How to bring your business into the Circular Economy

The circular economy is a new way of designing, making, and creating value that benefits business, society, and the environment.The current way of taking resources from the ground to make products, only to throw them away again is no longer an option. But if we make the transition to the Circular Economy it’s still possible to slow global warming and create a more sustainable world for now and for future generations.

Why it’s important

The world is changing. People are becoming more conscious of their impact on the environment, which subsequently is having a big influence on consumer purchasing decisions.  Organisations now more than ever before must adjust their business models, in order to integrate circular principles across their entire supply chains. With these principles, businesses can extract the maximum value from products while in use, then recover and regenerate products and materials at the end of each service life.

What you can do within your business

The Circular Economy doesn’t just bring environmental benefits, it has long-lasting financial advantages as well. From cutting production costs to winning and retaining new customers. But the world won’t become a Circular Economy overnight. We need to change step by step, business by business, generation by generation.

There is a wide variety of circular economy initiatives that organisations can integrate. We have found that while systemic thinking and collaboration are key to accelerating the transition, each organisation needs to find what works best for their specific circumstances.

The circular economy is a new way of designing, making, and creating value that benefits business, society, and the environment.
The circular economy is a new way of designing, making, and creating value that benefits business, society, and the environment.

However, to get you started, here are six ways, big and small, you can play your part in the transition towards the Circular Economy. Some of them we can directly help you achieve.

  • Keep products in use: Whether you’re designing new products or packaging, think durability, recyclability and re-use to keep components and materials circulating in the economy. 99% of our packaging is already recyclable. By 2023 make that 100%.

How we can help: Last year, we collaborated with the Ellen Macarthur Foundation to develop a set of unique Circular Design Principles,  these principles were created to help support companies and our customers to design reuse and recyclability into their packaging. 

  • Design out pollution and waste: 8 million tonnes of plastic enters our oceans each year, therefore the need for environmentally conscious packaging, manufacturing and products within our society, has never been so high. It’s time to shift your thinking around materials, consider swapping to biodegradable only or review what resources within your business can be regenerated for different use.

How we can help: At DS Smith we continue to advance our plastic replacement strategy, while also continuing to identify hard to recycle items and find solutions with new sustainable materials that design out waste. We’ve just helped WD40 remove over half a million pieces of single-use plastic from the waste stream.

  •  Regenerate and renew natural systems: In nature there is no waste. Yet the world throws away millions of tonnes of food every year that could return vital nutrients to the soil, so we can cut down on harmful chemicals.
Regenerate and renew natural systems
Regenerate and renew natural systems

How we can help: Whether it’s a commercial food waste solution, or just a food waste bin in your company kitchen, these small changes will make a big difference. We can support your business by offering alternative environmentally friendly packaging solutions that will reduce the need for commercial waste.

  • Decrease your reliance on fossil fuels: Here’s a few ways; swap your lightbulbs for LEDs, switch to a renewable energy supplier or include more electric vehicles in your company fleet. See what our sustainability strategy
  • Send nothing to landfill: Separate your waste streams to reduce contamination, recycle more and achieve greater value from your recycling. See how we can help you with that, including hard to recycle products like polystyrene.
  • Pass it on: By 2025 we’ll have educated 100% of our people worldwide on the Circular Economy and we’re even going into schools with lesson plans. Tell your employees, customers and suppliers why the Circular Economy is so important and what you’re doing to support it.

We’re making change happen now

Our activities and operations are already inherently circular. We recycle used paper, turn that into packaging and then collect used corrugated packaging to start the loop again. To move fibre around our operations like this takes just 14 days.

We’re already optimising our packaging, replacing problem plastics, taking lorries off roads and carbon out of supply chains. On top of that we’re also Europe’s biggest recycler, managing nearly 7m tonnes of paper every year.

We work with businesses of all sizes and across all sectors to deliver circular solutions, from leading FMCG brand owners, major retailers and leading industrial companies to small craft breweries. If we’re not already, we could easily work with you.

Here are just two success stories:

For our client Laithwaite’s Wine we’re helping to keep cardboard packaging in the supply cycle up to 25 times longer. It means 72% of all Laithwaite’s Wine packaging is now made from their own waste.

The way forward

The ultimate goal of the circular economy must always be kept in mind; not only for the success of collaborating organisations, but the environment as a whole. Becoming a circular organisation will provide many benefits, not only for the environment, but for the welfare of organisations, society and the economy.

In the end, there is one key fact that must be remembered: the need for sustainable business practices on a large scale and small scale is no longer just a need, it’s a necessity for the future of our environment.