Small companies can lead in the circular economy

28 June 2024 16:25

Cambridge - Small companies can create or join circular economies if they analyze the flow of their materials to see what could be recycled and reused and where; find partners; use digital marketplaces to speed up; and consider circularity as change management, according to the Harvard Business Review.

More than 100 years ago in London, dye makers discovered they could use coal tar from untreated sewage, creating a circular economy. Yet, today, businesses and farms discharge 2 million tons of raw sewage into the environment. Most of these polluters are in developing countries where many people would benefit from finding other uses for these waste materials.

Writing in the Harvard Business Review on June 7, Rana Hajirasouli, the founder and chief executive officer of The Surpluss, a Dubai-based industrial consultancy whose digital platform helps businesses share waste and excess resources, argued that small businesses could be key to creating a circular economy in waste whose value is now lost.

Many leaders at small and medium-sized enterprises, or SMEs, think they are too busy dealing with slim margins, limited resources, and complex supply chains to consider circular opportunities. They should think again, she claimed. “By simply reevaluating byproducts and waste streams as potential resources, SMEs can simultaneously cut costs, generate new revenue, and gain a competitive advantage – essentially turning waste from a cost center into a profit driver,” wrote Hajirasouli.

Hajirasouli lays out a plan for progress. Small company leaders should conduct a waste management audit, find opportunities to collaborate with partners who could use their waste or offer them waste to use, join digital marketplaces where these exchanges are fostered, and treat circularity like a major change program within their organizations.

“Evolving to circular models takes time, and the transition looks different for every company,” she wrote. “What matters is taking that first step.” ce/jd

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