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Circular Economy Q1 2024

Why UK businesses should accelerate circular transition to net zero

Sustainable manufacturing, processes and technology
Sustainable manufacturing, processes and technology
iStock / Getty Images Plus / Christian Bay

Gudrun Cartwright

Climate Action Director, Business in the Community

Invest in the circular economy to reduce UK carbon emissions by 2 billion tonnes by 2050.1 Reduce carbon emissions, enhance sustainability and boost commercial benefits now.


Business in the Community’s seven steps for climate action2 include circular business approaches because they are essential in enabling the collective action needed to deliver a swift, just transition to a net zero resilient future where people and nature thrive.

Impact of circular transition

Our global economy’s demand for virgin resources — currently around 100 billion tonnes per year3 — causes 90% of global biodiversity loss, 50% of global climate impacts4 and 62% of greenhouse gas emissions globally.5

Building a circular economy could reduce virgin material extraction and its impacts by a third,6 with evidence suggesting that carbon dioxide equivalent emissions could be cut by 100 million tonnes by 2032 if UK businesses go circular.7

Building a circular economy could reduce virgin
material extraction and its impacts by a third.

Circular practices with business benefit

As companies respond to demands from investors, customers and employees to reach net zero within a tough economic climate, adopting circular practices can significantly help businesses on this journey and deliver commercial benefits.

For example, Anglian Water Group and Oasthouse Ventures are transferring waste heat from a water treatment plant to two greenhouses that can produce 12% of the UK’s tomatoes.8 Moreover, PwC UK’s ‘going circular’ initiative saved £29 million over 10 years and helped retain talent, building pride in employees.9

Circular economy for social justice

Building a circular economy is also a critical social justice issue. Plastic, textile and other waste are exported to developing countries that don’t have the infrastructure to process them. This means the harm that vulnerable communities are exposed to is significant,10, 11 with reputational implications for any company whose brand might be part of the problem.

A circular economy could help create positive social and environmental impacts, with the potential to create between six million and 20 million jobs worldwide.12 The rationale for every business to accelerate progress towards a circular economy cuts across social, economic and environmental imperatives. There really is no time to waste.


[1] bitc-report-environment-circular-economy-in-your-hands-v2-august23.pdf
[2] https://www.bitc.org.uk/toolkit/seven-steps-for-climate-action/
[3] 63ecb3ad94e12d3e5599cf54_CGR 2023 – Report.pdf (website-files.com)
[4] The Nature Imperative: How the circular economy tackles biodiversity loss (ellenmacarthurfoundation.org)
[5]61657f127a13715bb8744ec3_Climate Change Mitigation Through the Circular Economy – STAP – report.pdf (website-files.com)
[6] 63ecb3ad94e12d3e5599cf54_CGR 2023 – Report.pdf (website-files.com)
[7] WRAP Net Zero Emissions Report
[8] https://www.anglianwater.co.uk/siteassets/household/about-us/five-point-plan-for-innovation-acceleration-2022.pdf
[9] Leading the transition to the circular economy: PwC
[10] https://eia-international.org/wp-content/uploads/EIA-The-Truth-Behind-Trash-FINAL.pdf
[11] https://www.greenpeace.org/international/story/53333/how-fast-fashion-is-using-global-south-as-dumping-ground-for-textile-waste/
[12] https://blogs.worldbank.org/jobs/putting-young-people-center-circular-economy#:~:text=And%20while%20circular%20models%20can,to%2020%20million%20jobs%20worldwide.

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