Australian businesses need to embrace product stewardship and the circular economy to slash the use of raw materials, according to Desso managing director of Asia Pacific Andrew Sibley.
Mr Sibley was speaking at From Innovation to Market: The Business of Acceleration and Scaling Up for Growth and Prosperity at Australia’s Sustainability in Business Conference & Exhibition in Melbourne on Thursday, where he revealed the global carpet supplier was about to launch Australia’s first carpet-leasing program in partnership with a yet-to-be-named Australian brand.
Mr Sibley said at the end of the product’s life the supplier would able to take the carpet back and reuse the material rather than it going to landfill.
“We take it back to our factory, we recycle it and make the same product again, so actually [we don’t] touch any of the raw materials,” he said. “That – the circular economy – is where we should go.
“Can you imagine losing all these raw materials with five billion more people (on the planet) in the next 20 years? It is not sustainable so eventually we will need to come to this product stewardship circular economy.”
In 2008, Desso adopted the Cradle to Cradle business model, which deals with three global challenges: toxicity in materials, climate change and resource scarcity.
Desso and the other Cradle to Cradle companies must adhere to five principles: material health, material reutilisation, renewable energy use, water stewardship and social responsibility.
A 2012 report, Towards the Circular Economy: Economic and business rationale for an accelerated transition, calculated that businesses in the EU could reap annual savings of AU$675 billion by moving to the circular economy.
“So when we are talking to businesses it is not, ‘Let’s have a sustainability story,’ it is, ‘How can we save you money for the future?’ If you can get into the fabric of the business and work out how it can actually save them money then the people with the purse strings will become aligned to that,” Mr Sibley said.
“We decided to take it to the next step. Everyone can do that if you want; it doesn’t matter the size of your business. You just need to change the way you think.”
Mr Sibley encouraged Australian businesses to help educate other businesses and the Australian consumer.
“Can you imagine if you helped change the way people think a little bit? [Europe] looks upon you [Australians] as leaders but the reality is you don’t do as much as we think you do.”