Today’s linear economy - in which, quite simply, natural resources are extracted from the ground, made into products, used, and thrown away - has proved to be highly successful in delivering economic development during the 20th century. However, global trends indicate that the ability of the traditional, linear model to produce economic growth is being increasingly challenged, prompting a search for alternative approaches that can work in the long term.
As a result of our throwaway society, natural resources are being depleted at an accelerating rate, and the ecosystems upon which business and society depend on are being degraded or destroyed. With upwards of 9 billion people on the planet by 2030, including 3 billion new middle class consumers entering the global market, the challenges of meeting the increasing demand for goods and services will be unprecedented.
According to the World Economic Forum, between 2002 and 2010 commodity prices rose more than 150%, erasing average price declines over the past century. Another feature of today’s business landscape is the rising volatility of commodity prices, which can have a devastating impact on companies reliant on economies of scale due to high fixed costs. If we continue with the business as usual approach, companies and society will witness a probable surge in price volatility, inflation of key commodities, and an overall decline and in some cases depletion of critical material inputs.
Companies are actively pursuing alternative approaches to the linear take-make-waste model that decouple economic growth from resource constraints – such as the circular economy, an economic model that, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, is restorative or regenerative by design and intent, in which products, components and materials are kept at their highest value at all times. The circular economy has captured the attention of many companies which see the economic opportunities of a viable model to successfully tackle sustainability challenges, drive performance, competitiveness and innovation, and stimulate economic growth and development.
According to Accenture, a shift to the circular economy could unlock an additional $4.5 trillion in economic growth by 2030, while restoring the natural capital and ecosystem services that are the foundation of healthy societies and economies globally.
CCC’s Sustainability and Circular Economy program is a leading resource and voice for companies committed to contributing business solutions to global challenges. The goals of the program are to:
- Increase understanding of key circular economy and sustainability issues including around design, new business models, supply chain innovation, and transformative partnerships;
- Showcase practical approaches for how companies are leveraging new opportunities for growth, performance, and competitiveness that also delivers positive environmental and social outcomes;
- Convene private and public sector leaders to advance the dialogue and collective action around shared circular economy and sustainability priorities.