Companies Have a New Toolbox to Create Circular Economy Projects

A linear economy does not consider the end of a product’s life. In the linear model, products and their components eventually wind up in landfill. Although we are currently in a linear economy, that is rapidly changing. What is emerging is a circular economy that considers the end of a product’s life so it can be put back into a supply chain. In a circular economy, waste just does not exist.

One of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns. A circular economy supports that goal. Shifting to a circular economy could result in $4.5 trillion of global economic growth by 2030, according to research from Accenture. Companies need to know how to become part of the circular economy in order to leverage that growth. Enter the Circular Economy Toolbox, developed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Corporate Citizenship Center, The Sustainability Consortium (TSC), and the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), with support from Tarkett.

An online platform, the Circular Economy Toolbox helps companies develop business practices that are in line with a circular economy. The Toolbox provides information for business, including an overview of the circular economy, background on the differences between sustainability and the circular economy, a glossary of terms and keywords, and a list of circular economy resources. It allows businesses to see how circular economy practices can be conceived, built and conducted.

Over 100 projects are featured in the Toolbox. There are links to different project topics. One of those topics is product "takeback." The floor manufacturer, Tarkett has a takeback program called ReStart. The program allows installers of the company’s flooring to send used products back to the manufacturer to be reused. The ReStart program also covers used flooring, unused flooring from installation, and sample flooring products that are out of date. Tarkett processed 8,900 tons of post-installation and post-consumer flooring in 2016, with the goal to process 38,000 tons by 2020.

Most unwanted clothing is thrown away and sent to landfill. Americans thrown away about 80 pounds of unwanted clothes a year per person. Only about 15 percent of post-consumer textile waste is recycled every year. A few projects in the Toolbox features companies that want that to change. H&M has a goal of becoming 100 percent and its unwanted garment collect program is one way it is working to achieve that goal. In 2013, the clothing company started to offer its customers a take back program. This service is offered in nearly all H&M stores worldwide.

Eileen Fisher is another clothing company whose takeback program is featured in the Toolbox. The program is called Green Eileen and it collects, sorts and resells unwanted Eileen Fisher clothing. The profits from reselling the clothing go towards programs that support positive change for women, girls and the environment.

The Toolbox can provide a way for companies to explore the circular economy and develop projects. That will be good for the planet and its inhabitants.

Photo: U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Corporate Citizenship Center