By: Kristin Kelleher, Programs Director
February 21, 2019
As ventures such as Loop reusable packaging, become more mainstream, businesses are seeing the value of embracing a more circular model to materials and waste products. Incorporating sustainable business practices into your company’s everyday practices can be a major contributor to financial success, a way to show values-alignment with customers, and a path for encouraging innovation.
The idea behind a circular economy is to “get the most possible use out of each product, through repairs, refurbishing, reuse, upcycling, and long-lasting design,” to ultimately eliminate waste from our economic and commercial processes.
As highlighted in our previous article, our world is only 9% circular. Material use and economic processes “will need to be refocused and redesigned with a circular approach that gives materials a longer lifespan, keeps them from entering our landfills, and reduces the overall amount of energy needed to produce them.”
With rapid population growth and urbanization, reusing materials, eliminating waste, preventing further deforestation, and choosing fair trade, ethical sourcing will become increasingly necessary to keep up our economic growth and ensure a sustainable future.
Many of our member businesses are already embracing this concept. They are engaging in more sustainable practices that are a step toward embracing circularity in business models, while increasing productivity and profitability and keeping waste out of landfills.
Ezekiel and his team at member business Intelligent Labor, have been working on sustainability practices in their business such as using a cardboard shredder, which turns used cardboard boxes from previous moves into packing materials.
“Cardboard shredding has been a big win for us. Our workers love it, as it’s actually a better packaging product. The value to the customers is obvious, and from my perspective the material cost savings, environmental impact and disposal reduction are all excellent. It’s not every day that you FIND something that is good fiscally and environmentally, but we need to SEARCH for those things every day.” – Ezekiel Wheeler- Chief Executive Officer of Intelligent Labor and Moving
They are therefore taking into their own hands the responsibility of reusing cardboard by finding ways to incorporate the material into their business model, cutting costs that are associated with packing. By providing sustainable packing they are also making it easier for their customers to make smart choices, and avoid styrofoam packing peanuts (a big and problematic source of pollution).
Intelligent Labor is setting themselves apart as a sustainable moving company by investing in an electric Tesla Model 3 and using solar panels to power every aspect of their headquarters in Arlington.
Innovating and Eliminating Waste
Traditional waste collection has been the dependent on a regular schedule. At a set time like Tuesdays at 3pm on Mondays at 5pm businesses expect the garbage truck to empty their bins. This customary model can lead to unnecessary trips– when bins are not full, for example, leading to a number of extra garbage trucks on the road, and unnecessary extra emissions from those vehicles.
Member business, Enevo has transformed this stagnant model by embracing technology and innovation. They empower their customers “to gain control and transparency over their waste – with their sensor and analytics platform.” By using sensors inside dumpsters to eliminate unnecessary waste pick-ups and determine the best route for trucks to take, they are reducing ghg emissions and promoting efficiency at the same time.
“Sustainability is not solely rooted in recycling,” says VP of Client Services Geoff Aardsma. “It begins with how we handle our waste. That includes reducing total waste, including recycling, and transporting it with minimized environmental impact.”
They help businesses decrease overall waste costs and develop comprehensive solutions. Enevo recognizes that over 40% of food in the U.S. is never eaten, while 1 in 8 Americans struggle to put food on the table. They have organized food donation programs for clients, supporting local communities and reducing environmental impact.
Incorporating the Circular Economy Directly into Your Business Model
Circular Blu seeks to create, promote, and sustain the circular economy. They work with the healthcare and business sectors to divert materials from landfill and redefine the value of waste by creating sustainable circular economy products. Circular Blu is currently innovating its manufacturing process to create products at lower price points made here in America to increase green manufacturing jobs and help build our sustainable infrastructure domestically.
Circular Blu is responsible for the world’s most sustainable tote bag. Their bags are made from post-consumer upcycled material, materials diverted from landfills Each bag saves ½ pound of CO2 from going into the atmosphere. Their initiative has redefined the value of waste materials, reduced the carbon footprint of the healthcare industry, and a percentage of their proceeds are donated to Work Without Limits, supporting individuals with disabilities.
” Creating closed loop programs to healthcare is a priority for Circular Blu, due to the high volume of single use plastics, this sector is perfect for circular programs. The only way for these programs to grow and continue to aid hospitals in waste diversion, the products that are made from single use waste streams must be sold back to the hospital which creates market transformation towards more sustainable purchasing. — CEO, Christopher Bodkin
They are not only circularizing current waste streams in healthcare and converting them to circular products to sell back to the hospital, but are identifying other single use products in hospitals and making those products from their unique circular resin. The circular economy has as much to do with the redesign of single use or unhealthy products as it does with recycling waste streams.
Using Investors to Make Changes at a Global Scale
Member business Green Century’s mission is to help investors make an impact. They are the first family of “fossil fuel free, responsible, diversified mutual funds in the United States.” By offering investors a way to invest with their values, Green Century’s funds incorporate environmental, social and governance performance ratings, avoiding companies that invest in dangerous or harmful industries, which has proved to reduce overall financial risk as well.
Recently, they worked with Aramark, a food service, facilities, and uniform provider to a variety of sectors (education, healthcare, business, and leisure). In this capacity, they serve almost two billion meals a year. Green Century rallied shareholders, and requested the company commit to more sustainable sourcing from their suppliers globally. After this engagement, Aramark agreed to “develop and fully implement a no-deforestation commitment within six years.” Furthermore, this action encouraged Aramark to establish a No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation (NDPE) forest policy, preserving “high carbon stock tropical forests and peat that is essential for mitigating climate change.”
“Green Century’s engagement with Aramark basically was the platonic ideal of shareholder advocacy. The company was very receptive to our concerns about the investor, material, and reputational risks posed by deforestation,” said Green Century Shareholder Advocate Jessye Waxman. “Aramark’s new commitment will protect tropical forests, biodiversity, the reliability of its supply chain, and its investors. If we’re going to seriously address climate change, we need more corporations to step up and take action.”
Green Century invests in environmental leaders and innovators, using their investors to further encourage big businesses to adapt and adopt practices consistent with the core principles in the circular economy.
Our member businesses are setting positive examples in their everyday practices- by incorporating circular economy principles into their operations they are showing values-alignment with their customers, making a commitment to our planet, and they are proving that it is smart business to eliminate waste and reduce consumption.