We’ve all been doing more differently recently as we rightly focus our efforts on fighting coronavirus.
We’ve all seen how resourceful, collaborative and innovative we can be under pressure, with brewers and distillers switching fast from manufacturing alcohol to hand sanitiser. Even life-saving equipment, such as ventilators, has been produced by car and vacuum cleaner manufacturers. The disruption to food supply chains as key sectors like hospitality have had to close has created new distribution opportunities linking local suppliers to local demand. The decision to move this year’s Impact Summit online illustrates yet another way in which we’re all learning how we can work differently, now and in the future.
All of this information and our varying experience of what we’re capable of when faced with a global crisis - and what won’t work for us, or not yet - is invaluable. Because as we start the difficult process of emerging from lockdown with all the changing hardships which coronavirus has brought, we still face the climate emergency.
Climate change remains the greatest challenge of our lifetime. We need to overcome that crisis too as we recover from the pandemic.
This means accelerating efforts to create more greener jobs and companies as we forge a stronger, more sustainable, fairer and safer economy – building back better so our environment can recover and grow back in harmony with business, not in conflict.
To achieve that we need entrepreneurs like you to carry on doing more differently by joining the national switch to the circular economy. The term ‘circular’ refers to the core aim of keeping goods and materials in a ‘loop’ of use for as long as possible to maximise value and minimise waste through reusing, repairing, remaking and finally recycling. In simple terms, the circular economy means making things last.
Our traditional approach - based on a wasteful linear model of ‘make, take and dispose’ - is the greatest single cause of the climate crisis. Four fifths of Scotland's carbon footprint is generated by the vast amount of goods, services and materials which we produce, consume and often throw out after just one use. Around half of those emissions are generated overseas as we import so much stuff from countries which are often poorer and more polluting than Scotland, and which arguably feel the damaging impact on biodiversity, habitat and water security even more keenly.
But this huge amount of waste is also a huge opportunity as we build back better - by turning this waste into value.
We’ve already helped more than 200 companies nationwide find inventive ways of designing, producing and consuming things differently to create pioneering businesses providing everything from refurbished computers to upcycled furniture.
Success stories include Glasgow-based EGG Lighting which leases light instead of selling fittings and fixtures as one-off purchases, a circular model making businesses more resilient by enabling them to establish stronger, lasting working relationships with customers.
The circular economy also offers diverse ways of creating value from waste. Another Glasgow business, ReviveEco, turns used coffee grounds into fertiliser and is also working on turning the spent grounds into a sustainable alternative to palm oil with the potential to save millions of tonnes of carbon emissions annually. Rethinking your materials to both use and reduce waste could identify other sustainable circular business ideas.
Events like Impact Summit are an example of circular networking, attending remotely instead of travelling. Using digital technology can also help identify more circular ways to design, make and distribute products.
We have estimated that if Scotland ‘switched to circular’ it could roughly halve the nation’s carbon footprint by 2050. Scotland also has the world’s third greenest electricity grid since the Scottish Government’s ambitious renewables policy significantly cut emissions from energy. That gives us all an even stronger foundation for building back better here by doing business differently through the circular economy.