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Who drives the circular economy?

Green circular economy concept. Arrow infinity symbol on brick wall with man thinking.

By Grant Kinsman, CEO of H2 Compliance and Green Alley Award partner 

At the beginning of July, leaders of 20 major countries will meet at the G20 Summit in Germany to discuss the major challenges of our time: geopolitical conflicts, refugee flow, hunger, climate change and pandemics. The roots of many of these problems are our consumption habits or as British bestelling author and environmental activist George Monbiot calls it: our consumption epidemic. That said, we are not just talking about the fact that, for example, the United States with only 4% of the world’s population produces 30% of the world’s waste or consumes 30% of the world’s resources. No, we are talking about serious armed conflicts as a result of wasting natural resources, like water, food, minerals or energy.

One of the key solutions to combat these challenges is to transform our linear economic model into a circular one, in doing so create strong, balanced, sustainable and inclusive economies. However, considering recent developments on the Paris Agreement, we should not leave the transition towards a circular economy solely in the hands of governments. The private sector needs to take responsibility, either by changing its production lines or the materials it uses, or investing in innovative green ideas.

Turning an idea into a business model

Here is a recent example of how this can work. While the United Nations continues to debate cleaning oceans from waste and has yet not produced a call for action, Boyan Slat has raised US$30 million from the private sector in short period of time for his “The Ocean Cleanup” start-up. Slat’s idea is only one of many similar emerging sustainable concepts and business opportunities. However, most of them are still looking for partners and support. Financial assistance is great. Nevertheless, this is not enough to turn an idea into a successful business.

Young entrepreneurs are desperately looking for guidance and access to experts and partners. Naturally, most start-ups don’t have a big network when they begin their journey. To fill this gap, Green Alley was founded to provide a platform that brings together green start-ups, industry and research partners. Entrepreneurs, who apply for the Green Alley Award, have the opportunity to profit from an exceptional network of experts, exchange knowledge with peers and get support in turning their ideas into a functional business.

It works

A successful example for benefitting from the platform is the Finnish start-up ResQ Club, which was one of the Green Alley Award finalists in 2016. Their idea: an App for restaurants to sell meals that otherwise would go to waste. Though the concept is great and definitely tackles a major issue, ResQ Club had difficulties expanding to new markets. However, by participating in the Green Alley Award, they were able to extend their network and through that, overcame this challenge. After a merger with their German counterpart Mealsaver, they are now the leading software application for reducing restaurant food waste. Considering that one-third of all food produced worldwide (approx. 1.3 billion tons) is lost or going to waste, ResQ Club’s solution can have a major impact. This proves that the transition towards a circular economy is only going to work, if innovative and sustainable business models are being accelerated in a short period of time and made available to mass markets. Yes, we need governments to create the right frameworks, but the private sector needs to be in the driving seat when it comes to pushing new ideas onto the market.

About the Green Alley Award

If you would like to apply for the Green Alley Award or if you know a start-up that might be interested in applying, please note that applications are open until July 25, 2017.

The Green Alley Award is a business competition in which circular economy start-ups and eco-entrepreneurs meet. The award gives green ideas visibility and helps start-ups to grow. The Green Alley network includes partners, such as the British accelerator programme Bethnal Green Ventures, Germany’s crowdfunding pioneer Seedmatch and ERP Finland, another specialist in the recycling sector. This year, the Green Alley Award is joined by H2 Compliance, a compliance service providing advice on chemical legislation as well as R2Pi, a Horizon 2020 project.

Detailed information about Green Alley, the award and the application process can be found here.

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