Circular bioeconomy: Untapped business potential for a sustainable future

The shift to a sustainable, low-carbon, circular bioeconomy represents a business opportunity worth USD $7.7 trillion. Read the report to find out how companies, regulators, and consumers can benefit from this opportunity.

Photo: wbcsd
Photo: wbcsd

Our current economic system relies on a linear use of resources – that we can continue extracting more and more raw materials to make products that we use and discard as waste. One alternative system is the circular bioeconomy, where biological resources are renewable, sustainably managed, recovered and reused as much as possible.

Transforming our linear, fossil-based economic system to a circular, bio-based economy is an environmental urgency: our current economic system has resulted in global crises like climate change, deforestation and biodiversity loss; resource scarcity, pollution and waste. Yet, this transformation is not only a moral imperative – it also provides several opportunities. These opportunities are the focus of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s (WBCSD) report “Circular bioeconomy: The business opportunity contributing to a sustainable world”.

First, the circular bioeconomy can allow us to stay within the limits of our planet’s capacity by replacing non-renewable resources with renewable resources, while ensuring that the new resources used can be regenerated by earth in a sustainable manner. In addition, it is estimated that the market for bio-based products will grow USD $7.7 trillion, signaling a considerable economic opportunity for businesses in many sectors, and particularly for product industries like pharmaceuticals, textiles, building materials and packaging.

The WBCSD report highlights that companies willing to be leaders in the transition toward a circular bioeconomynot only show their responsibility toward the environment, but also have the chance to develop a competitive advantage and benefit from untapped, growing business potential”.

This report provides essential resources for businesses – and also for supportive sectors like government and civil society – to begin the journey toward a circular bioeconomy:

  • A high-level checklist provides companies with a guide to the critical questions to ask when evaluating the sustainability and market viability of new products: circular bioeconomy principles, environmental value, societal value and corporate and stakeholder value.
  • Examples of front-runner companies already leading the way to a new, circular bioeconomy are showcased as inspiration, and as a roadmap for companies who are ready to contribute to this transformation.
  • Ten industries with the greatest growth potential through substitution of non-renewable resources with biological resources are highlighted as a foundation for innovation.

As the report makes clear, our current system is exceeding the limits of the planet’s resources. “Only by working together can the urgently-needed societal benefits and economic opportunity of biobased products” help us “thoroughly change the way we produce and (re)use resources”.

Read the full publication

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EFIMED is the Mediterranean Facility of the European Forest Institute. Based in Barcelona, Spain, it was launched in 2007.