22 Sep 2021

Economy missing out on billions due to slow shift to circular, sustainable business, report says

6:36 am on 22 September 2021

The economy is missing out on many billions of dollars of gains because of slowness in adopting circular and sustainable business practices.

Tree growing on coins stack ,concept of investment growth.

File image. Photo: 123RF

A report by the Sustainable Business Network (SBN), titled Going Full Circle, said progress was too slow and not keeping pace with the urgency of climate change, resource depletion, and environmental degradation.

SBN called for circular economy policies and practices that design out waste, pollution and greenhouse gases, where materials were kept in circulation, and natural systems were regenerated.

Lead author James Griffin said a circular economy aimed to avoid the costly extraction, creation and disposal of wasted resources, and it meant finding ways to reuse materials far beyond the narrow view of recycling.

James Griffin of the Sustainable Business Network

James Griffin. Photo: Supplied

"Businesses need to move beyond an incremental focus on recycling to much more progressive strategies to meet these challenges," Griffin said.

Too much of business remained wedded to the notion of "take-make-waste", which had prevailed for 80 years but was now contributing to the problems, he said.

Business and government remained in narrow silos, which were getting in the way of change and would lead to the economy coming to a halt.

The construction and food sectors could adopt circular economic practices - from cutting emissions in manufacturing through to repurposing and reusing materials to avoid them going to landfills, Griffin said.

Among the suggestions being promoted were businesses using products as services, such as getting photocopies done but not buying a copier, insisting on reusable packaging, or using blockchain technology to track the life cycle and usage of materials.

A study in 2018 had estimated that the economic benefits of a circular economy for Auckland would be worth an additional $8.8 billion, which Griffin said would likely be worth much more now.

"The message to businesses is clear. If they do not start to adjust now, they are putting off the inevitable. They will suffer from rising costs, regulatory pressure, reduced market share, staff disenchantment and tainted brand reputation."

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