Encouraging resource efficiency and circular economy was one of the focal points of in the recent Environment and Climate Sustainability Working Group (ECSWG) meetings conducted under India’s G20 presidency
In the world of cinema, RRR from India, was a raging success the world over. There is another RRR story waiting to take off in the economic world. The traditional linear model of “Make-Consume-Throw” is making way for the circular model of, “Reduce-Reuse-Recycle”. The circular economy is definitely an idea whose time has come, with early innovators actively seeking products/ services which contribute at least in part, to the circular flow. Can India lead the way in this transition?
India has traditionally not been a use and throw economy like the west. Frugal practices of repair and reuse are very much part of the DNA of an Indian consumer. Now it needs to get embedded in the DNA of brands as well. Moving towards a circular economy is not going to be a matter of choice for industry any longer. In the coming years, it is likely to be a hygiene factor, not only for the sake of legal compliance, but more importantly for gaining consumer preference. 66% of consumers (vs 50% last year), rank sustainability as one of the top five drivers behind a purchase decision as per the Global Sustainability Study 2022 by Simon-Kucher & Partners. Consumers are increasingly demanding responsible behaviour from brands. Brands joining the circular economy are likely to move ahead of the brands focused on the linear economy.
The focus of marketers has to be on finding circularity opportunities in their product design, manufacturing, delivery, and use. The journey can begin with a simple step. Most companies have identified packaging as low hanging fruit to introduce circularity. The next step would be to move up the circularity ladder. In order to do so, on the one hand, marketers need to apply the internal lens and work with R&D and production teams to explore how to resource utilisation could be minimised and waste eliminated from their production processes. On the other hand, they need to use the external lens to explore and uncover circularity opportunities in their customers’ activity cycles.
Circularity needs creativity and collaboration to thrive. Sharing resources, networks and ideas can contribute significantly to the reduce-reuse-recycle model.
Finding circularity opportunities and enabling them is only one part of a marketer’s job. Shaping consumer behaviour through the purchase-use-disposal journey and creating wider adoption of sustainable consumption is critical in the ensuring success at scale. While there is some level of consumer awareness, there still exist several barriers to adoption of responsible consumption. Chamberlin and Boks (2018) highlight that convenience, cost, financial incentives are key factors influencing responsible consumption decisions and marketers need to work on these in designing and communicating their value propositions. In cases of reuse, two key consumption barriers are aversion to previously owned items and missing the thrill of newness. Marketers therefore need to work on their positioning and messaging to overcome these barriers.
Encouraging resource efficiency and circular economy was one of the focal points of in the recent Environment and Climate Sustainability Working Group (ECSWG) meetings conducted under India’s G20 presidency.
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation report (2016) has predicted that adopting a circular economy development path can help India create annual value of ₹14 lakh crore in 2030 and ₹40 lakh crore in 2050. While India has the potential to take centre stage in the adoption and implementation of the circular economy, its success would depend on the scale and speed of transition, which in turn needs an enabling ecosystem and new business models.
(Dr. Ruppal Walia Sharma is marketing professor and head-Delhi Centre at SPJIMR.)