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11 December 2018 | By Vincent de Rul Community

The lesson from COP24 is that business can lead the change

Shifting to the circular economy, and a better use of resources, will make a big difference, says EDF Energy's Vincent de Rul

This year’s COP24 event takes place at a crucial time. The UN conference, which brings together the world’s leaders to tackle climate change, follows the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, which questions whether our current targets will do enough to prevent the damaging impacts of global warming.

We’re likely to see further targets set by governments to curb emissions and waste, to meet national and global commitments. But, according to the BBC, the gap between what countries say they are doing and what needs to be done has never been wider.

How we respond to this challenge will shape the future of business. The environmental challenge facing countries, governments and businesses, when laid out at events like COP24, can seem intractable. The pressures we face can seem to undermine the very principles our business models and economy are built on. The truth is, they do. Environmental issues, and the associated regulatory, commercial and societal pressures that come with them, throw into question the economic model our businesses have relied on to drive profit and growth.

But this should help future-ready leaders to realise that, through a series of practical, everyday changes, businesses can transform the way they are creating growth. It’s time to draw the line, and that line is circular.

Opportunities in the circular economy

Shifting from a linear to a circular model, in which waste materials and discarded products have another useful life as a resource, enables businesses to decouple growth potential from the finite supply of new raw materials. The World Economic Forum calls the circular economy a trillion-dollar opportunity, and estimates suggest it could generate $4.5trn in the global economy by 2030.

Businesses have a clear opportunity to show leadership in this area. A data-driven approach, upon which best practice business decisions are based, can help organisations to identify the most efficient, effective ways to make a change.

The government has estimated that businesses in the UK could save a substantial £23bn per year, simply by making low or no-cost efficiency improvements in their use of resources. It’s clear that good-for-business and business-for-good can be reconciled, and that businesses can make changes which make a difference. The question now is not ‘Should I make change?’ but ‘How can I make a change?’

Energy use is perhaps the most immediate, effective place to start. Every small, achievable change businesses make to how they purchase, use, flex or generate energy will flow through their entire value chain, creating multiple opportunities to bring greater resource, cost and carbon efficiency. One change can make a big difference.

Those companies taking a circular approach to their energy are driving down their operating costs, increasing their supply resilience, developing new revenue streams, creating more sustainable production methods and cutting harmful emissions.

As a business community, we must seize the opportunity that events like COP24 give us to consider new ways of working and the value they can bring. We have the chance to benefit from solutions that are both competitive and collaborative, good for profit and good for the planet.

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