COP21: Circular economy key to sustainable growth, say business leaders

Business leaders in Paris all agree that the circular economy is good for both business and the environment.

By Rajnish Singh

Rajnish Singh is Political Engagement Manager at Dods

11 Dec 2015

The EU and governments around the world are looking at legislation to establish a circular economy, in an effort to be more environmentally sustainable and to cut carbon emissions.

Business leaders convened at the sustainable innovation forum (SIF15) in Paris - taking place alongside the historic COP21 climate summit - to discuss how companies can ease this transition.

Cherie Nursalim, Vice-Chair of Singapore tyre manufacturer GITI group, told her peers that the key is to find, "the best way to integrate government policy, business strategy and scientific innovation."


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Although she was confident that more companies are thinking about how they can be more sustainable as part of their business strategies, Nursalim said success was about "about changing hearts and minds of business leaders."

For Luis Enrique Berrizbeitia, Executive Vice President of the development bank of Latin America (CAF), it was also important that consumers were persuaded about the advantages of the circular economy. 

"Consumer education and culture is obviously a very important dimension to this whole process of sustainability and the circular economy."

Bea Perez, Chief Sustainability Officer at Coca-Cola, was passionate in her support for the circular economy, saying, "I love that the circular economy exists." She gave examples of successful businesses set up in the poorest parts of Brazil, that employ many people and recycle plastic bottles to make other products.

She added that it was important for business to work with stakeholders other than consumers - for example social groups - when establishing circular economy strategies.

For Perez, language was important; "if we use too much scientific language it does not connect with ordinary people as they can't relate to it, using simple language…is best."

Investors were another group of people that needed to be persuaded about the advantages of being more sustainable. 

According to Mindy Luber, the president of sustainability advocacy group CERES, her business experience in the circular economy did "not only sound good but actually economically works."

She told attendees that since investors are looking for a return on their money, in her opinion, "a company that tries to be environmentally sustainable will in the medium and long-term, be well managed,” and therefore, should be the kind of companies that investors put their money in.

However, she noted that if more companies adopt sustainable business and production practices, governments will have to establish new standards through legislation.

She concluded by saying that for the circular economy is to be successful, "it is not just politicians that need to show leadership, businesses leaders have to show moral leaderships too."

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