4 ways CIOs can drive circular economy innovations

CIOs are well-positioned to take a leading role in creating new business value and bolstering competitive agility in the circular economy.

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As we enter this decade, the facts are clearer than ever. We are fast approaching a tipping point, where linear systems of production and consumption are no longer fit to support a growing economy, prosperous society and protected planet. The decades of "take-make-waste" thinking — combined with global geo-political and economic challenges — are locking future generations into an unsustainable world, with devastating and irreversible consequences. At the same time, the opportunities to leverage a new system — the circular economy — to create a more just and sustainable world are tremendous.

Companies are increasingly rejecting traditional linear approaches in which raw materials are extracted, turned into products, and after being used or consumed, the products are typically thrown away as non-recyclable waste (or at most, they are recycled or downcycled). Instead, they’re shifting to a circular economy in which they keep products and resources in use for as long as possible and, at end of use, cycle their components and materials back into the system. There is a move to eliminate the concept of waste altogether and fundamentally change the way we produce and consume, creating a healthier, thriving ecosystem that circulates value throughout the economy and society.

Leading companies across industries are showing clear progress, but they are just scratching the surface in terms of unlocking the full potential of circular business models. And with a $4.5 trillion-dollar value at stake, the time to accelerate this movement is now.  

Technology takes the lead

As is the case of myriad other challenges and opportunities facing companies today, technology is a critical driver towards building the circular economy. As technology improves, data becomes more abundant, and new, innovative solutions automate activities that were previously labor intensive, organizations can better recover (and obtain greater value from) increasing volumes of wasted resources.

This increasingly important role of technology puts CIOs in a central position in the transition to circularity. With a unique view and understanding of the overall tech needs of their organizations, CIOs can — and should — assume the role of a corporate change agent responsible for driving circular innovations.

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