The trend toward sustainability and zero-waste business practices has evolved synergistically during the last two decades as many CEOs and entrepreneurs independently recognized the importance of recycling and reusing in the production pipeline. Just this year, which has seen business profits plummet in some sectors due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a report entitled “Sustainable Finance for a Zero Waste Circular Economy” attempted to add more clarity to the issue.
This report outlines the methodical implementation of waste prevention, redesign, reuse, recycling, and composting, which combined can reduce environmental pollution and bolster job creation and overall economic health.
The core premise is not even that complicated. It revolves around business leaders and CEOs making a difference with their brand ethics and allowing customers to make a difference with their consumer choices.
Replacing single-use plastics with sustainable, reusable materials
A big part of the zero-waste business model is the rejection of plastic, particularly single-use plastic, and the adoption of sustainable materials that will not end up in a landfill. In the future this may involve smart sensors and new material innovations, but there are plenty of miraculous materials that we already know about that can be utilized.
Seek Bamboo, for example, pushes for the use of bamboo fabric, an incredibly strong and versatile material made from the pulp of bamboo plants. Bamboo has been used sustainably for thousands of years all across the world, so why not use it for paper products instead of tree-based materials that are wasteful and lead to deforestation? Seek Bamboo sells all-natural, eco-friendly bamboo toilet paper as part of a larger offering of zero-waste product kits that include dryer balls, dish soap, cutlery, straws, and more.
Turning consumers into creators
Another business model, most popularly seen in companies like Ikea, is referred to as do-it-yourself (DIY) and home making solutions because the consumers are equipped with tools they need to make products themselves at their homes. Soda Stream, for example, avoids single-use plastic bottle soda purchases and allows the customer to make their own soda at home.
IKEA recently expanded out of the furniture market and moved into the sustainable, home gardening market by creating and selling hydroponic gardening and cultivation kits. Customers can use these kits to grow their own lettuce and herbs. Ultimately, such business models reduce the waste of the production pipeline and lead to more sustainable choices.
Circular consumption and farm-to-fork
Another sustainable business model involves shortening the value chain by directly connecting producers and consumers and eliminating middleman resources. For example, farm-to-fork concepts emboldened by e-commerce markets put more power into local farmers by decreasing single-use packaging and eliminating the waste of transport and refrigeration.
It also means the food is fresher and hasn’t traveled hundreds or thousands of miles from an industrial farm or food production center just to arrive in your kitchen.
A different example of circular consumption is “diapers-as-a-service,” a full-service platform that offers disposable diapers and less supermarket and transport waste. Plus, someone else picks up your diapers for you.
Smart cups and Bring-Your-Own container
Refills and reusable products are important to the sustainable, zero-waste business ecosystem. Bring-Your-Own container (BYO) is a scalable type of cup-as-service that greatly reduces single-use plastics. Again, as with other methods, e-commerce has allowed refillable bottles to reduce plastic packaging and the greenhouse gas emissions caused by traditional commerce transportation.
Relatively speaking, we’re still in the early era of sustainable commerce. It’s really only within the last 30 years that we’ve collectively realized the necessity of zero-waste, eco-friendly business practices. And only within the last couple decades of Internet and e-commerce growth has it even been possible to efficiently implement some of these strategies.
The work of companies like Seek Bamboo and others (including B-corporation grocery stores) is an important part of our society walking the walk when it comes to sustainable economic activity and ethical profits. It just goes to show you that even in today’s cutthroat corporate environment, it is still possible for both business executives and consumers to make a difference.