The Importance Of A Circular Economy Post COVID-19
The world must rethink its relationship with resources and come up with new social and economic growth models that are efficient, better balanced, sustainable and more local.
Modern industries traditionally follow the ‘take, make, waste’ pattern. This method requires a continuous flow of resources, often obtained from far away areas of the globe. In the long run, this approach puts a strain on our natural resources, creates large amounts of waste and eliminates the possibility of using the full value of raw materials. In addition, when a major disruption occurs (pandemic, natural disasters, political bans, etc.) this linear model collapses and does not allow local productions or businesses to sustain.
The model of local circular economy may provide the answer to this problem, as it aims at every level to reduce, reuse and recycle waste. By designing out waste, keeping products and materials in use and regenerating natural systems, it creates vital opportunities for economic growth that also restores the environment and benefits society.
The circular economy model is then an effective solution for preserving and replenishing water, energy and material resources at local level; an approach which has been strongly echoed here in the UAE. First, replenishing these resources means recycling materials, developing renewable energy sources and transforming waste into compost or energy. On the other hand, preserving resources involves the reduction of consumption, the enhancement of energy efficiency and systemic approaches. As a development model and engine for growth, the circular economy is a route to job creation at a local level securing the supply chain of certain raw materials produced and essential services.
With the COVID-19 crisis occurring all over the world, we have seen the limits of a fully globalized economy. Circular and local models have proven to be more resilient and efficient to address the needs of the population and fasten the recovery of businesses.
In response to COVID-19, Veolia put in place business continuity plans which focused primarily on securing supply chains and protecting the health and safety of our local teams in order for them to be able to fulfill their essential mission. We therefore kept on producing and supplying drinking water and treating wastewater, preserving waste collection operation, safeguarding energy management activities in cooling networks, performing industrial on-site services to ensure industries continued to operate, and upholding its activities processing hazardous waste, which was vital to maintaining key industrial operations.
Understanding the importance of a circular economy in our modern world is crucial. Local initiatives, education, creativity and innovation are part of the answer and most of the countries in the Middle East already started to address these challenges. At Veolia, we support startups and SMEs across the region and accompany local structures and businesses in the ecological transition by educating them about circular economy principles and technology solutions.
A first example is a recent collaboration between Veolia and a local startup to deploy an innovative asset performance management tool across our different plants and operations. This new tool allowed us to gain better control of our assets’ performance and improve significantly the availability and efficiency of our major equipment.
Another example is our cooperation with Khalifa University in UAE to study the early-detection of the spread of COVID-19 by sewage water analysis. Contributing to this research was an opportunity for Veolia to share our expertise and knowledge in sewage treatment processes.
Finally, our recently launched acceleration and mentoring program is a one-of-a-kind enterprise project, to help pave the way for implementing a real circular economy culture in the region.
These projects are a few examples of how we must seek innovative projects and as a global leader in resource management, Veolia has a key role to play in supporting local initiatives and innovations.
In a nutshell, circular economy has the power to tackle the challenges the world is facing right now and businesses need to keep their focus on the long-term goal of sustainability and make better use of existing goods and resources to generate revenue. The world must rethink its relationship with resources and come up with new social and economic growth models that are efficient, better balanced, sustainable and more local. Moving towards a more circular economy can not only deliver benefits such as reducing pressure on the environment and improving the security of the supply of raw materials, but it can also stimulate innovation and boost economic growth.
Sébastien Chauvin is the CEO of Veolia Middle East.
Veolia group is the global leader in optimized resource management. With nearly 179,000 employees worldwide, the Group designs and provides water, waste and energy management solutions which contribute to the sustainable development of communities and industries. Through its three complementary business activities, Veolia helps to develop access to resources, preserve available resources, and to replenish them.
In 2019, the Veolia group supplied 98 million people with drinking water and 67 million people with wastewater service, produced nearly 45 million megawatt hours of energy and treated 50 million metric tons of waste. Veolia Environment (listed on Paris Euronext: VIE) recorded consolidated revenue of €27.189 billion in 2019 (USD 29.9 billion).