Waste to Wealth: The Circular Economy Advantage

Jennifer McDowall reviews Peter Lacy and Jakob Rutqvist's Waste to Wealth: The Circular Economy Advantage 

Waste to Wealth: The Circular Economy Advantage

Authors: Peter Lacy and Jakob Rutqvist

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Price: £21.99 

Waste is the ‘biggest economic opportunity of our time’. That’s the message Lacy and Rutqvist want to send to businesses. As employees of the sustainability services department of management consultancy firm Accenture, they hope to not just ‘empower executives’ to adopt a circular economy approach to business, but to tell them how to do it, too.

Waste to Wealth is intended to be practical guide on how to adopt a circular business strategy and is written to allow any organisation to follow its instructions, no matter the industry. ‘What company wouldn’t want to reduce its dependence on increasingly scarce and costly natural resources while generating revenue from wasted opportunities?’ the authors ask. However, they also admit that it’s not an easy step to take. That’s why they’ve outlined five different applicable circular business models to help companies that are a bit ‘stuck’ take that first step.

This article was taken from Issue 83

With explanations of why the linear business model of ‘make, use, dispose’ is doomed, as well as how the circular model is dramatically superior, the book highlights that the adoption of circular strategy in the current climate will provide companies with a competitive edge or ‘circular advantage’. In fact, the authors regard the circular model as the only viable solution. Reading the proposed business models, it’s hard to believe they’re not already in place in all companies, since the suggestions laid out seem like common sense. Adopting circular supply chains, increasing recovery and recycling of waste and producing shared platforms are just some of the methods suggested for reducing waste and increasing revenue. With a whole host of real-life examples of companies, such as General Motors and Airbnb, that are already successfully implementing circular practices, the book makes a compelling argument.

To finish up, the authors provide a framework on how to get started that involves knowing your value chain inside out, figuring out where your weaknesses are and evaluating where it’s possible to reduce the four types of waste: resources, lifecycles, capability and value.

Throughout the book there is a clear message that ‘business as usual is heading for trouble’ and that adopting circular approaches sooner rather than later is the best way to minimise business disruption. By getting rid of waste, or the whole concept of waste, and realising that everything has value, it seems it should be possible to turn ‘waste into wealth’.