What is the Circular Economy?

The circular economy is an alternative solution for the current linear economy that is based on a  ‘take, make, consume and dispose’ mindset. It is a model that is based on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems.

What this means is that by keeping products, equipment and infrastructure in use for longer, we improve the productivity of these resources. This drastically reduces our demand on resources, creating a more sustainable society for now and for future generations.

In a circular economy model, the aim is to close the gap between the production and the natural ecosystems’ cycles – on which humans ultimately depend upon. It’s not about being ‘less bad’, but about creating an economy that operates in harmony with our natural world.

A circular economy aims to redefine growth, focusing on positive society-wide benefits. It entails gradually decoupling economic activity from the consumption of finite resources and designing waste out of the system.

Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s
Definition Of The Circular Economy

The three principles of the Circular Economy

Keeping products and materials in use

A circular economy favours activities that preserve value in the form of energy, labour, and materials. This means designing for durability, reuse, remanufacturing and recycling to keep products, components, and materials circulating in the economy.

Designing out waste and pollution

A circular economy reveals and designs out the negative impacts of economic activity that cause damage to human health and natural systems. This includes the release of greenhouse gases and hazardous substances, the pollution of air, land, and water, as well as structural waste such as traffic congestion.

Regenerating and renewing natural systems

A circular economy avoids the use of non-renewable resources and preserves or enhances renewable ones, for instance by returning valuable nutrients to the soil to support regeneration, or using renewable energy as opposed to relying on fossil fuels.


The benefits of a circular economy

Moving towards a more circular economy will have a range of benefits for our economy, our environment and for our people. These include;

  • reducing pressure on natural resources, 
  • improving the security of the supply of raw materials,
  • increasing competitiveness, 
  • stimulating innovation, 
  • boosting economic growth.

Consumers will also be provided with more durable and innovative products that will increase the quality of life and save them money in the long term.

How DS Smith is leading the way in circularity

Our circular business model 

We are recognised around the world for our innovation and for the quality of our packaging. Our products can improve transport and storage efficiency, boost retail presentation and increase product sales for our customers – and we do it with sustainable corrugated cardboard. By recycling the paper fibres in our cardboard, we can save over 360,000 trees every year from being cut down.

We can make, use, collect and recycle cardboard packaging within 14 days. We are ambitious in using innovation to tackle some of the world’s most complex sustainability challenges. 

We can make, use, collect and recycle cardboard packaging within 14 days
We can make, use, collect and recycle cardboard packaging within 14 days

Our Now and Next Sustainability Strategy 

Our Now and Next Sustainability Strategy focuses on the Circular Economy, it leads our ambition and positions us as a sustainable leader within the industry. This strategy has been designed to set a clear roadmap to address immediate challenges, while also working to meet the needs of the next generation by creating solutions that are aligned with the principles of the circular economy. 

This strategy allows us to move beyond just having a strong circular business model ourselves to delivering more circular solutions for our customers and wider society – replacing problem plastics, taking carbon out of supply chains and providing innovative recycling solutions

Our strategic partnership with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation 

In May 2019 we became one of a small number of strategic partners of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. As we lead the packaging industry towards a more circular economy we wanted to invite the leading thinkers on this topic into our business to challenge us and to help drive this agenda further, for ourselves and for our customers.

There are simple steps we can do every day to help create a more circular economy. Reuse your cardboard box. Take your own coffee cup or bag. All of these help to design out waste, keep materials or products in use for longer and protect our natural resources.

Sascha Nicholson
Senior Sustainability Manager at DS Smith

Our purpose and the circular economy

There’s a need for a new approach to packaging. And a need for strong leadership in our industry. This is what drives us and why we have a shared purpose of Redefining Packaging for a Changing World. We know the Circular Economy plays a vital role in meeting the needs of society and protecting future generations, therefore by revolutionising our business model and packaging solutions, we will continue in Our Purpose to help our customers to respond to changing shopping habits with the sustainable packaging solutions that our society needs.  We want more choice and convenience but with less impact on the world around us.