The growing scarcity of resources and environmental challenges mean that we must abandon the old linear economic model of “produce, consume, discard” and shift to a circular model with products designed to last longer and in which shared use and paid services replace exclusive ownership, products at the end of life become resources to take advantage of, and solutions are developed to extend product lifespans.
The subject was discussed at the Green Social Festival 2019 in Bologna on 22 May, in the context of the convention entitled “The circular economy that does not exist – yet”, at the Palazzo d’Accursio in the 15th century Farnese Chapel, and included in the Sustainable Development Festival programme.
“We see the circular economy as a further development in the process launched with the energy transition in which we have been at the forefront over the years,” said Luca Meini, Enel’s Head of Circular Economy, recalling how our Group embarked some time ago on “a rapid decarbonisation curve,” focusing the new capacity on renewable sources. “The circular economy,” Meini emphasised, “enables us to involve all our business areas in this evolution towards an increasingly innovative, sustainable model.”
The convention provided an opportunity to take stock of the circular economy in Italy, with local officials, trade associations, environmental services companies and startups. Also taking part were Chicco Testa, President of FISE Assoambiente, Attilio Raimondi, Head of Research, innovation energy and sustainable economy for Emilia Romagna, and Lorenzo Frattini, President of Legambiente Emilia-Romagna. European, national and regional governments are drawing up regulations that will facilitate the transition to the circular economy, but more is needed, the speakers said. If the new paradigm is to gain a foothold, what is required is a collective effort to create new business and consumption models, innovative supply chains and new industrial sectors.
Luca Meini went on to say that the circular economy is not limited to recycling waste: it involves the entire value chain. “We start from the first step, from the materials and the energy we use and the way we design our products. Then come all the business models, from sharing to product as a service and product life extension and what we’re doing with assets at the end of their life, from upcycling to recycling. This is something we’re carrying forward in all the countries where we are present, and more generally we’re seeing a strong commitment to this across all continents.”
In this context Enel’s role as an accelerator in the transition to the new paradigm is crucial. “In Italy, for example, we’ve launched strong partnerships with companies in various sectors by applying a transversal approach to the issue, because the circular economy must be based on an integrated vision.”
Another example of how we’re applying the principles of the circular economy in our business is the supply system. The Circular Procurement project evaluates the environmental impact of purchases throughout their entire life cycle, from extraction of the raw materials and the energy sources used right up to the finished product. The project began with a pilot stage that was gradually extended, enabling the Group to gain a total vision of its impact and to support its suppliers in the transition towards a circular economy.
Luca Meini also highlighted the role played by Enel X, the Business Line “that has made the circular economy one of its drivers, developing innovative products and digital solutions for this purpose,” concentrating on e-mobility, energy efficiency, renewable sources and home automation, also offering its clients an evaluation service to measure their circularity levels.
“It’s important to have a total, end-to-end vision of the circular economy,” Meini concluded. “We’ve been working from the very beginning on the metrics because the circular economy has a perimeter that must be measured and quantified if it is to have a positive impact.” Only in this way it is possible to achieve benefits in terms of both environmental sustainability and competitiveness for the entire planet.