Building Back Better: A Positive Outlook on the Post-Covid Economy

Generating a more positive impact on communities and the environment
Building Back Better: A Positive Outlook on the Post-Covid Economy
Publ. date 26 jan 2021
The World Economic Forum kicked off 2021 with its Annual Meeting - the year in which we hope to leave COVID-19 behind us. It is clear that we are not out of the woods yet, but the pandemic crisis has also revealed other underlying issues. It has amplified existing inequalities – there are those who have access to work, healthcare, education and digital technologies and those who have not – and has particularly exposed the many shortcomings of our current systems. The more reason for countries and companies to look into opportunities to emerge stronger and more sustainably. The pandemic has hastened the need for transformations and to #BuildBackBetter.

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This week, the World Economic Forum hosts its Annual Meeting 2021 virtually, rather than in the usual backdrop of snowy Davos, Switzerland. Its program focuses on building back the world after the pandemic and doing it in a more sustainable way. The agenda consists of themes such as saving the planet, developments in medical science, disruptive technologies, and the future of work, with a prime focus on stakeholder capitalism. We find ourselves in times of transformation and new ways of doing things can help build the future.

The 2020 UN Future Possibilities report agrees and has identified six trends that have the potential to accelerate systemic change. The report also emphasizes the importance of stakeholder participation and commitment. Take a system like healthcare – it involves people such as patients, healthcare professionals, insurance companies, pharmaceutical firms, the government and many more to realize change. Traditional industrial policies must become transformational policies by following a positive, opportunity-focused approach to transformations.

So, what about a circular economy?

One of the transformational trends highlighted in the Future Possibilities report is circular economy, which addresses the need to reduce environmental impact by optimizing the use of resources and reducing waste. As the name suggests, it is an economic system of closed loops, where resources lose their value as little as possible and where primarily renewable energy sources are used. While many are familiar with the 3R-approach of reducing, reusing and recycle, circular economy also involves sharing, leasing, repairing and refurbishing existing materials.

With systems thinking at its core, it provides an opportunity to rethink your business model. The Future Possibilities report states that circular economy has an overwhelming potential of $4.5 trillion by the year 2025. It identifies opportunities in financial services, consumer goods, energy, oil and gas, and information and communication technologies.

Circular economy examples from the postal industry

Let us take the example of circular economy in the postal business, subject of Finch & Beak’s forthcoming research report on Impact Measurement & Valuation. Globally, postal companies deliver millions of parcels each day – especially in times of COVID-19 where shops in certain countries are closed and goods can only be ordered online. This huge increase in volume is a driving force for postal companies to look at their impact on the environment and communities.

Postal companies have already taken measures, such as delivering with electric vehicles and cargo bikes to reduce emissions, noise and traffic. Some postal companies have put effort in looking beyond their own value chain, at reverse logistics where principles of circular economy are integrated.

There are examples of postal companies, such as Posten Norge and PostNL picking up clean waste streams, such as coffee grounds, citrus peels, packaging materials and coffee cups, thus rewriting waste management policies. Similar initiatives have also been created for specific consumer electronics and other small home appliances, that cannot be thrown out with the normal trash. For instance, POST Luxembourg reported that 2,114 old mobile phones and smartphones were collected in 2019 to give them a second life or to be recycled.

Pioneering reverse logistics: Return with sender

A recent development of reverse logistics pioneered by PostNL and Royal Mail Group, is the introduction of returns option, which lets consumers return their parcel with a deliverer who is already at the door for another delivery. Once again, emphasis must be put on the importance of collaboration between the stakeholders it involves. The company selling the product must provide the consumer with a reusable parcel delivery bag, that is also suitable for the deliverer picking the parcel up again.

All in all, we have seen that a pandemic can reveal underlying issues, especially in the social and environmental field. Yet, it also accelerates transformations. Circular economy to be a transformational direction that provides plenty of opportunities to emerge stronger and more sustainably. Let us take a positive outlook on the post-COVID 19 economy and #BuildBackBetter. And remember, collaboration is the key to successful transformation.

How can Finch & Beak help your company?

Circular economy is a transformational trend that creates possibilities, and your company may be looking to initiate or streamline its approach to it. For this purpose, Finch & Beak has designed a Circular Economy Sprint specifically for companies looking to unleash the massive potential of the circular economy by downsizing it to a tangible and specific action plan. As a self-liquidating project investment, after 7 weeks you know the most valuable circular economy business opportunities and how to achieve them. Please contact Jan van der Kaaij, Managing Partner, at jan@finchandbeak.com or +31 6 28 02 18 80 to leverage your business opportunities from the circular economy.

Image source: PostNL

About Romy Zondervan

Sustainability professional that aims to inspire and wishes to be inspired. | romy@finchandbeak.com