Putting eco-innovation at the heart of European policies.
Gail Whiteman is a Professor and Rubin Chair at the The Pentland Centre for Sustainability in Business, Lancaster University, United Kingdom. She works on how companies can respond to the challenges facing the world arising from changes to ecosystems. In this interview, she argues that corporate sustainability needs to be scaled up so it can start to really tackle global environmental problems, and that the circular economy could be good for Europe as it looks for new areas of economic growth.
Servitisation, or selling the functions offered by a product rather selling the product itself, could play a major role in a more circular economy in the future. Servitisation already exists in a number of forms, such as the leasing or hire of vehicles or appliances, but in many other areas there is arguably scope for more. A just-completed European Union-backed project has explored how servitisation might be expanded into other economic sectors.
Hopes are high for graphene, an ultra-thin material that has been labelled as possibly “the most amazing and versatile substance available to mankind.” Graphene was first isolated in 2004. By the end of 2015, according to a company spun out of the United Kingdom's National Graphene Institute, a first commercial product using the substance will go on general sale: a graphene lightbulb.
A United Kingdom sustainability certification scheme is extending its impact beyond the companies that it certifies to provide support to the Eden Project, one of the UK's leading sustainability education initiatives.
Hackerspaces or makerspaces are local community clubs or networks that offer a location for people to meet and share tools and expertise related to the repair and design of products – usually consumer electronics. Hackerspaces have emerged in response to concerns that electronic and electrical equipment (EEE) too rapidly becomes waste (WEEE), being discarded because of minor faults or because software needs upgrading.
A small non-profit organisation based in the city of Mechelen in Flanders, Belgium, is acting as an accelerator for the circular economy by promoting its principles to companies and entrepreneurs with the aim of stimulating experimentation and innovation. The organisation, Plan-C , is part of the Flanders Materials Programme ( Vlaams Materialenprogramma ), an initiative created by the Public Waste Agency of Flanders ( Openbare Afvalstoffenmaatschappij voor het Vlaams Gewest , OVAM) to coordinate work on sustainable materials management.