Following the World Economic Forum in Davos last week, it seems pertinent that we revisit the Circular Economy.

As policy-makers worldwide respond to increasing global climate activism and extreme weather events, the concept of the circular economy has become a key lever in the climate action tool kit.
However, the global economy YOY continues to consume more of the Earth’s resources than it restores, still very much entrenched in the linear economic model of ‘take, make, waste’, with the most recent ‘circularity gap report’ identifying a global drop in circular practice on last year (from 9% to 8.6% in 2020). Around 50% of the world’s current greenhouse gas emissions result from the extraction and processing of natural resources, with demand for raw materials under a ‘business-as-usual’ scenario predicted to double by 2050.

As we enter the decade to deliver on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and climate action, there is an emerging consensus that circular economy solutions are critical to achieving those goals by the 2030 deadline. Business-as-usual is not an option.

For those of us operating in the Live Production Industry (LPI), the news – as outlined by 2019 industry research on the circularity of the LPI, is that we are operating at approx. 14% circularity.
But what does this mean? And more importantly, in terms of accelerating the transition, what does it look like?

The simplest definition of a circular economy is ‘an economy that is restorative by design’.
It is perhaps easier to understand circularity by defining a linear economy – ‘a throughput economy’ that takes the earth’s resources with no consideration of equal or fair distribution and which results in excessive pollution and waste.
What does a circular economy look like?
For business at Unusual, circularity looks like a blend of the suggestions below

D. Our design team prioritises simplicity, standardisation and utility over novelty, ‘one off’ solutions and complexity.
I. With 100% of our electric chain hoists, truss and LX cables RFID’d, we can track resource re/use and trace an item’s footprint with utmost precision and predictive analytics through our bespoke asset tracking software.
S. By increasing our workforce (labour is a renewable resource which enhances local economic wellbeing), we are continuously maintaining and repairing our resources, hence designing out waste.
R. We are creating greater value to our customers/ clients by offering a continued service with all sales, therefore increasing our revenue opportunities too.
U. Many unwanted resources taken from stripped out theatres have been repurposed and used in new settings (one person’s rubbish is another’s treasure).
P. Our main warehouse decked out with 396 solar panels since 2017, represents the first giant leap towards our ambition to be 100% renewably energised by 2025.
T. Discussions across our supply chain (up and downstream, from resource providers to resource collectors) have furthered our ambitions on designing out waste and ensuring effective resource reuse; whilst increasing transparency on longevity. This has ensured alignment to our ISO accreditations and offers the opportunity for refined collaboration within the transition to a fully circular economy. Such collaboration has ensured we have been zero waste to landfill since 2016.

On reflection, You could easily argue that we are merely a hire company, that we are lucky all our resources are defined as ‘technical nutrients’, circulating with (good repair & maintenance) ad infinitum within the ‘technosphere’ but such an assumption would miss the simplicity (and complexity) of changing our systemic approach, changing the way we think about resources and aiming to radically adjust our concept of waste (to zero waste). As has been suggested, waste is a product of bad design. IN nature, there is no such thing as waste. Our global economy does not have a waste problem, it has a design problem.

During this heightened period of many nations declaring a climate emergency, we in the live production industry, are in an invaluable position to help drive the transition to an economy that is regenerative by design, through leadership, enquiring how we change the cultural and economic narratives towards renewal and restoration; and action by evolving our business models towards systems, services and products that are restorative by design. Further information about Unusual’s circular strategy can be gathered from the Wealth of Nations 2.0 conference in Edinburgh.


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