How much could your business save?Find out now!
Or, you can call us on:0800 411 8830

Towards the circular economy: what UK SMEs need to know


The ‘circular economy’ is an increasingly popular term as consciousness of sustainability grows. What is the circular economy and what opportunities does it offer UK SMEs?

Circular economy definition

‘Reduce, reuse, recycle’ is an ever more familiar mantra as environmental awareness increases. Reduced to its simplest form, the circular economy is an expression of these principles.

Unlike a traditional ‘linear economy’ – where the mantra may be fairly be expressed as ‘make, use, dispose’ – a circular economy keeps resources in use for as long as possible, extracting the maximum value then recovering the maximum amount of materials to use them again (recycle, reuse).

As sustainability focused charity Wrap explains, the benefits of a circular economy include:

  • creating new opportunities for growth
  • reducing waste
  • delivering a more competitive economy
  • building resilience to emerging resource security/scarcity issues
  • reducing environmental impacts of production and consumption

 

Circular economy design

There are both ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors moving us towards a circular economy: the push is the increasing price – both monetary and economic – of the old ‘take, make, waste’ economy; the pull is the untapped opportunity to offer products and services that fit into a circular economy.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the environmental focus of the EU will steadily increase the ‘push’ impetus. As edie.net recently reported, the European Commission has argued that a circular economy is necessary in a world with finite resources and a booming population. The EC’s new circular economy package will include fresh legislation on waste, fertilisers, and water reuse, “strong commitments” on eco-design, strategies for handling plastics and chemicals, and “major” funding for innovation.

Documents quoted by edie suggest there will be “targeted action” in food, construction, industrial and mining waste, and public procurement.

While measures will likely initially focus on larger corporates, small to medium sized enterprises should examine their consumption, especially if they are in the aforementioned ‘priority’ sectors. Current best practice should be followed and may be adequate for initial EC rules.

The proposed Eco-design plan (for 2015-17) is trickier to predict. The focus will be on developing product requirements but, while the current Eco-design directive focuses only on energy efficiency, the next one will consider resource efficiency issues such as reparability, durability, and recyclability.

Manufacturers would be advised to consider changes to their products, bearing in mind that Extended Producer Responsibility schemes will mandate producers to pay for the recycling of their products.

But the circular economy goes further than this: innovative companies can revolutionise the way they interact with customers, potentially boosting profits as they do so.

Circular economy products

You may think that your business could not offer anything relevant to the circular economy. But even simple strategies could make a difference. In addition to recycling your own waste, you could take customers’ too: options range from old bottles to used-up aerosols and more. Done correctly, you might be able to actually make money, allowing you to incentivise customers, reduce prices or increase profits.

Going one step further, some companies have already chosen to take back their used products at the end of their life, offering a discount on new purchases in exchange. This can be a win-win if the producers can reuse or recycle components.

One step further is a new model of collaborative consumerism, which, as a report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation explains, means a move away from ownership. Instead, consumers access products on demand, essentially renting or leasing them. For businesses, this opens the door to more frequent touch points and greater brand loyalty.

Green business energy

For many SMEs, this may seem unattainable. If the digital revolution is anything to go by, a few disruptors may blaze a trail into the circular economy that others follow later (and less profitably). For most of the UK’s smaller companies understanding the shift to circularity and making some modest initial changes should be enough (for now).

Awareness of environmental issues is central to the circular economy. Renewable business energy arguably plays a crucial role in this, and showing your company’s commitment can help you stay ahead of the competition.

Perceptions of green business energy as overpriced and unreliable are now outdated. A substantial and growing proportion of the UK’s business electricity comes from renewable sources. SMEs may be surprised at how cheap green business electricity can be.

SwitchMyBuiness.com offers a comprehensive comparison of sustainable business electricity deals – including 100% renewable deals – and switch supplier in just 20 minutes. Just complete the form at the top right of this page or call 0330 010 0251.

Related Articles

the week's energy news

The Week’s Top Energy News – 02/12/2016

The Christmas season has well and truly begun and, in true business style, you’ll either be incredibly b...

Read More
how to motivate your team

21 easy ways to motivate your team

Being a manager is tough, and understanding how to motivate staff isn’t necessarily straight forward. It...

Read More
small business santa

Could you win our small business Santa competition?

We don’t know about you but we are feeling very Christmassy right now. Carols on the stereo, mince pies for ...

Read More
Excellent, 9.5 / 10

Fixed up in no time!

"I was contacted by Jonathan Burgess after making an inquiry on line, who was very informative in finding me the best deal for my business. There was no pressure selling,only information given to assist me in making an informed decision. There was ample opportunity during the process to question or pull out if need be. Everything was made clear,and would definitely recommend others using the service."

This review was posted by john kril on the 05th of September 2016

Brilliant Service

"I was contacted by Aaron Gallagher after visiting SwitchMyBusiness.com. He was very helpful and knew a lot about the different contracts available but did not push me into an instant decision. Once our Directors had decided on the contract they wanted I called Aaron on his direct line and arranged our new contract. Aaron was at all times friendly and professional, completely different to other companies who contacted me about our renewal who were arrogant and pushy. Would recommend SwitchMyBusiness to anybody who is looking to switch their energy."

This review was posted by Debbie on the 08th of September 2016

First Class Service

"I spoke with Mark Weeks today to get quotes for my business energy and he was extremely helpful. He talked me through the process clearly and also got me better prices than I could have done myself. Comparison sites are just so complicated and he did all the "leg work" for me. Very pleased with his assistance and would recommend SwitchmyBusiness to any of my friends and business acquaintances."

This review was posted by Debbie Andrew on the 08th of September 2016

Excellent

"Jonathan Burgess rang me back straight away and took me through my business switch. Polite thorough and easy to understand. Highly recommend to anyone looking to save money and switch business energy accounts. Thank you."

This review was posted by Suzanne Richmond on the 09th of September 2016

Happy

"Jonathan Burgess did a great job of helping me through switching my business with both gas and electric. He was very thorough ,clear spoken and a pleasure to speak to today. I would recommend anyone to use this service"

This review was posted by Louise holman on the 09th of September 2016