How developing a circular economy requires concerted efforts How developing a circular economy requires concerted efforts
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How developing a circular economy requires concerted efforts

How developing a circular economy requires concerted efforts

Investing in a circular economy isn’t just about protecting the environment, it’s also good business


2021 isn’t an easy year – not for businesses, governments or people.

We’re looking at a complex set of challenges as we build economies back and attempt to ‘reverse’ the damage done to the environment. With less than 10 years to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the clock is ticking, and we need concerted action to fight climate change and make businesses more resilient for the current vulnerable environment.

At the heart of this recovery is the circular economy. We need to tackle economic issues and the climate crisis simultaneously. A circular economy isn’t just environment-friendly – it’s a multi-million dollar business opportunity and more businesses need to recognise that. When waste is looped back into the supply chain in the form of new products, we’re extending its lifecycle – keeping it in the production system and out of the environment.

According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, adopting a circular economy approach across plastics, steel, aluminum, cement, and food can achieve a reduction of 9.3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases by 2050. It also presents a unique market opportunity of close to $4.5 trillion by 2030.

In January this year, the UAE government approved the Circular Economy Policy for the next decade, which touches on four priority areas – green infrastructure, sustainable transportation, sustainable manufacturing, and sustainable food production and consumption.

As the Minister of Climate Change pointed out, this is a call to action for all stakeholders across the board to consider how they can think and act in a more circular way to support this transition. From ensuring the efficient use of natural resources, shifting to cleaner industrial production methods that involve the use of AI and 4IR technologies to adopting sustainable consumption and production patterns that reduce environmental stress, the private sector has an indispensable role to play in the process.

But how does that translate for big players like us in the F&B sector – an industry which is looking at an opportunity of more than $30bn?

Forging a path to a circular economy requires collaboration across the ecosystem. The UAE is working towards a sustainable environment and infrastructure through new initiatives and KPIs to measure its targets. Similarly, late last year, energy ministers from the world’s leading economies backed Saudi Arabia’s circular carbon economy strategy.

For companies that help shape culture, we need to inspire action. We need to go beyond lip service and think about the role we can play in realising these goals. That means partnering with governments to reduce, recycle and reinvent. It means investing in local resilience, local economies and local supply chains to advance recycling infrastructure. It means elevating public discourse on the importance of resilient food systems and sharing learnings across industries. It means calling for bold new actions and encouraging public policymakers, private stakeholders and development practitioners to improve policy coordination and practical collaboration. It means educating consumers, manufacturers and retailers on the role they can play in driving a circular economy.

Today, multinational organisations with decades of experience, complex supply chains and processes can struggle to keep pace with circular innovation. By contrast, entrepreneurs may have the disruptive solutions to solve these challenges, but lack the capital, resources or networks to put their plans into action. Connecting multinational actors with disruptive players can empower stakeholders across the value chain to create the kind of systems and positive incentives that drive real change.

We need to build a world where plastics need never become waste. This means looking at increasing the recyclability of packaging, the use of recycled content in packaging, and recycling rates. Improving regional collection rates helps to increase the supply of recycled plastic and will further drive the demand for recycling facilities which are still limited in the region.

Aamer Sheikh is the president of PepsiCo – MENA and Pakistan

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