful – this week I’ve swapped my search engine from Duck Duck Go to Ecosia. It’s a B Corp which says it’s completely transparent, more than CO2 neutral (every search request removes 1kg of CO2 from the atmosphere) and ‘privacy friendly’.

Circular isn’t enough!

Over the seven years since founding Rethink Global, we’ve realised that circular isn’t the answer. Don’t worry, we’re not discarding (!!) all the work we’ve done to help people use the circular economy to build better businesses, and a better world. Circular isn’t the answer, but it is part of the solution for the multiple crises facing all of us: climate, living systems, human health, inequality and poverty.

We’ve already over-exploited natural resources, exhausted and destroyed land, forests, oceans and rivers, and created waste and pollution that is breaching our planetary boundaries.

We need to go beyond circular, and we need to make sure businesses meet the ethical standards that people expect. That means providing good jobs, supporting nature and communities, using safe materials and processes (at every stage from farming and extraction through to use and end-of-use).

So over the last couple of years, we’ve been thinking about how to sum this up – our manifesto, if you like – and we’ve decided to sum it up with an acronym: FAIR – the building blocks for a better world (and a better business). Read the blog here.

Podcast #45 – Peter Desmond of the African Circular Economy Network

As you may know, Peter Desmond is a circular economy coach, workshop facilitator and strategic advisor, and I’m delighted that he is also my colleague at Rethink Global. Peter has done lots of work in Africa and is co-founder of the African Circular Economy Network. He now helps businesses find circular opportunities, create a compelling business case, and broaden their networks.

We hear about some of Peter’s work with SME’s and start-ups, helping them use the circular economy to succeed and prosper.

Search for “circular economy” in your favourite podcast app, or listen to the episode and read the show notes & transcript here

Find the podcast series on iTunesGoogle PodcastsPlayerFM, Spotify, TuneIn, or search for “circular economy” in your favourite podcast app.

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