Leading the transition to the circular economy

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Setting the scene

For decades, global consumption has been built on a ‘take-make-dispose’ model. But now, forward-thinking organisations are adopting ‘circular’ solutions. The circular economy seeks to keep products and materials in use for as long as possible, minimising the amount used, extending their lifespan, and maximising reuse and recycling of waste. 

All businesses need to adapt to this move to circular solutions, and PwC is leading the way, both within its own business and by helping clients going circular.

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“If one man's trash is another man's treasure, leaving a product to end up in landfill is the equivalent of burying treasure and losing the map.”

Jan Willem van den Beukel, PwC’s Global circular economy lead for Sustainability

How we helped

For several years, PwC UK has been applying circular principles to the materials it uses in its business, including energy, water, food, paper, electricals, textiles and more. In 2012, the firm went ‘zero to landfill’, before working to get as close as possible to its aspirational, 2017 goal of ‘100% reuse or recycling’ - putting in place the best possible end-of-life solutions for all waste streams. Next, as it enters the third phase of its transition, PwC UK is engaging suppliers to find products or services that are designed specifically be enable the circular economy. Meanwhile, PwC Netherlands aims to have a net zero carbon footprint and a fully circular way of working by 2030. Such actions have helped PwC become a circular economy pioneer with experience of putting the ideas into practice, so it can share the lessons learned with others and accelerate change at a market level.

At the same time, we’re helping clients embrace and capitalise on circular business models, often by harnessing the power of technology in what is commonly called the fourth industrial revolution or ‘Industry 4.0’. Technologies such as the Internet of Things, data analytics, robotics and 3D printing are major enablers of circular strategies, and we’re actively applying these technologies with clients, yielding great results. In addition, PwC’s skills in natural and social capital accounting enable clients looking to design more circular products to accurately measure the economic and environmental impacts of different options, and make informed decisions about the trade-offs between them. 

“Applying circular economy thinking is a win-win. It's not only good for our people and the planet, it makes commercial sense too.”

Bridget JacksonHead of Corporate Sustainability, PwC UK

Impact

PwC UK has delivered tangible environmental improvements by ‘going circular’. The UK firm estimates that it has also saved almost £29m over the past decade through reductions in energy, paper and water use. It has virtually eliminated landfill since 2012, and now recycles or reuses over 90% of all materials in the business, reducing costs as well as its carbon, water and raw material footprint. Meanwhile, staff have found PwC's actions inspriational, so 'going circular' is delivering pride in working for a responsible business leader.