From the Globe and Mail:

John Coyne is vice-president of legal and external affairs at Unilever Canada. Brendan Seale is head of sustainability at IKEA Canada. Both companies are members of CELC along with the Smart Prosperity Institute, the International Institute for Sustainable Development, The Natural Step Canada, and the National Zero Waste Council.

Every business aims to develop a competitive advantage, create value for stakeholders, satisfy customers‘ needs and ensure long-term sustainability. Successful companies tend to do this by adapting their business models to changing market conditions.

Until quite recently, those adaptations occurred within a global economic model that has existed since the industrial revolution, a linear “take-make-dispose” system. We now know that the system is dangerously flawed and unsustainable. It’s time to adopt a different approach.

Our two companies – Unilever and IKEA – along with others in Canada and around the world are embracing a new way of doing business based on the principles of a “circular” economy. The system decouples growth from the use of scarce resources and focuses on longevity of products, renewability, reuse, repair, upgrade, refurbishment, capacity sharing and the use of more biological materials that can be assimilated into nature. Similarly, circularity in farming and food production promotes sustainable agriculture to eliminate waste, promotes biodiversity and protects ecosystems.

This transition is crucial to push waste out of the system, protect the environment, reduce our reliance on finite natural resources and help meet Canada’s sustainability goals, including carbon-emission reductions in line with the Paris Agreement.

Make no mistake; circular economy is not simply recycling 2.0 – and it’s not a new concept. In many ways, it’s about rediscovering what we used to know. Indigenous traditions have long worked with the concept that nothing is wasted, and European countries such as Finland are far advanced in adopting circularity.

There are good economic reasons to move in this direction. Preventing future resource shortages and the associated rising and volatile prices and supply chain interruptions could result in upward of US$4.5-trillion by 2030 in global economic activity.

For Canadian businesses, it could mean opportunities to lower input and manufacturing costs, create new jobs, encourage innovation, keep Canada competitive as supply chains globalize and reduce pollution – including carbon. It could also mean a limit to environmental damage caused by waste management and resource extraction, and a connection with consumers who increasingly expect companies to meet sustainability standards.

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