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SILC 2020: “The circular economy is more relevant than ever”

James George, network lead for the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, on why the circular economy is integral to sustainable growth within the licensing sector.

The circular economy is more relevant than ever and offers a vision for a future that works in the limits of our planet.

That was the message from James George, network lead for the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, to delegates at today’s Sustainability in Licensing Conference.

Founded by Dame Ellen MacArthur in 2010, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation aims to accelerate the transition to a circular economy, highlighting the ‘take-make-waste’ economy which the world currently lives by.

“The only solution offered to us has been ‘sell more stuff to keep the economy growing’,” James explained. “While it’s important to recognise that this way of doing things has brought great prosperity around the globe, this linear economy – spend more, consume more, keep taking more from the ground to build these things and then throw them away – doesn’t make best use of our resources, which we know are not infinite. It doesn’t take into account the future.”

James used an example of the average car spending 92% of its life parked – more than 22 hours a day. “Where is the value being utilised?” he asked. “There is a huge amount of capacity that can be unlocked and which is inefficient in the current system.”

James continued: “The circular economy is more relevant than ever. It builds long-term resilience and generates business for the long-term. The linear model can no longer support a growing population. The system needs to change to grow prosperity for all.”

James explained that there are three principles – eliminate waste and pollution (“rather than treating the symptoms, let’s stop it being created in the first place”; keep products and materials in use; and regenerate natural systems.

He concluded: “A circular economy aims to redefine growth. It opens up a way for a resilient economy. It’s a systematic shift; a vision for a future that works in the limits of our planet.

“It’s a fundamental shift in thinking; globally, we have started that journey and momentum is clear. Every journey starts with that first step.”

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