For 200+ years, our planet has accepted a linear economic model, where we harvest and extract materials, use them to manufacture some sort of product, and then either our employees or consumers elect to get rid of these items.
It’s easy to understand why this happens. We live in an age of constant innovation within our daily lives. Updates come out daily, apps are launched every week, and new products and technologies are being introduced at an alarming pace. These changes have created a culture in which valuable and accessible assets are often underutilized and consistently replaced with a modified newer version. This leads to the extensive storage of gently used items and assets, or, even worse, their direct disposal to a landfill, resulting in a massive environmental impact. In fact, of all the materials harvested from the Earth every year, we cycle back just 8.6%. Just two years ago, this was a shade over 9%.
According to Forbes, the United States could realize up to $630 billion in savings per year by implementing a circular economy if we could recover these resources.
$630 billion. In savings. Per year.
The Circularity Gap Shift
“The circular economy is based on three principles: designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use at the highest possible value, and regenerating natural systems.”
– Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Circular Procurement
To rise up and overcome the dangers and challenges of climate change and its ripple effect on communities, businesses need to shift their procurement decisions so that the material outputs of unwanted or idle resources become the inputs in new or repurposed products – by implementing the Circular Economy.
This shift to the circular economy is more than environmental impact. It’s about eliminating waste, but also it’s about maximizing the life-span of materials through innovation and creating the conditions necessary to foster innovation, creativity, and – ultimately – address societal needs.
It’s about creating a sustainable economic model that’s better for the globe and all of its inhabitants.
If we realize what is possible with $630 billion in savings per year, the redistribution of those savings can be directed to the people and places that need it the most. They can be used to incentivize organizations to continuously work to create a better home for our future generations.
And if the best results of our current linear economic model are: hemorrhaging savings each year, negatively impacting our climate, and pushing equitable practices out of reach, perhaps instead of asking ourselves, “Is shifting our procurement model worth it?”, we need to ask ourselves: “Can we afford not to modernize and evolve procurement and shift to a circular model?”