Action, not reporting, holds the key to circularity

The increased interest in Environmental, Social and Governance reporting (ESG) obviously has an important role to play in our ability to create increasingly sustainable and circular business models and limit climate change, as Reconomy's head of sustainability Nathan Gray explains.

Action, not reporting, holds the key to circularity

The accountability and transparency they provide makes it easier for customers, investors and other stakeholders to understand a business’s behaviour and make informed decisions about those they wish to work with.

This is also, however, a potential risk associated with the increased level and depth of reporting we are seeing. Working to this level of granularity, combined with a pressure to set increasingly challenging objectives can lead to more focus on documentation and presentation than meaningful delivery that will actually drive real change. This is particularly true for smaller businesses that form an important part of the corporate supply chain. These companies often feel compelled to mirror corporate reporting standards despite only having a fraction of the internal resource or expertise. In reality, larger companies should assist these businesses to take measurable action that is moving them in the right direction and that they are doing the right thing. This could be achieved through standardised metrics and reporting structures.

Improving the way we manage our waste and the recovery of secondary resources has a fairly obvious role to play in developing the circular economy but less wasteful use of resources is also equally important in reducing emissions and preventing climate change. When it comes to waste, the good news is that it is actually relatively easy to unpick some fundamental basics that will enable a business to identify what it is doing well and where there is room for improvement (renewable/non-renewable waste).

One tool that can help in this process is Reconomy’s Zero Waste Index. The Index only requires some relatively simple waste management data in order to help evaluate an organisation’s carbon equivalence and their climate impacts (Scope3) of their current waste services. It does this by classifying the various forms of waste management processes employed as either a positive figure (renewable – associated with reuse and recycling processes) or a negative (non-renewable) landfill and incineration/energy from waste). The results are then displayed on an easy-to-understand tachometer and dashboard. The objective is to support companies in working towards the Zero Waste International Alliance’s target of 90% or more of all discarded resources to be diverted from landfill and incineration and plot a path towards limiting climate change to 1.5C by 2030.

As the tool is normalised, and uses the same indices irrespective of volume, users are able to input and aggregate data for single or multiple sites to better understand performance over their entire estate. In doing so, they are able to identify areas of opportunity and develop a clear roadmap, with intermediary measurement points, to ensure progress.

With Scope 3 potentially accounting for up to 80% of an organisation’s emissions, its ability to understand the performance of its supply chain is increasingly important. In effect, even the largest business’s reporting is only as good as its weakest link. The Zero Waste Index and its free-to-access widget the ‘Zerowasteometer’ can play an important role in helping businesses to generate meaningful data and objectives throughout their supply chain. This can be used to improve their own performance as well as satisfying globally recognised reporting systems (e.g. GRI). All without placing a huge drain on resources.

I would urge all businesses to avoid becoming paralysed by reporting and analytics and to focus more on identifying simple actions that will result in meaningful and positive change. Find a tool such as the Zero Waste Index, establish your baseline position and develop a plan that will see you better manage your resources and help in achieving the 1.5C target. In doing so you will also take the all-important first step in our 5 steps to circularity.

edie Explains: The circular economy

A circular economy seeks to optimise the resources we use and keep them in productive loops for as long as possible. In practice, a circular economy replaces traditional linear ‘take, make, dispose’ models of production and consumption. To meet society’s future consumption needs, businesses will need to engage in greater resource productivity, and a circular economy offers a practical way to achieve this.

But what does this look like in practice? Which organisations are most suited to going circular? And what are the business benefits of doing so? This latest edie explains guide answers all of these questions and more to help sustainability and resource professionals understand exactly how they can accelerate the circular economy transition.

This free guide, produced in association with Reconomy, explains everything you need to know about creating a circular economy. 

Download the guide here.

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