Fàtima Vidal Ayuso
Teacher Assistant at Strategy & Entrepreneurship Academic Area
Teacher Assistant of Postgraduate Course i Social Entrepreneurship & Sustainable Development
Circular economy is a concept that is becoming more and more present in our lives. Until recently, the linear production model - characterized by extract, produce and throw away - was the most widely applied, but it is reaching its limits. For this reason, the circular economy is considered a new alternative, based on three very clear principles: eliminating waste and reducing pollution; maintaining products and materials in use; and regenerating natural systems. These are the principles conveyed by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, known for its commitment to the circular economy and sustainability.
Circular economy is considered a new alternative, based on eliminating waste and reducing pollution, maintaining products and materials in use and regenerating natural systems
However, circular economy is not only based on recycling, but it also goes beyond that, as this strategy alone is not sufficient for an environmentally friendly production model. The circular production model was linked years ago to the "3Rs" (reuse, recycle and reduce). Today, however, the model has evolved and we now speak of the "9Rs" (reject, reduce, reuse, repair, restore, remanufacture, redesign, recycle and recover). Ellen MacArthur even adds "rethink" in order to become aware of the actions taken.
Moreover, it is established that the circular economy has become a new paradigm, as many organizations are promoting it. Among them, the European Commission (EC) or the United Nations (UN), through projects such as the European Green New Deal or through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), respectively.
Circular business models
This new paradigm encourages entities to rethink their business model and adapt to implement circular business models. Accentur's report on "The circular advantage" highlights the emergence of new circular business models, also included by AENOR in its "Practical guide to implement the circular economy in SMEs". The main models are:
However, in the near future, new circular business models will be added to this classification, focused on the trends of different sectors, the needs of consumers and entrepreneurs, technology and, above all, care for the environment. The circular economy brings benefits not only for the environment, but also for society, which must adapt to this new paradigm and become aware of it in order to become part of the process. There must be a willingness not only from business, but from everyone.
In short, the circular economy, as Kircherr states, aims to achieve sustainable development that improves environmental quality, economic prosperity and social equality. Recycling is simply one more action to take into account, but not the only one.