Sustainability experts agree that humans must conserve
the planet's natural resources. That effort will rely on
companies embracing the circular economy, in which
all materials are reused or recycled after initial use.
Five scholars from Kedge Business School in
Talence, France, have created a framework to make
it easier for organizations to participate in the circular
economy. The researchers include Frank Figge, professor
of corporate social responsibility and sustainable
development; Andrea Thorpe, assistant professor of entrepreneurship,
innovation, and strategy; Phillipe Givry, assistant professor
in finance; Louise Canning, associate professor of marketing; and
Elizabeth Franklin-Johnson, research professor.
Their framework focuses on two metrics: circularity, the number
of times resources can be reused; and longevity, the time period
over which reuse can occur. For example, resources that can be reused
many times for short periods could possibly be less sustainable
than those that can be reused fewer times over long periods.
The ideal scenario is a material with high circularity and
longevity, Figge explains. Sustainable development will
require "dramatic increases of efficiency," he adds.
"We need to use resources longer and more often."
The co-authors apply their model to the use of
gold in mobile phones. A phone's initial use might last
for two years—if the phone is then refurbished and
eventually recycled, the gold's circularity increases by
17 percent; its longevity, by 11 percent. This model shows
that "refurbishment and recycling add more to the circularity
of gold, than to its longevity." Such data could help organizations
make more sustainable decisions in their supply chain models.
"Metrics that capture current rates of eco-efficiency are significant,"
the authors write, but tools that "inform better decision making
to improve eco-efficiency are arguably even more important."
"Longevity and Circularity as Indicators of Eco-Efficient Resource
Use in the Circular Economy" appears in the August 2018
issue of Ecological Economics.