The transition from ‘take-make-dispose’ of the linear economy to the ‘reduce-reuse-recycle’ of the circular form, has become a necessity now, more than ever. The steady pace at which industrialization has plundered our planet of resources while accentuating inequality, is a blaring alarm for a much-needed shift.
That being said, the adoption of circular economy is far from satisfactory. Circle Economy has recently published the Circular Gap Report in line with the United Nations’ Emissions Gap report. According to this report, our world economy is only 9.1% circular, leaving a massive ‘Circularity Gap’.
The report further states,
“Closing the circularity gap serves the higher objective of preventing further and accelerated environmental degradation and social inequality. The transition to circularity is therefore a means to an end. As a multi-stakeholder model, a circular economy has the ability to unite a global community behind an action agenda, engaged and empowered both collectively and individually. Its systemic approach boosts capacity and capability to serve societal needs, by embracing and endorsing the best humankind has to offer: the power of entrepreneurship, innovation and collaboration.”
Circular Economy To Reduce Inequality
Before we talk about why Circular Economy is necessary, here’s a brief rundown on why the linear model has failed. The linear model of the economy came into practice to boost industrialization and overall development. Resources were being extracted, goods manufactured and then disposed of. The planet has been eroded of resources and hence, the present day situation.
The visible gap between disposal and resource extraction has caused the circularity gap, which if addressed quickly can accelerate the process of sustainable development. But how?
Circular economy essentially boosts the reuse and recycle of materials which in turn gives rise to more employment opportunities in the informal sector, boosting micro level jobs. These jobs are giving sustainable livelihood to people from the bottom of the pyramid. That, coupled with concerted efforts by social entrepreneurs and change makers will slowly stabilize the wealth distribution pyramid leaving the global wealth divided equally among the rich and the poor.
Circular economy promotes social innovation where products, services and solutions are designed from existing materials to create something that is unique and has a longer consumption life.
Circular Economy for Sustainable Development
Sustainable Development Goals by the United Nations have been put forth to create a common global language of sustainable development and address the severe socioeconomic inequality that we are facing. That being said, the situation is much more critical in developing and underdeveloped countries and the importance of mechanisms to further the realisation of SDGs cannot be stressed upon more.
Central to both the vision of a circular economy and key global SDGs is the ambition to tackle two of the main negative effects of a linear model: waste and excessive extraction of primary resources. Waste production and disposal, associated greenhouse gas emissions, unequal access to resources and large-scale resource extraction are all activities which aggravate many of the issues which the SDGs and underlying indicators aim to address.
Social entrepreneurs are emerging in these areas and are innovating business models focused on social impact and sustainable development. Their efforts are directly linked to bringing about socio-economic stability, thereby addressing the SDGs and their targets.
Hasiru Dala – A Case Study
Shekhar Prabhakar, CEO and Founder of Hasiru Dala has imbibed the principles of circular economy in his social enterprise which operates on a focal mission of reducing and tackling wastes in the most sustainable manner while improving the lives of waste pickers. During our interaction, Shekhar explained the role of the circular economy and its importance towards achieving socio-economic impact.
“Circular economy gives a mechanism where you design the products that continuously keep coming back to the economy adding value at every step, increasing its life, reducing wastes and in turn positively impacting the lives of people involved at every stage of its ‘cradle to cradle’ life cycle.”
Hasiru Dala through its model based on the circular economy, aligns itself with multiple SDGs. SDG 15– Where wastes are managed sustainably to promote life on land. This in turn propels their end consumers to produce and consume responsibly, hence addressing Goal no 12. By creating a streamlined waste management system, Hasiru Dala has uplifted hundreds of waste pickers throughout the city of Bengaluru so that they can earn a sustained income – SDG 8 and hence SDG 11 of a sustainable city and sustainable community.
Similarly, organisations like EcoFemme, Kabaad ka Jugaad, Sustain Earth, Paaduks and HelpUsGreen similarly operate on the model of the circular economy to create sustainable impact and eventually sustainable development.
While the transition to a circular economy cannot guarantee progress on all Sustainable Development Goals, its transformational ambition represents an opportunity to inspire positive change across a range of environmental, and socioeconomic indicators furthering holistic socio-economic development.