The key to a resilient, low-carbon recovery

Post author image. Peter Belk

Peter Belk, Circular Economy Director, Business in the Community (BITC) examines the role of building a circular economy in building back better.

Amid the chaos, a happy story surfaced this week that shows that sustainable supply chains hold the key to a resilient, low-carbon recovery from the impacts of COVID-19.

Tesco, working in partnership with Terracycle, launched Loop, a zero-waste shopping platform based on reusable containers instead of single use. Through Loop, customers can buy household brands such as Nivea, Heinz and Ren, provided by supply chain partners such as Unilever, Danone and P&G. By cleaning and reusing packaging over and over, Loop reduces reliance on finite resources (the petrochemicals that go into single-use plastic packaging alternatives), so increasing the resilience of its model while lowering carbon over the products’ life cycles. They can engage new and existing customers in an exciting new model at a time when online sales have increased by necessity during lockdown.

In the face of looming supply chain risks posed by Brexit, the climate crisis and the deepest recession in 300 years, the co-benefits of resilience, carbon reduction and revenue growth offer a compelling example of the potential for circular thinking to transform the way our economy works both during and after the pandemic. 

“If we are serious about achieving a net zero carbon economy, businesses must address greenhouse gas emissions generated within their supply chain”

Yesterday, BITC heard from JLL and Interface in our Building Back Better Workplaces webinar. They both outlined practical examples of how companies can harness circular thinking as they respond to the crisis. Whether it is saving costs by remanufacturing office furniture for use in employees’ homes through a supplier such as Crown Workspace; or harnessing purposeful innovations such as AirX, which has created a reusable, biodegradable face mask made from coffee-yarn in response to the massive increases in PPE pollution. Indeed Interface’s own business model – creating largely reusable flooring solutions from closed loop materials – has enabled them to provide attractive, sustainable floor tiles to help employees maintain social distancing as they return to workplaces.

If we are serious about achieving a net zero carbon economy, businesses must address greenhouse gas emissions generated within their supply chain, which are typically 5.5 times greater than direct emissions (CDP, 2019). Today we launch our Sourcing with Impact report, co-authored with Deloitte. It lays out in detail the rationale for creating sustainable supply chains and provides guidance on how to embed circularity into procurement and supply chain engagement. We are also calling on businesses to expand the scope of their supply chain engagement as part of our Challenge 2030 net zero carbon campaign, and see circularity as a fundamental step on that journey. Below, we outline support to help BITC members along the way because, when the world is searching for solutions, the circular economy has many of the answers.

Factsheets and guides

If you would like further bespoke support we can help through one of BITC’s Environment Partnerships. To find out more, speak to your relationship manager or contact environment@bitc.org.uk to discuss the opportunities.