NEVO HADAS: Innovative ways to design out waste are already in place
We should be creating circular economies in the age of innovation to change the production process
When the internet was introduced to the business world, it was met with disbelief and fear. Now, digital innovation has transformed every facet of our lives, ushering in an era of unprecedented convenience, efficiency and connectivity.
Today’s economic challenges and the devastating effects of climate change demand an urgent, innovative approach to sustainability. Our next frontier of innovation lies in creating circular economies — enabling and rethinking business models to design out waste and pollution in every aspect of the production process.
By leveraging digital technologies we have the potential to innovate for circularity, creating sustainable alternatives to the linear take-make-waste model that depletes our natural resources, generating pollution and waste at an alarming rate. Recycling, which has received a lot of attention, is just a waste management solution from a business perspective.
It becomes cost-additive. True circularity goes far beyond recycling; it’s about finding new revenue models and opportunities within a supply chain that eliminates/reduces waste and optimises resources.
As a systems solution framework, the concept of a circular economy tackles global issues by focusing on durability, reuse and value preservation. It promotes a shift towards sustainable materials and renewable energy sources, while emphasising the importance of environmental restoration.
It’s about designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems. This requires us to rethink how we design, produce and consume goods. Lego is an example of a global brand that has embraced the circular economy ethos.
Lego’s journey towards a circular economy encompasses several aspects, including zero waste, education, use of sustainable materials and product design. Notably, while recycling was an initial aim, reuse became a major focus. This commitment doesn’t just reduce waste; it also creates value by enhancing the brand’s reputation and appeal among conscientious consumers.
Clothing manufacturer Patagonia aims to first repair and reuse as many products as possible, recycling 100% of everything that cannot be reused. This philosophy of extending the life of garments aligns with the circular economy framework that emphasises the importance of keeping materials flowing through the product life cycle at their highest quality possible, continually reused and ideally avoiding landfills.
In SA, where economic livelihoods and food security are pressing issues, the circular economy offers a promising model for building resilience. This shift in focus could significantly improve the living conditions of many South Africans while simultaneously fostering environmental sustainability.
We firmly believe new business models have the potential to drive circularity and increase opportunity. Innovation is a key component of this transformation. As with the impact of digital transformation, businesses need to commit to innovation in their product design, business models and processes to unlock the opportunity presented by a circular economy.
For example, DYDX partnered Smollan to create Smartfill, an intelligent package-less solution for retail refills that eliminates waste. Smartfill’s smart technology dispenses exactly what customers require while tracking usage, facilitating efficient stock management and reducing overproduction. Piloted by Spar in SA, goods packaged in this way sold three times as much product in far less shelf space. Now into its logistics analysis phase, we believe this technology can reduce the cost of packaging in fast-moving consumer goods, a $1-trillion a year industry that is just waiting to be disrupted.
This kind of innovation is crucial for the wider adoption and success of the circular economy, highlighting the potential that lies in combining digital innovation with sustainability. While it is an early-adopter model, with more examples of successful implementation, it can certainly challenge current wasteful packaging models.
While the transition to a circular economy requires a shift in mindset for businesses, it could have significant benefits for the wider economy. Embracing circular economy principles should bring about innovative solutions to global challenges, promote sustainable practices, and create a more equitable and prosperous society.
It’s time for businesses to step up and lead the way towards a circular future.
• Hadas is a partner at digital transformation agency DYDX.
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