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Inspiration turns to action in Glasgow, at Circular Economy Hotspot Scotland

Scotland recently welcomed 450 delegates from around the world to the Circular Economy Hotspot Scotland in Glasgow.

Iain Gulland | 12 Nov 18

They came to learn about our circular economy journey first-hand – but also to see it in action. Having travelled extensively to take Scotland’s experiences to the rest of the world, I can tell you it’s hard to really bring circular businesses to life, when you are standing in front of a PowerPoint in a conference hall. Hosting Circular Economy Hotspot Scotland in Glasgow gave us the chance to turn that dynamic on its head, by bringing a global audience right to Scottish businesses.

It was a step-change in profile and audience for the circular economy in Scotland, with delegates from around 20 countries, and speakers including the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and former EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik.

And we rose to the challenge. We had over 50 businesses showcasing their journey through the conference centre marketplace and six themed discovery tours taking delegates out and about to explore the nuts and bolts of becoming more circular and hear about the challenges and successes from real Scottish businesses.

And let’s not kid ourselves – we need to learn, and fast. The environmental imperatives, as well as equity and fairness, demand that we accelerate our progress towards a circular economy. A recent OECD report suggested we are still on track to be using double our current amount of global natural resources by 2060. This would have huge environmental and social impacts and seriously undermine our chances of meeting the targets set out in the Paris climate agreement as well as hampering our ability to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The need for global collaboration was underlined in Glasgow by Janez Potocnik who outlined this in compelling fashion – hammering home the startling facts that simple resource efficiency and low carbon transition will not be enough and the need for a worldwide adoption of the circular economy is now the imperative.

We also had an opportunity to tell our own story to the world on how we managed to become one of the leading nations on the circular economy. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon set out the ambition and the progress we’ve made, committing us unequivocally to that global collaboration. She referenced our heritage as the country which ushered in the last industrial age, through the invention of the steam engine, to demonstrate our obligation to be leaders in the creation of a new regenerative and restorative global economy.

Walter Stahel, often referred to as the ‘godfather’ of the circular economy, who has been talking about the performance economy for over 40 years, also came to Glasgow and gave a tour de force of what more needs to be done to ensure that we align technology, investment, procurement and even the insurance industry, to create a more value-focused society. A society which values people and their ability to care for products and materials through repair and remanufacture.

But above all our event reinforced that people are at the heart of the circular economy. Investment in people is a cornerstone of our approach in Scotland, from the business leaders we coach and support through to the community champions of our Zero Waste towns. It is people who are happy to share and collaborate, work together and share skills and expertise, learning from each other and having fun doing so.

Events like the Hotspot forge the relationships and the innovative ideas that are essential to progress. Behind the excitement at these events, there is a shared understanding of the need for a more equitable and fair society. People across the globe are losing patience with the lack of responsibility of business to take back, repair or even tell us what we can do with their product once it has ended its initial use. People are now asking the right questions and demanding action to not only change the system, but also become part of the system to help shape it for the better, both for their communities and for the world.

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