Shifting Towards a Circular Economy: The Carrot and The Stick Approach


Shifting Towards a Circular Economy The Carrot and The Stick Approach

Hello eco-conscious readers,


As we continue to strive towards sustainability, we often find ourselves in a continuous cycle of innovation, adaptation, and transformation. One such transformation is the transition towards a circular economy. Today, I’d like to share some thoughts on how we can push for this necessary shift, drawing inspiration from Diane Crowe, Reconomy’s Head of Sustainability.



The Current State of Affairs


First, let’s take a look at where we stand currently. According to the inaugural report measuring the UK’s Circularity Gap by Circle Economy, the UK’s economy is 7.5% circular. That’s a tad above the global average of 7.2%, but we’re trailing far behind countries like the Netherlands, which boasts a circular economy of 24.5%.

What does this mean? Well, a staggering 92.5% of all economic activity in the UK still depends on consuming virgin materials. More concerning is the fact that 80% of these materials are sourced from abroad, which brings additional sustainability challenges to the table.

Measuring embodied carbon can be a complex process. It involves calculating the carbon emissions associated with every stage of a product’s life cycle, from raw material extraction to disposal. This is known as a product’s “cradle-to-grave” carbon footprint.


To calculate a product’s embodied carbon, a life cycle assessment (LCA) is typically conducted. An LCA takes into account all of the inputs and outputs associated with a product’s life cycle. This includes not only the carbon emissions but also the energy and water used, as well as any waste produced.


Once the LCA is complete, the embodied carbon can be expressed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e). This is a standard unit used to compare the carbon impact of different products.


The impact of embodied carbon on the environment!

As we mentioned earlier, embodied carbon is responsible for a significant portion of global carbon emissions. But what impact does that have on the environment?

One of the biggest impacts of embodied carbon is the contribution to climate change. Carbon emissions are a key driver of climate change, which is already having devastating effects on our planet. From rising sea levels to more frequent extreme weather events, the consequences of climate change are far-reaching.

But climate change isn’t the only impact of embodied carbon. The production and transportation of goods can also have a significant impact on local ecosystems. For example, mining for raw materials can lead to habitat destruction and soil erosion. The transportation of goods can also contribute to air pollution, which can have negative impacts on human health.


The Path Towards a More Circular Economy 

Given the state of affairs, it’s clear that we need a strategy to speed up our transition to a more circular economy. One solution suggested by Crowe is the adoption of universal Science Based Targets for material consumption in the UK, much like those already in use for carbon reporting.

This provides a measurable approach to circularity and a means for holding ourselves responsible for making tangible changes.


The Carrot and The Stick Approach

 Crowe proposes a two-pronged strategy – the ‘carrot and stick’ approach – to help businesses achieve a more sustainable future.


The ‘carrot’ comes in the form of centralised investment in mandatory recycling infrastructure, along with proper incentives for businesses to invest in circularity. 


These incentives could follow the lines of those set out by the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosure.


On the other hand, the ‘stick’ refers to the introduction of additional legislation and tax reform. This is to ensure all businesses adopt better operational practices that align with the goals of a circular economy.


While it’s unlikely that we’ll completely close the circularity gap, it’s crucial for us to double down on our efforts to make significant strides in this direction. As Crowe’s organization, Reconomy Group, is prepared to spearhead this critical change, we too must do our part in supporting and advocating for a more circular economy.


Remember, every step towards a circular economy is a step towards a more sustainable future for us all. Let’s rise to the occasion, and make the shift together! Until next time, stay green!