Circular economy can be used as a tool for addressing scope 3 emissions but also as a source of business value. With circular business models companies can boost growth, cut costs, and build resilience while preparing their company for a low-carbon future. Leading companies are already actively seeking to develop and pilot circular business solutions to future-proof their business.
In the annual Combient Conference earlier this year, Combient Pure hosted a virtual showcase session where we got to hear case examples form the Combient Network companies on how circular economy can benefit their businesses. Stora Enso, SKF Group and Konecranes shared their experiences on how circular economy drives supply chain resilience, resource efficiency and customer engagement, and what sort of benefits have they achieved by applying circular economy practices to their businesses.
Supply chain resilience driving the circular economy
Matthew Smyth, the Director of Circular Services from Stora Enso, discussed the business opportunities through supply chain resilience in the circular economy and emphasized how the recent global events and trends are increasing the urgency towards circularity. “One question is how will the circular economy affect supply chain resilience, but we can also flip that question around - how will the need for supply chain resilience drive the circular economy” Smyth described the interlinked relationship of the two concepts.
One question is how will the circular economy affect supply chain resilience, but we can also flip that question around - how will the need for supply chain resilience drive the circular economy
Smyth highlighted that unleashing the potential of a circular and resilient supply chain demands collaboration across companies and industries. “Going forward [sourcing circular materials] needs to be much more efficient if companies are going to have any chance at being able to not only build resilient supply chains but have a chance at building supply chains at all for recycled raw materials that can compete with their existing virgin supply chain”, Smyth stated. To accelerate finding and developing circular value chains, Stora Enso has, among others, developed and piloted a circular economy platform to enable easier and more cost-effective utilization of recycled materials and the development of new material innovations together with other value chain actors.
Circular use of industrial oil increased both resource efficiency and production stability in SKF's operations
SKF Group's Business Development Manager for RecondOil, Gustav Kruusval, shared an inspiring example of how circular practices can create multiple benefits. With an innovative technology called Double Separation Technology (DST), industrial oil can be re-used for the same purpose over and over again in SKF’s operations. As the innovation enables the existing oil to remain in use longer, it simultaneously decreases the need to buy new oil and avoid disposal of the same. According to Kruusval, 19 million tons of industrial oil is produced, used, discarded, and replaced every year in different industries globally. Therefore, the technology has the potential to reduce an immense amount of emissions: "With every ton of reused industrial oil, we can reduce or save 3.8 tons of CO2 emissions".
With every ton of reused industrial oil, we can reduce or save 3.8 tons of CO2 emissions
SKF has achieved promising results when they have piloted the technology in their factories. Not only were the CO² emissions decreased, but the technology and the regenerated oil made the operations more reliable and efficient. "The most important effect that came out of this was the indirect effect - the stability in production that was achieved", Kruusval stated. With the circular use of industrial oil, SKF has made the oil a reliable asset instead of a costly consumable. SKF is now offering the RecondOil solutions with the DST technology to its customers to support them in their journey towards true circularity.
Konecranes creates value for customers by extending products’ lifetime with predictive maintenance services
Anniina Virta-Toikka, Head of Sustainability of Konecranes, highlighted that circular economy can only be achieved by cooperating with suppliers and customers. “Circular economy supports our customers and helps us to be a better supplier for them”, Virta-Toikka stated and emphasized that Konecranes utilizes circular business models to answer customer needs.
Circular economy supports our customers and helps us to be a better supplier for them
Virta-Toikka shared an example from the paper industry where through planned modernization, Konecranes doubled the lifespan of a process crane up to 50 years and simultaneously avoided 180 tons of CO² emission impact. The modernization process reduces the equipment’s downtime faster than by changing the equipment to a brand new one. At Konecranes, these operations are already enabled in the product design phase by designing the equipment to be modular and maintainable. Virta-Toikka emphasized that retrofits and modernization of existing equipment are significant business opportunities.
How will your circular business look like in the future?
The speakers encouraged businesses to get inspired and learn new ways of doing things by observing solutions from different industries. Seeing how things are done in a totally different industry can offer fresh viewpoints and bring new ideas to the table.
We at Combient Pure support Combient Network companies to accelerate circularity and to exploit the business possibilities with circularity. Don’t hesitate to contact us to discuss what sort of circular economy possibilities your business could have!
 Circularity Gap Report, 2023