How to Embrace the Circular Business Model

For small businesses, it can be overwhelming to consider how to address complex issues like climate change, biodiversity loss, and supply chain vulnerabilities. Where do you begin, and how can you make an impact? All over the world, businesses are learning that circular practices help to confront these pressing challenges. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a leader in circular economy work, building a circular business involves making three key changes: eliminate waste and pollution, keep products and materials in use, and regenerate natural systems. These principles have the capacity to transform the way products are produced, processed, consumed, and disposed. They are also sound business practices; waste and single-use materials hurt the environment and bottom lines.

Regardless of your industry or focus, there are many opportunities to implement circular practices throughout your business. Circular business practices include:

  • Reducing the need for new materials by using bio-based, renewable, or recovered materials.

  • Using as little energy and natural resources as possible by using waste as an input for production or incentivizing the return of used products or packaging.

  • Designing products to last and optimizing products and materials for reuse, repair, or refurbishment.

  • Leasing products and using them until the end of their life cycle rather than selling brand-new products.

  • Offering the outcomes of a product rather than the product itself.

How might these practices help you save costs, reduce inefficiencies, and provide a more sustainable offering to eco-conscious consumers? Let’s dive deeper into some of the ways that circular business practices are used to reduce waste and support natural systems.

Reducing Waste

All businesses produce waste to some degree and one of the easiest ways to reduce waste is to commit to more sustainable packaging options. No matter what your industry, many products can be packaged in paper, glass, or reusable materials. Container return systems, like those offered by A Friendlier Company and Circulr, are great options as they can be initiated in small and large scales. Another way to reduce waste and potentially increase revenues is to identify and utilize unavoidable by-products that your business produces. You can get creative with your waste! If you run a restaurant, for example, consider sourcing imperfect ingredients from farmers that they are unable to sell to market. Spent brewery grains can be turned into baked goods and extra delivery or storage space can be rented out. A key aspect of circularity is making sure that each input reaches its full lifecycle and any outputs that still have use are given the opportunity to continue their lifecycles.

Supporting Natural Systems

Reimagine your relationship with food and farming by adopting regenerative agricultural practices. This holistic approach to growing combats the effects of climate change while benefiting the sustainability of your business. Regenerative agriculture includes methods of farming that rebuild soil health, increase water retention, and improve ecosystem resiliency. Planting a diverse variety of crops and incorporating crop rotation are great ways to start applying regenerative principles. To further protect the soil, many farmers shift to a no-till system, like Spiral Farm and cover the soil with mulches, compost, or cover crops. If you have livestock, try rotational grazing, like 4th Line Cattle Co. or using manure to increase soil fertility. Overall, the goal of regenerative agriculture is to mimic nature, rebuilding it for future use and the production of nutrient-dense food. Even if your business doesn’t grow produce, you can support the regenerative agricultural farmers in your area and possibly donate your food waste to be used as compost. Regenerative agriculture is just one way to rethink your business’ relationship with the environment – consider the opportunities for your business to regenerate natural systems.

Help Build Our Circular Economy

Integrating circular practices into your business is a process that you can start today. The Circular Economy Digital Passport is a free digital resource that businesses can use to access programs, services, and experts that support circular business transformation. By collecting Digital Passport stamps, you can also share your successes with your suppliers, investors, and customers.

Whether it’s by reducing waste, supporting natural systems or engaging in circular programming, small businesses can use circularity to have a big impact!

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By Innovation Guelph

December 15, 2021

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