Throw away what you thought about waste. Waste as we know it, something worthless that one discards, is done - replaced with the latest commodity to emerge in the world of sustainability, the byproduct.
The byproduct terminology is something I picked up from Wesfarmers Executive General Manager, Corporate Affairs, Naomi Flutter, who spoke on the circular economy panel I moderated at the Australia-Israel Innovation Summit in October.
And if you heard the innovative ways Wesfarmers and the other panellists are making the most of the byproduct formerly known as waste, you’d understand why making the most out of things we would otherwise throw away is not only a rapidly growing industry in of itself, but fundamental to creating a sustainable planet.
The innovation we’re seeing goes far beyond recycling and is becoming a “must-do” for large corporates. Amcor Australia & New Zealand Vice President & Managing Director Simon Roy and Israel-based Tipa Compostable Packaging CEO and Co-Founder Daphne Nissenbaum, both on the AICC panel, discussed their partnership to provide compostable packing for fresh food and baked goods in supermarkets across Australia. These types of agreements are becoming increasingly necessary for larger corporates to keep up with the latest innovations in sustainability and to stay competitive in their markets.
Still, not everyone is demanding or participating in the circular economy just yet. Roy said the circular economy “movement” was picking up steam a few years ago but, like many things, COVID-19 brought a halt to its momentum.
Promisingly, Roy is now seeing interest rise again from consumers, customers and suppliers. And both Roy and Flutter discussed the challenges in managing a circular economy through complex and international supply chains. But the momentum for change is increasing.
The environmental benefits of the circular economy are clear. At the same time, it enables economic growth, new business opportunities and a chance to innovate. But this won’t happen automatically - we need to actively take advantage of the opportunity.
The Circularity Gap Report estimates in 2020, the global economy was only 8.6 per cent circular, and this had actually fallen from two years earlier. Data from NSW Circular says circular solutions Australia could add an extra $A210 billion to it gross domestic product and 17,000 new full-time jobs.
So while the challenge of managing a circular economy and climate risk is immense, it presents endless opportunities for the development of new technologies, products and services.
At ANZ, we’re proud to support customers embracing the circular economy. We’re also proud to offer innovative, sustainable finance solutions, as investor demand for green, sustainable and social debt instruments rises; an example of this is a recent sustainability linked loan closed by ANZ which in addition to CO2 emissions reductions targets, also included targets on waste (I should say byproduct) reduction, and gender equality.
Yair Engel, CEO, Kayama Centre for Sustainable Design, was also on the panel. He has a clear view of the role the corporate world can play in driving the circular economy. Engle said entrepreneurship and capital were critical to finding the solutions which help us move into a circular world.
Entrepreneurs like Nissenbaum - who had a vision of developing packaging for the food industry that “imitates nature” and decomposes - are coming up with solutions one could hardly dream possible.
As business leaders we have a unique role and a responsibility to make strides towards a more circular economy. And it can start with a simple shift in mindset toward what can be achieved.
The demand from consumers is strong for businesses to be sustainable in every way. Equally as strong is the demand from investors to use their capital to fund sustainability.
Tammy Medard is Managing Director Institutional Australia & PNG at ANZ
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