Circular economy

Circular economy solutions will lead tomorrow’s world

By Jean-Louis Chaussade, CEO of SUEZ

Some years ago, our core businesses were based on designing, building and operating water and waste management assets. Global challenges have deeply evolved all around the world. Climate change issues and natural resources scarcity have become the key priorities of our century; the most developed countries have already consumed a fair portion of these resources. In the emerging ones, the strong economic development notably in China, India or part of Africa, the global population growth, the growing urbanization and the needs of a new middle class in all those countries, have an important impact on resource scarcity. The right allocation of resources and its fair management have become essential.

SUEZ has profoundly transformed its core businesses to meet those challenges and has become a leader in circular economy and digital solutions. The Group optimizes the use of available resources and contribute to decouple economic development from GHG emissions.

Will we have enough water in the next 40 years? The answer is no. We all know that by 2040, 30 to 40 percent of the global population will face chronic water scarcity. A situation that already affects many regions of the world and could lead to water use conflicts between agriculture, industry and municipal uses. This is the reason why we have to save water resources; by saving water thanks to smart technologies and providing alternative water resources as reused wastewater, desalination or replenishment of groundwater tables.

Regarding waste management, the situation has also strongly evolved. Rather than simply collecting and dumping waste, we now have to embed the waste management value chain in the principles of circular economy, to produce secondary raw materials and renewable energy.

Circular economy is the opposite of a siloed model, I truly believe that as companies, we have a key role to play in order to encourage cooperation between economic players, to break down the walls between actors, to organize dialogue with stakeholders: companies, NGOs, governments, citizens.

This economic model represents a different way of being and behaving. It implies that all industries connect and share resources and information like never before. Plastic recycling for instance brings together the chemistry industry, the bottling industry, the oil industry, and of course end-consumers who have both to drive the offer by their buying behaviour and are key players in the increase of waste sorting.

Yet, we need reasonable regulation to achieve our goals. The European Union, for instance, is pushing - as highlighted in its recent proposal for a 2050 climate strategy - for higher recycling rates and secondary raw materials production. And while our capacity of supplying secondary raw materials and renewable energy is progressively growing, one could ask: will the demand meet our offer in the long term? Most manufacturers still focus on virgin raw materials rather than recycled ones considering only their prices. If we want to accelerate the transition to circular economy, implementing measures by putting everywhere economic incentive as a visible and predictable price on carbon, will be one of the essential leverage to facilitate the switch between linear and circular economy.

At SUEZ, we constantly work on improving our solutions, thanks to a strong innovation strategy. Thus, we combine the efforts of our research and innovation centers with the technologies developed by promising start-ups, innovative SMEs, involving also our customers in order to meet better their emerging needs. It’s a mix that allows us to be more efficient and to adapt faster to circular economy. That’s our way forward.

Jean-Louis Chaussade, CEO of SUEZ

This op-ed was written as part of the international collaborative journalism series "Solutions and Co", which involves 20 international newspapers including The Financial Times, Les Echos, Kommersant, Hindu Business Line, Yicai Global, Forbes Afrique, and El Economista. Coordinated by Sparknews, this editorial operation aims to highlight concrete business solutions to climate change.