Five business models to overcome the five barriers that hinder the achievement of what is described as the Circular Built Environment (CBE), i.e. the application of the principles of sustainability to the human-made space.
The strategies identified are described in a study called “Scaling the Circular Built Environment” by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), the global organisation of over 200 market-leading companies that are working to achieve the transition to a sustainable world. Drawn up in collaboration with Enel, the document identifies the Futur-e project as an example of best practice, and will be presented at the forthcoming COP24, the World Climate Change Conference 2018 to be held between 3 and 14 December in Katowice, Poland.
“Scaling the circular built environment” means using untreated and above all non-toxic materials more suited to recycling and regeneration (Circular Supplies) as a first step towards developing a resilient, zero-waste economic system that will also apply to the construction sector. What’s more, ownership of a product is no longer a pre-condition to enjoying its use – it can be accessible as a paid-for service (Product as a Service) depending on its function. Together with the adoption of best practices like regeneration and repair, this more efficient and intelligent system enables products to remain in use for much longer (Product Lifetime Extension). The problems of under- or overuse, however, can be solved through Sharing Platforms that help regulate and optimise availability. Finally, Resource Recovery means including already-used products or their waste in an industrial reuse or recycling process that will help obtain new materials without consuming more resources.
Transforming the business model, though, is not enough. There are five factors in our society that could become obstacles to full sustainability: corporate culture and personal beliefs; regulations that strangle innovation; excessive compliance with current market mechanisms; the lack of wide-scale diffusion of new technologies; and an education and communications system that does not provide enough information about the circular economy.
However, it is by no means a Mission Impossible. Our Group’s Futur-e project, which envisages the innovative, sustainable redevelopment of 23 decommissioned thermoelectric power plants and one former mining area in Italy, was presented in the WBCSD study as a successful circular model. Futur-e involves all stakeholders in the circular economy process, helping create not only added value for local communities but also setting them on the right path towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set out in the UN’s 2030 Agenda.