Circular business models could help guide new consumption patterns

The challenge
As global wealth increases, so does consumption and the drain on natural resources. Traditional consumption follows the linear take-make-dispose model that has characterised industrialised societies for decades. The model works well for times of economic growth but, for a long time, it has increased the pressure on the planet’s resources. This needs to change.

The future
Across the globe, new business models that challenge the traditional consumption patterns are arising. The sharing economy has become part of the everyday life of millions of people, and many businesses are introducing takeback systems that extend the lifetime of goods and resources by repairing them or reusing components. This development should be accelerated as the potential for economic and environmental benefits is significant.

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While economic growth worldwide is lifting people out of poverty it is also increasing the pressure on the planet’s natural resources, thereby forcing us to rethink the way we consume. Each year, we exhaust the planet’s yearly regenerative resources long before New Year’s Eve (known as ‘Earth Overshoot Day’), and the constant population growth will only contribute to this development. Circular business models could provide an answer to the impending resource crisis. Moreover, the sharing economy is becoming more and more mainstream in many parts of the world, and the potential for environmental benefits is vast.

There are numerous ways that circular practices could benefit businesses as an increased focus on not only further utilising resources in production but also exploiting waste streams could create strong competitive advantages. In addition to this, by reassessing a products life-cycle could, more companies might introduce takeback systems that allow for refurbishment of old products or reusing valuable parts to create new products, while limiting waste creation.

The digitalisation of society today holds great potential for circular business models and the sharing economy as the interconnectivity allows for instant exchange of goods and services, which could lead us to rethink traditional ownership models. Car sharing in major cities could help limit traffic congestion, while allowing people access to cars when needed. The same goes for bicycles that are rented by the minute, offering a practical alternative to cars over shorter distances while contributing to reduced pollution.

We are already seeing countless examples of new business models and product life-cycles that could help change today’s linear consumption model that is predominant across the globe. However, we need professionals, citizens and policy-makers to come together to ensure that this transition is enabled and exploited in the right ways.

Connect with us: Gry Brostrøm, Senior Project Manager, gbr@stateofgreen.com