Consumers nowadays are increasingly eco-conscious when selecting products and services; they not only look for products made with eco-friendly materials but also pay attention to the production as well as post-consumer waste management. Therefore, business owners need to study and be more aware of their environmental impacts, and this is where the circular economy can offer another path towards business sustainability.
The Thai Industrial Standards Institute (TISI) has introduced a standard for the circular economy entitled the Thai Conformity Assessment Standard No. 2-2562: the Framework for Implementing the Principles of the Circular Economy in Organizations – Guide, in accordance with the policy of the Ministry of Industry and the government on the implementation of the BCG Economy Model for the sustainable and exponential economic growth of Thailand. The BCG Economy Model brings together a bio economy (B), which makes further use of agricultural resources through the application of knowledge, technology, and innovation, and a circular economy (C), which places emphasis on efficient resource circulation, under a green economy, which seeks to create less pollution and reduce environmental impacts sustainably.
Every organization can adopt the circular economy standard as guidance for their resources management. The implementation of such a concrete framework will not only create more business opportunities and enhance their competitiveness sustainably, but will also foster confidence among consumers. The circular economy is based on the six following principles.
1. Systems Thinking: Understanding the impact of various activities of an organization on the wider system and seeing the interconnectedness of all systems relevant to the business will enable it to make decisions and cope with changes effectively as well as anticipate long-term consequences.
2. Innovation: Innovation is about looking forward in order to discover new possibilities that can enhance value and efficiency. Innovation can be incorporated in every step, from production design to research and development, working processes and business models that involve suppliers and consumers. However, it should be based on sustainable resource consumption.
3. Stewardship: This principle refers the responsibility towards direct and indirect impacts, both at present and in the future, of decisions and actions taken throughout the process. Since each organization is well aware that every action has environmental, economic, and social impacts, it should choose the optimal solution or create new approaches that bring the maximum benefit to all.
4. Collaboration: Every collaboration, whether it’s intraorganizational or interorganizational, creates synergy, adds business value, reduces competition, and decreases segmentation. It also enables organizations to develop new competencies, foster trust and communication, and establish a path towards mutually set goals.
5. Value optimization: This principle involves maintaining products, components, and raw materials at their highest utility and value, such as by making use of what is commonly viewed as waste, enhancing production processes, choosing raw materials that extend the useful life of a product, and taking advantage of underutilized spaces or equipment for the benefit of another internal unit or an external organization.
6. Transparency: The full, accurate, and timely disclosure of concepts, decisions, processes, as well as sources of materials, equipment, and chemical ingredients is beneficial for an organization seeking to meet circular economy standards. This does not include disclosing to the public proprietary information or information where privacy obligations are concerned.
The six principles above must be applied in accordance with the circumstances of each organization as each locality and business model involves unique limitations and contributing factors. In fact, even within an organization, these principles may be adopted at different levels across different divisions or different product or service groups. There are six major ways in which the standard for the circular economy can be applied to modern businesses.
1) Made to order: Thanks to technological advances, which have made instant communication possible, it is now much easier to develop products that cater directly to customer needs. It is also possible to accurately calculate the amount of materials and resources required in advance, which reduces excess capacity, saves inventory spaces, and allows for greater personalization.
2) Digital services: Businesses can transform tangible products into online services. The best example is a shift from VHS tapes, cassettes, CDs, and DVDs to online streaming services, which save resources and successfully maintain the value that customers seek.
3) Product life extension: This can be achieved by designing products to be long-lasting, to be adaptable for multiple functions, or to be modular so their parts can be replaced. An example is the innovative SCG™ HDPE H112PC, which is used in PE112 industrial pipes. This plastic resin gives PE112 pipes 50% higher resistance to corrosion and 10% higher resistance to water pressure compared to PE100 pipes while using the same amount of resin to produce, resulting in an extended product life and reducing resource consumption.
4) Resource recovery and recycling: This approach involves the reuse or recycling of used materials or by-products. A case in point is the technological collaboration between SCG and Dow Chemical in which plastic bags were shredded and mixed with asphalt for the construction of a recycled plastic road, which has enhanced durability and resistance to water erosion. In addition, manufacturers should start promoting product returning so that to ensure efficient recycling.
5) Product as a service: Businesses can rent out products for a set period of time or for the number of uses agreed upon. This model not only helps reduce expenses for consumers and increase the chance of each product being used multiple times but can also extend the useful life of products thanks to proper maintenance by service providers. Examples of the product-as-a-service approach are machinery and car rental services, which simultaneously address specific needs and reduce unnecessary resource consumption.
6) Sharing economy: This approach involves the creation of platforms for sharing underutilized resources or products so that other consumers can access them without having to buy them and rent them as much or as little as they need. Examples include a platform that allows neighbors to share tools, an accommodation sharing platform like AirBnB, and a bicycle sharing platform in London where good management enables the resources to share in a way that satisfies all members.
The information above is only part of the practices involved in complying with the Framework for Implementing the Principles of the Circular Economy in Organizations, and All Around Plastics is present it here with the goal of helping business owners see possibilities of applying them to their products and services and using them to inform the future direction of their organizations. Chemicals Business, SCG, is ready to collaborate with suppliers and partners to realize a circular economy and ultimately contribute to the economic, social, and environmental sustainability of both Thailand and the world.