Leonie McCrann, CEO of leading change management firm Marbral Advisory, asks us to re-think how we do business and run our projects in order to achieve an acceleration in circular economy transition.
Humans produce way too much waste. We make products, consume them and then discard them, littering our planet in the process. We’re all aware that we need to rethink how we design, create, and consume the things we need, from the food we eat - to the tech we use - to the clothes we wear, but how do we do it?
Sustainable project management, based on the principles of a circular economy, has a huge part to play. By embracing new methodologies, every industry can benefit and create a better future for business, society, and the natural world.
What is a Circular Economy?
Predominantly, we currently work under a linear economy, which endorses a very wasteful approach. When we want the latest phone for example, we tend to throw away the old one. When our washing machine breaks, we head to the shops to buy a new one. However, we’re running out of resources to make new things with, and we’re producing too much toxic waste. That’s why we need to move to a circular economy, where everything has value and nothing is wasted.
In a circular economy, computers would be designed so they could be repaired more easily. And when they stopped working they would be simple to take apart so that the metals and materials inside them could be reused in another product.
The Corporate Finance Institute describes a Circular Economy as: “An economic model designed to minimise resource input, as well as waste and emission production. Circular economy aims to reach the maximum efficiency in the use of finite resources, the gradual transition to renewable resources, and recovery of the materials and products at the end of their useful life. Moreover, it targets to rebuild all available types of capital, including financial, human, social, and natural. Essentially, a circular economy describes a regenerative economic system.”
A circular economy is based on the following three principles:
Pioneers of Circular Economy
Some of the world’s largest companies have started to embrace the circular economy as a way of capturing new forms of value, building resilience and achieving social and environmental targets.
As an example, Renault is a pioneer of the circular economy in the automotive industry. Their aim is to extend the life of vehicles, and keep materials in use. Renault has achieved this in different parts of the manufacturing process. For example, by:
More recently, Renault have increased their ambition level and established ‘RE: Factory’, Europe’s first dedicated circular economy factory for vehicles and mobility.
Where Does Project Management Fit In?
Since the start of Marbral Advisory, we have been concerned with bringing sustainable strategies to life. We bring this mindset to all of our projects in both the public and private sectors. Many of our clients have ambitions to stay relevant and accountable by making changes towards circular economy solutions. For some, this means significant programmes of change to achieve these goals. Almost all areas of the company are affected and must be involved. New processes are required and current ones are reviewed and adapted. Central to all of this is the change in behaviours which is essential both during the project itself and after it has ended.
Projects provide the opportunity to do things differently. However all too often, sustainability is given a nod in the early ambitions of the project but becomes quickly deprioritised as the rush to the outcome becomes all consuming. Effective project management enables the definition of measurable objectives at the outset with ongoing assessment to keep leaders focused on their achievement. Having measurable sustainable objectives both in the delivery of the project and in the product of the project itself, is what is necessary.
Digitisation brings great sustainable benefits to companies. Digital solutions are freeing up time for employees to focus on more ‘value-add’ activities and are helping our clients to know where and in what quality resources are or will be available. This is an absolute success factor in a circular world where we need to avoid constantly making new products from new materials.
It is therefore important for us not only to carry out sustainable projects, but also to make the project management itself sustainable. The most important element is always to remember the people aspect: stakeholder involvement of people inside and outside the company and leadership ambassadors driving forward the change and leading by example. Together, we can create a better future for business, society and the natural world.