Materials and Waste
This includes the acknowledgement that the Earth's resources are finite, and that we must move away from a linear take-make-waste economy and towards a more thoughtful, regenerative economy that preserves the use and value of resources for as long as possible.
With the best of intentions, companies experiment with isolated efforts to improve sustainability up and down their supply chain, only to encounter a long string of unanticipated consequences. These can be in the form of financial, social, or environmental costs. In this article, author Hau L. Lee explains that it’s more effective to take a wholistic approach to sustainability and make broader structural changes. Lee draws on examples of the shirt manufacturer, Esquel, and steelmaker, Posco, to further explain how this approach can be effective.
This is an open-source set of assessment tools from the Sustainable Apparel Coalition developed for apparel and footwear companies to assess the sustainability of their value chain. It is intended to enable companies to standardize how they assess their sustainability performance. The tools were originally released in 2012, but were revised and released as the Higg Index 2.0 in 2013.
If you are looking for resources that will help you to build a business case for pursuing circular economy strategies, this resource is a good place to start. This white paper explains how circular economy strategies can reduce the risk of investments and drive superior risk-adjusted returns for investors and financial institutions. By decoupling economic growth from resource consumption, diversifying business models, and allowing your business to better anticipate stricter regulations and customer behaviour, circular economy principles can reduce exposure to supply chain disruptions, resource price volatility, and more.
Kate Raworth's “Doughnut” model is a key framework for understanding sustainability context. Building on the planetary boundaries framework as a 'ceiling', it adds social foundations as a 'floor' and underlines the need to operate in the space between. The social foundation is made up of 11 boundaries that draw attention to communities needing access to basic resources to fulfill their human needs. This access needs to be achieved in a way that does not place undue stress on the earth's resources. The framework is based on the premise that we should be striving to build and maintain social foundations while staying within planetary boundaries.
In this video, executives from Patagonia speak about the reactions that employees, consumers, and other stakeholders had towards communications and initiatives inspired by ground-breaking sustainable innovation. Patagonia introduced branding that evokes a positive vision of the future and helps employees see the impacts of unsustainable behaviour.
Launched by the Environmental Defense Fund, the Supply Chain Solutions Center is a “crowdsourced” knowledge resource hub. The library’s current focus is on agriculture, energy, chemicals, waste, forests, and freight, and provides sustainability resources, best practices, case studies, reports, executive interviews, strategy templates, webcasts, and news that will support you in learning about these issues, assessing risk, setting goals, measuring, and reporting. The Solutions Center also brings together sustainability and supply chain professionals, creating a space where platform users can connect and collaborate with other experts.
This toolkit is a good starting point for small- and medium-sized enterprises that want to improve the sustainability of their manufacturing operations. The toolkit has two parts: a guide, which introduces a seven-step framework that can help you to understand, measure, and improve your environmental performance, and a web portal that offers technical guidance on measurement and other relevant resources.
This online platform provides data and tools for monitoring forests, and will help you to access near real-time information about where and how forests are changing around the world. The maps features allow you to visualise and analyse historical trends in tree cover loss and gain since 2000, view land cover, and toggle for various country-specific climate and biodiversity factors. This tool may be particularly helpful to sustainability, oversight, and procurement professionals who are responsible for monitoring illegal deforestation, defending land and resources, and ensuring commodities are sustainably sourced.
Billions of people benefit daily from the use of wild species for food, energy, materials, medicine, recreation, inspiration, and more. 50,000 wild species meet the needs of billions of people worldwide, and more than 10,000 wild species are directly harvested for food. This report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) can help you to understand how the global biodiversity crisis threatens the contributions of these species to humanity, and provides insights, analysis, and tools to establish more sustainable use of wild species of plants, animals, fungi and algae around the world.
This report identifies five broad categories of ‘practices’ in the use of wild species: fishing; gathering; logging; terrestrial animal harvesting (including hunting); and non-extractive practices, such as observing. For each practice, it then examines specific ‘uses’ for these materials; identifies trends and drivers of change; explores policies, practices, and tools to effect positive change; and examines a range of possible future scenarios for the use of wild species.
Produced by the Mining Association of Canada (MAC), this guide will help you to develop and implement consistent site-specific tailings management systems, and especially at new facilities. Designed to be applicable by mining facilities anywhere in the world, this guide provides a broadly applicable tailings management framework and a detailed planning rubric.
This resource from Second Harvest explains how nearly 9 million metric tonnes of food is lost or wasted by the food industry in Canada each year. The report uses field-to-fork life cycle analysis to show how - and why - food loss and waste occur. This is a good starting point for building awareness around the magnitude of food waste, regardless of geographic context; for understanding the differences between avoidable and unavoidable waste; and for understanding the kinds of immediate and long-term solutions that should be pursued to reduce food loss and food waste.
This report from Second Harvest explores food loss and waste across the industrial spectrum in Canada. It can help you to understand the causes and scale of the problem, the implications and opportunities for communities and business, and solutions for positive change that can be amplified.
Although the information here is centred around the Canadian context, many of the recommendations and insights are applicable regardless of geography.
If your business is looking for new ways to reduce food waste, this article from Triple Pundit highlights four changes that can help to reduce efficiencies and loss: AI-enhanced inventory management, digital food recovery platforms, smarter packaging, and upcycling food byproducts.
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation provides a range of videos, audio files, case studies, and slides and hat will help you to understand the limitations of our linear economy, the aspects and benefits of a circular approach to industry, and the principles that will enable businesses and communities to achieve this.
This guide from Leyla Acaroglu, editor of Disruptive Design, provides an introduction to lifecycle thinking, identifies lifecycle stages and key components for analysis, and explains how to apply this approach within your own organization. Leyla also provides helpful tools and tips to get you started.
This short clip provides a great introduction to applying whole systems and lifecycle thinking to a product using the example of a clothes dryer. It was developed as a part of the Autodesk Education Community's Sustainability Workshop. The page also has a slide deck and video script, as well as links to information on Life Cycle Assessment, The Rocky Mountain Institute's 10xE design principles, and biomimicry.
This "brainstorming tool" is a great prompt for early thinking on improving the sustainability of a product or service. Taken from the Okala Practitioner Guide, it organises different strategies for minimizing ecological impact around the stages of the product life-cycle.
The Circularity Gap Reporting Initiative measures current states of circularity and provides annual findings on the global state of transition based on the latest scientific evidence. They also provide insights into the circularity gap of individual countries, regions, and sectors.
Their flagship report, the Global Circularity Gap Report, provides a yearly update on the state of global circularity and identifies key levers for advancing circularity. This resource can help bring you up to speed on resource use and provides an abundance of compelling numerics that highlight the need for - and pace of - systems change.
This free tool was developed to help businesses accelerate their transition towards a circular economy. Using a simple, objective, quantitative framework, the CTI Tool structures data, calculates outcomes, and generates reports, enabling you to improve your understanding of circularity and set mor ambitious targets.
Janine Benyus shares a few stories about taking design advice from nature in this TED Talk. Biomimicry, a discipline developed by Benyus, is about sustainable innovation inspired by nature. Whether it’s waterproofing, optimizing packing space, repelling bacteria naturally, optimizing energy use, filtering water, or even using CO2 as a building block in cement, nature has answers.
There is growing pressure on the availability of resources, and our current "take-make-waste" approach does not focus on preserving the value and utility of resources to relieve this pressure. This short essay from WBCSD will help you understand the need for transitioning to a circular economy by defining linear risks and highlighting their wider impacts on business, communities, and the environment. Also included is a linear risk matrix with links to material, real-word examples of consequences for business.
This comprehensive handbook outlines a method for analyzing the social impacts of a product across its entire life cycle. It presents a number of indicators you can use to make impacts more visible and potentially identify hotspots, risks, and opportunities for improvement. It was developed by The Roundtable for Product Social Metrics, a business-led working group that works in collaboration with academia, NGOs, government, and industry organisations.
Circular business practices need to be embedded into business strategy in order to be sustainable. This briefing from the SustainAbility Institute can help you with the early stages of developing a circular economy strategy that aligns with your business strategy. It identifies four steps that can help you to kickstart your company's pursuit eliminating waste and maximising the reuse of resources: identify drivers and goals, determine focal points, develop an action plan, and execute.
The World Food LCA Database is a comprehensive, international Life Cycle Inventory database and global initiative led by Quantis in partnership with leaders in the agri-food sector. This database will help you to evaluate the lifecycle and better plan for resource constraints and higher resource costs by providing transparent and consistent data for agricultural and food products based on the best science available.
Developed by ICMM, this guide provides examples of good practices and a range of tools that can be used to make well-considered decisions when planning for the final lifecycle stages of a mine. This guide builds on the Planning for Integrated Mine Closure: Toolkit, and is an invaluable resource for personnel responsible for mine management and financial oversight. Among other helpful insights, this guide articulates closure vision, principles, and objectives; the implementation of progressive closure activities; and planning for social transition to help reduce the impact of closure on workers and the community, among other insights.
Is your company ready to take the first step in managing its end-of-life packaging? If so, this short primer from WWF will help to acquaint you with the basics of extended producer responsibility (EPR). This document highlights the benefits of EPR, and provides a high-level overview of the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders in the EPR system.
Tackling Plastic Pollution: A pioneering methodology to measure plastic leakage and identify its pathways into the environment
This comprehensive publication provides the first science-based methodology to map and measure plastic leakage across corporate value chains. Part of the Plastic Leak Project, this document will provide sustainability managers and corporate decision-makers with a framework for understanding where (and how much) leakage is occurring, and will help you to create impactful strategies and actions that effectively address plastic pollution and mitigate key business risks. Also available is a Plastic Leak Project Brief, which provides decision-makers with an overview of the guidelines, a summary of the challenges they help address, the business value of this metrics-based approach to building a plastics strategy, and more.
The momentum to step away from the linear take-make-waste economic model is growing, and transparency and alignment are crucial to establishing a common language across industries and governments. The Circular Transition Indicators (CTI) was created to address this gap. This resource introduces an objective and quantitative framework that can support businesses of all industries, sizes, value chain positions, and geographies to measure and communicate their circularity in a consistent way.
This guide is divided into two parts. The first part explains the CTI framework and methodology; highlights the need for circular metrics and the use of CTI; explains the CTI process cycle; and explains how to get started. The second part is the CTI User manual, which outlines seven process steps for performing an assessment.
This platform was created by the Circular Innovation Council to support Canada’s collective understanding of the circular economy and how purchasing advances it. It showcases a broad range of resources that may be especially helpful for sustainability practitioners and leaders working in Canada, such as case studies from a variety of sectors and industries; guidance and best practices; policies and frameworks; and purchasing tools.
Although created for the Canadian context, many of the learning materials here provide lessons and insights that are equally applicable elsewhere.
This toolkit can help owners, investors, and developers to better align their portfolios with sustainability regulations and laws and move beyond. Developed in partnership between the Ellen Macarthur Foundation and Arup, it was created to minimise building waste, keep products and materials in use for longer, and reduce emissions, and all from the start of the building design process. The toolkit features a circular design framework that includes an array of strategies and actions for relevant real estate projects, as well as a library of case studies.
This primer provides a helpful high-level summary of the circular economy that will benefit executives, board members, and other business leaders. It explains the issue of linear, take-make-waste models of modern economies; highlights the business risks of inaction, such as shifting consumer demands, regulatory changes, and supply chain disruptions; and highlights a broad range of opportunities for circular economy adherents.
This brief case study from the National Zero Waste Council discusses how Philips, the Dutch lighting, healthcare, and customer life cycle company incorporated a circular economy business model by offering its product as a service. Phillips did this by offering a service to install LED lamp systems and implement smart energy meters and ultimately achieved 55% energy savings. Through the consistent improvement of their products and services, Philips has grown to be the world's largest lighting supplier.
This resource from WBCSD can help you to take a more rigorous approach to implementing sustainable packaging solutions, either at the company-level or for a specific product. The framework provides a holistic definition of packaging sustainability that is founded on six guiding principles: minimise the drivers of climate change; optimise efficiency; optimise circularity; optimise end of life design; avoid harmful substances; and minimise the drivers of biodiversity loss. The framework then introduces a four-step approach that supports users with scoping their assessments, selecting methodologies, and setting thresholds.
This groundbreaking report from the Minderoo Foundation reveals the perpetrators and enablers of the plastic waste crisis, and highlights both the trajectory of this issue and the impacts it will have on peoples and the environment. This report can help you to understand which companies are driving this crisis; which companies are making real efforts to create a circular plastics economy; and how virgin polymer production is expected to grow or decline in the future.
In this interview, Laura Phillips - Walmart's SVP of Sustainability - explains how Walmart transitioned from its iconic packaging scorecard (Sustainable Packaging Scorecard) to a Sustainability Index (Sustainable Packaging Playbook). The new index uses priority KPIs to measure the impact of Walmart's supply chain. In this Q&A, Philips demonstrates how companies can drive operational efficiency by establishing KPIs and life-cycle assessments for individual products.
This report is a good deep-dive for business leaders, sustainability change agents, and packaging and procurement professionals who want to learn more about the impact of plastics on greenhouse gas emissions, global carbon budgets, and emissions-related commitments. The report examines the emissions from each stage in the plastic life-cycle, as well as uncertainties that can result in underestimating the impacts of plastic on the atmosphere. It also uses data - such as downstream emissions and future growth rates - to consider how current trends and projections will impact our ability to reach agreed emissions targets.
This digital platform maps and monitors plastic pollution in near-real-time through satellite imagery and artificial intelligence. This tool can help you to make evidence-based decisions on how to support global efforts to manage and mitigate plastic pollution.
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