- Jury Gualandris
- Nov 29, 2019
The Network for Business Sustainability recently featured an article called, “An Affordable Way to Find Circular Economy Profits,” written by Clyde Hull, Professor at the Saunders College of Business at the Rochester Institute of Technology.
As a researcher of the circular economy and of sustainable supply chains, I found this study to be one with real, positive impact. Hull and his colleagues investigated how material flow analyses, processes that track the flow (and existing stockpiles) of materials in a system, could achieve circular economy profits for organizations. Material flow analyses helps identify linear economy activities that can be replaced with circular economy ones.
Overall, this concept and application of the flow analysis method has a lot of potential but leaves some questions to be explored further: Who is going to take on the analysis? Why do certain firms embrace ‘waste’ related opportunities earlier and more astutely than others? Is it their knowledge of operations and procurement processes that leads to their entrepreneurial recognition of ‘waste’ opportunities?
This work is a powerful contribution to the circular economy research that will hopefully spur additional research from more scholars in the field. As one of the researchers in this area, it has piqued my interest and will help inform future research projects, including some upcoming work on the Canadian agri-food sector.
Material flow analysis is often used by engineering firms like Enviro-stewards or circularity brokers, like CTTEI, PPG and NISP Canada to tackle waste problems and reveal waste opportunities. Yet, these organizations have told me that farmers, food processors and food manufacturers, despite support and coaching, often remain skeptical and do not act decisively on waste. Currently, about 30% of the total food produced in Canada go wasted or lost in the upper tiers of our agri-food supply chains (Second Harvest, 2018). My upcoming research will investigate this problem and aim to find solutions that will help transform agri-food supply chains. To stay up to date on this research, subscribe to the Centre for Building Sustainable Value newsletter.
Second Harvest, 2018. The avoidable crisis of food waste. Available at: https://secondharvest.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Avoidable-Crisis-of-Food-Waste-Technical-Report-January-17-2019.pdf