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  • Writer's pictureGunjan Syal

Project Circa23: Circular Economy Vs. Net Zero

Updated: Feb 14

* This Initiative is Open *

Sponsor: GoEmerald

Prize: TBD

Closing Date: March 31, 2023


For the highest impact from global efforts towards the positive climate change, should the businesses focus on net zero or circular economy?

We had conversations with at least six groups of researchers last week and received a different response each time. The groups focused on measuring the impact prefer to focus on net zero because it is easier to derive and report KPIs this way. It is an important measure because the first step to solving a complex problem is making the problem visible and measurable. Metrics and common terminology ensure everyone understands the problem the same way and productive discussions towards solutions can proceed.

However, KPIs are traditionally operational metrics. They are designed to keep the lights on and do not provide motivations to actively find resolutions for upcoming risks or issues currently at our doorway. They are not innovation drivers that can help us improve incrementally. With a heavy focus on net zero as the only KPI for climate change actions, we risk introduction of short-term thinking. The goal becomes to contain the current problem and situation as-is.

For real climate change impact, we need to actively modify our systems, networks and ecosystems by embedding circularity in them.

To save the planet, we need to actively look for ways to improve our value and supply ecosystems in their entirety. We also require a repeatable set of frameworks that will accelerate this approach towards closed loops, systems thinking and renewables throughout our value ecosystems, at a global and cross-industry scale.

In our view, net zero is analogous to a KPI for a specific part of the ecosystem and circular economy is a framework towards continuous improvement with the more holistic value ecosystem in mind. A focus on circular economy should bring net zero results by default, plus continued progress.