Halting climate change requires a systemic change

Our traditional economy is based on a linear value chain: “extract, produce/consume, discard.” Using this model based on the implicit hypothesis of unlimited resources, we have up until now largely and successfully focused on production, and we have created significant wealth. However, we have considerably ignored and placed little economic value on each end of the chain: natural resources and the impact of our waste. The increasing pressure on strategic resources (from rare earths to phosphate and even water), as well as the impact of pollution emissions, such as those linked to the greenhouse gas effect, have revealed the limitations in our linear model. As in the past – such as in the case of CFCs – in the face of the crisis, we hope that technological innovation will come to our aid in the form of renewable energies, electric vehicles or even carbon capture and storage. But the urgency surrounding the issue of climate change, in a context of rapid population growth, is such that technology alone will not be enough. We must now consider a far more deep-seated, systemic change to bring about a shift from the linear dimension to the circular (one).

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Indeed, the circular economy provides a path out of traditional silos, opening the way to hitherto unexplored areas of value creation through new collaborative and co-constructive ways of working together. The latters will be crucial to the rise of solutions enabling truly sustainable development. It is through the joint action by stakeholders and businesses, which up until now mainly operated in parallel, that the remedy to our climate ills will be found. If we want to decarbonize the economy, we will have to significantly step up our innovation and co-operation efforts between stakeholders and businesses – up until now implausible – at both the global and local levels.
 
Given its unique position centered on the three fundamental resources (water, energy and secondary raw materials), Veolia is a pivotal stakeholder in the emergence of the circular economy dynamic. For example, we are developing new ways of cooperating that are a source of innovative solutions enabling us to “close new loops” through the recovery and the reuse of materials, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and improving energy efficiency. These new dynamics offer a way out of the traditional modes of customer-supplier relationships in order to create partnerships focused on jointly opening new fields of shared value. In Le Havre, in France, for example, we are creating a bridge between two industrial concerns in order to reduce the carbon emitted by one and use what is emitted as a resource for the other. In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in the United States, we are avoiding the atmospheric emission of methane from a landfill and recovering it to produce electricity and steam supplied to a wastewater treatment plant, and to manufacture organic fertilizer.
It is by moving beyond the conventional silos that we will make the circular economy possible and that we will really halt climate change. Veolia’s transformation with the integration of its three historic business lines is a decisive commitment to this dynamic, so clearly expressed in our mission to " resourcing the world." 

Economie circulaire
Faced with the challenge of scarcity in natural resources,  the development of the circular economy presents growth opportunities for the planet.
PLANET #JUIN 2014
Making the Circular Economy a Reality
Ressourcer le monde
To make the switch from a resource consumption rationale to a use-and-recover approach in today’s circular economy, Veolia designs and implements solutions aimed at improving access to resources,  protecting and renewing those same resources