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Precursor considerations for new circular economy business models

  • Published on November 3, 2022

Circular economy thinking encourages society to adopt sustainable patterns of consumption and production. This basic principle aligns with the objectives of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which include improving human welfare through equal access to drinking water and sanitation; together with reliable, sustainable, and modern energy supplies for all. Traditional approaches to delivering public utility services have been rooted within the Baconian view that the environment is a pool of resources that exist for the betterment of humankind. Whilst this tradition has delivered water supply, sanitation, electricity generation, and waste management services, that have improved the lives of countless humans, the provision of these services largely relies on business models and technologies that have had significant adverse impact upon the natural environment. To inform the development of new sustainable business models, this paper explores circularity concepts from the perspective of decision makers and actors responsible for the delivery of public utility infrastructure. Through a review of the secondary literature, this paper examines core circular economy principles and maps these against fundamental business model elements to synthesise a framework of precursor considerations for future business models. This framework has potential application in testing the extent to which existing business models in the utility sector support the transition to a circular economy and how current business models can be adapted to assist the achievement of sustainable development.

Professor Usha Iyer-Raniga is at the School of Property and Construction Management at RMIT University. Usha is co-leading the One Planet Network’s Sustainable Buildings and Construction Programme (SBC), United Nations 10 Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production (UN 10FYP SCP) aligned with Sustainable Development Goal 12, as well as the newly formed Integrated Platform for Circular Economy, Climate Resilience, and Energy.  This paper is directly related to the work of the OPN SBC programme.

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