Not a Particle of Waste

Last year WBCSD released “Vision 2050: The new agenda for business,” its pathway to a world of 9 billion people living well, within the resource limits of the planet. On a Future of Green call we talked about this report with Bob Horn who helped illustrate the complex path required.

Today, I’m in Orlando to join colleagues from a number of businesses, associations, and government agencies to talk about how to make one piece of the pathway reality — how we can create a value chain that produces “not a particle of waste”. This ambitious target will require a mix of approaches including closed loop manufacturing processes, doing more with less and increases in the eco-efficiency of resources and materials.

The pathway posits a set of milestones that need to be achieved for success:

  • Landfills are phased out, while strong nation-wide recycling, composting and other product take-back infrastructure is developed
  • Energy efficiency in production and delivery/transportation of consumer products is greatly improved
  • Product design principles and production processes for closed-loop circular systems are achieved
  • Businesses achieve innovation through value chain review, redesigning products and services, re-engineering processes and revalorizing products
  • Producers and consumers co-innovate to increase product longevity and quality and reduce overall resource consumption
  • Business model innovations restructure traditional products into product-enabled services (i.e. green servicing)
  • True value pricing for natural resources and carbon is mainstreamed

The event is part of the Green Innovators in Business Solutions Lab series and the result of cooperation between RILA, the Retail Industry Leaders Association, WBCSD, GreenBlue/Sustainable Packaging Coalition, EPA and Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). We are in Orlando as we’re holding it adjacent to RILA’s annual Retail Sustainability Conference.

The morning session includes introduction of all participants (we’re expecting about 60), a panel representing the value chain to identify opportunities and challenges, and small group discussion to talk about innovations and collaboration. We are talking about business drivers, successes, barriers to success and brainstorm ways to overcome these barriers. In the afternoon we are joining RILA’s conference for the “Leadership for Sustainability” session led by Darcy Winslow and Sara Schley, focusing on how to help motivate the changes we imagined in the morning.

Representatives from about 40 companies are participating including Best Buy, CVS, DuPont, Pepsi, Veolia, Waste Management and Walmart. I’ll report back, after the event, to let you know how this collaboration worked and what conclusions, if any, we reached.