No circular economy without collaboration

The SUEZ Collaborative Tour

Working session during the SUEZ Collaborative Tour #1, Val de Marne, France © SUEZ/Cédric Corroy

In the “Challenge” section, Jean-Louis Chaussade sets out his vision of a major challenge
of the resource revolution. In this issue, he reiterates the role of collaboration between all actors in the success of the circular model.

The resources and raw materials we use are finite or are running out under the influence of our changing societies and their technologies. The increased scarcity of resources is a proven reality that is being amplified by worldwide population growth, urbanisation and the consequences of climate change. An observation that obliges us to react.

Today, a consensus exists amongst a large majority of governments, international institutions and businesses on the analysis of this situation and the challenges we face. Each at their own level, they are developing complementary strategies for economic growth that respect the environment and do not consume resources that have become scarce.

Which economic model can address these imperatives and global warming right now?

The circular economy is the only answer, because it rethinks the complete value chain and generates sustainable economic growth. This radically new economic model takes a multitude of forms, from sustainable procurement and eco-design, to the industrial and regional ecology, the functional economy, the extension of the lifetime of goods and recycling.

It opens up a way out of the obsolete linear logic, symbolised by the “produce— consume—discard” triptych, by favouring a circular logic based on the combination of creation of shared value, the conservation of natural assets and the reduced use of resources. A genuine resource revolution is under way.

It is essential to involve and include all the players in our societies in order to generate a positive and irreversible dynamic that uses all of these levers.

Severnside Energy Recovery Centre, results of a Public-Private partnership, UK © SUEZ/Paul Box

By its very essence, the circular economy is collaborative

Political instances, central and local administrations, economic players and NGOs, researchers, academics, students… We all have a role to play in the circular economy. Companies are one of the cornerstones of this revolution. They are an incomparable driving force, thanks to their investments and their capacity to innovate and build partnerships. They are now aware of their responsibilities to society and they must be encouraged to pursue this dynamic.

Since the circular economy introduces new players, relationships with customers regained all their importance. Companies are also building new models, based on more direct relationships with their customers. Right from the design phase, products and services must be created with customers in order to better meet their needs and to evolve towards the made-to-measure. The objectives must be set at the earliest possible stage and the solutions must be developed together.

The world of research and innovation is also a stakeholder in this trend that must eco- design, innovate and support thoughts on the models of the future. This multitude of circular loops demands cross-organisation.
The circular economy includes the notions of sharing and reusing, plus, at the end of the line, of recycling. Which is the reason why civil society is also a key player, actively engaged in the rebuilding of this new economic model. Its attitudes towards consumption are changing from a culture based on possession towards a culture based on use.

Local players must take over the support of the concrete realisation of personal innovative initiatives, so that they can fully contribute to this movement. Local administrations and authorities will help to spread these good practices, so that to be adopted on a larger scale.

But a more determined national political will is nevertheless necessary in order to support all these players as they shift towards the circular economy. Governments must be the driving force behind this positive dynamic, and they must provide a framework that reassures economic players in their choices and investment decisions. They must follow the example set by the Netherlands, by showing the way forwards and setting ambitious and precise targets, while providing the means to achieve them.

SUEZ aims to bring all the players to the table, which is the reason why we launched the SUEZ Collaborative Tour and why we organise meetings between entrepreneurs and local players, in an effort to co-construct innovative offers and partnerships.

We will only definitively enter the age of the circular economy if we do it together. An economy that offers a win-win model, respects the environment, creates jobs and new services, boosts spending power, creates social bonds and improves economic performance… The numerous positive effects exist and are only too evident!

It is now up to us to turn them into a reality for all!

This article was published in the fourth issue of open_resource magazine: “The circular economy era


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