How local circular businesses are more resilient to external shocks in the future
Circular Economy Aruba is looking for local companies to participate in their first research
While most of our entrepreneurial minds have been (rightfully so) hyperfocused on damage control and staying afloat lately, will we also make use of this opportunity to look further into the future? Circular economy experts have been researching and advocating for some time now that our next big challenge remains finite natural resources being unable to keep up with our current business practices. In this article we will briefly explain circular economy principles, showcase international and local best practices, provide a few tips on how you can get started and finally ask for your help by participating in the first local circular economy study.
Text Vidmara Geerman
Entrepreneurs are nowadays expected to contribute positively to society versus exclusively chasing profit maximisation for a select few. Social corporate responsibility (CSR) and (environmental) sustainability have only been gaining momentum before the current pandemic and this crisis made it even more essential to have something to say and do on these aspects. Research published among others on Inc.com affirm that companies who fully integrate CSR or sustainability in their business practice can expect to gain not only reputation but also sales, loyalty and even advocates from a good 20 to 39 percent of their customers, especially millennials.
Locally, in 2017 the Social Economic Council advised the government of Aruba (GoA) to further incentivise a circular economy (CE, as defined in appendix 1) for Aruba because of the possible economic opportunities and exponential innovation among other benefits and in 2019 the GoA had a Circular Economy Vision 2050 for the island. As response to the current pandemic crisis, the GoA included a CE task force to advise on a national CE policy as part of their masterplan for economic recovery and innovation (and other fast track projects). This means that CE will not remain a philosophy but will have a fair chance of becoming an island reality sooner rather than later.
What could a circular company do?
Some international examples include the production of high quality jeans that are made to last. When customers are done with
their pair, the agreement (made at purchase) is, that they will return it to the producer for recycling. Another jeans company in Europe is able to offer free repairs of their jeans for life! The ability to make such a guarantee quickly catches customers’ attention and trust. Other businesses offer lights, washing machines or even carpets as a service. Companies retain ownership of the (optimized) materials and make sure that their lease service is up to standards. The reduced upfront investment for customers makes it accessible to many more.
Some worldwide benefits communicated by thought leader Ellen Macarthur Foundation (EMF) vary from significant increase in savings on material costs, increased disposable income of households, reduced traffic congestion and environmental gains such as reduced CO2 emissions and landfilling.
What are local Aruban entrepreneurs doing?
Some local businesses have been circular since the times of our parents or grandparents, simply because imports were limited and products were built to last, e.g. shoe repairs. As we are now faced again with uncertain and challenging economic times, repairs might make a comeback.
However, while the CE is still an ongoing shift, the next generation of entrepreneurs is already disrupting the current linear economic systems from within. Some local companies have been active in recycling for a few years already. To give an example, Antilla Energy retrieves used motor, edible and industrial oils to convert them into feedstock, finished biodiesel or a renewable diesel for export.
Plastic Beach Party is able to clean and sort most plastic waste to produce customized locally designed durable recycled plastic products.
Other local enterprises source locally (and are therefore less dependent on imports) as much as possible to save on costs and to reduce the waste that they produce. Eco Living Aruba manually produces a variety of personal care and edible products. They were able to scale up production of local hand sanitizer as the pandemic hit the island. And finally, Baz-rrr galeria adopted CE prioritising ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’ not only in their brand name (rrr) but also in business practice, hence they never had to purchase any glassware for their eatery.
How could you get started?
1. To get further acquainted with the concepts, take a good look at the circular economy model hereunder, perhaps also by Cradle to Cradle to switch things up, consider what related B corp businesses do differently and look up some case studies for inspiration.
2. Consider if your existing or future company is able to provide repairs, refills or products as a service instead. Maybe you are able to recycle materials or design and produce local products with less and easy to disassemble parts?
3. Just start and try it out, offer your prototype to customers to understand their reaction. Also try to collaborate locally or regionally (in a pre-competition cooperative) to discover possible new suppliers and/or customers.
How to help the Circular Economy Aruba research
The Circular Economy Aruba volunteer group needs your help to understand current local business practices, whether you (want to) practice sustainable or circular business or not. Please go to cearuba.org/survey to fill in the questionnaire. Your valuable contribution will add to better understanding and coordination of an accelerated circular economy for Aruba in less than 10 minutes.
> Go to survey
What is a circular economy?
According to leader in the field Ellen Macarthur Foundation “A circular economy is based on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems.” This essentially means that production of goods and services will survive the long run best by mimicking biological processes in nature. Our current ways of doing things in the linear economy (take, make and dispose) is reaching its limit. Our planet is unable to regenerate and provide prime materials for growing human demands based on the current systems. Circular Economy Aruba is in the process of co-creating a definition for the Aruban context that includes value creation, transitioning to maximizing reuse and reverse logistics and problem-solving that is actionable.
Circular Economy Aruba is a movement and a platform of about twenty volunteers linked to the University of Aruba, private companies and the government, who are ready to assist in adoption of more circular business practices and the transition to a circular economy for Aruba in the near future. Circular Economy Aruba can be reached at cearuba.org
Comments and questions are welcomed at email@example.com