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How come the conversation around circular economy is so dominated by consumer goods companies? Where are mining and metals companies whose business models, surely, would be impacted hugely by this transition?
This paper examines why miners need to act now to start positioning for leadership in a sustainable world.
Consider this: In 2011 (most recent figures), the world collectively extracted well over 16 trillion metric tons of mineral raw materials from the Earth’s crust. On most estimates, that is a record. We currently use 1.5 planets’ worth of resources every year including forests, land, metals and minerals while generating mountains of waste and, on current form, it looks like we may need more than 2 planets’ worth of materials by 2050. This is clearly unsustainable.
The thrust is clear: We need to extend the life expectancy of resources by anticipating and planning for future applications. There is no way round it. Mining and metals companies are going to have to become much more engaged with downstream users of their materials to better design sustainable products.
Miners need to start looking at their portfolio and assess where the risks of decreased demand or substitution loom largest. They then need a much clearer understanding of which materials can be recovered most cost-effectively—given expected projections of demand—and where new and innovative business models across or even between supply chains are required to ensure incentives are aligned.
Sonia Thimmiah is a director at Accenture Sustainability Services in the UK and Ireland.
April 9, 2014
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