CarbonCure’s CEO Rob Niven participated in the first Bloomberg sustainable business summit on Nov. 3rd at Bloomberg’s Global Headquarters in Manhattan. The first day of the summit focused on the future of the circular economy and featured panels on new and emerging businesses at the forefront of sustainable business practices. Rob participated in a panel discussion representing CarbonCure as one of three case studies discussing their roles in creating a sustainable economy. Other panelists included David Lear, Executive Director for Corporate Sustainability of Dell, and Eben Bayer, Founder and CEO of Ecovative, a biomaterials company that uses mushroom material to create environmentally friendly packaging and wood product alternatives.
What is the circular economy?
The Ellen Macarthur Foundation has played a large role in defining and promoting the concept of a circular economy. The Ellen Macarthur Foundation defines a circular economy as restorative and regenerative by design, with the aim to keep products, components, and materials at their highest utility and values at all times. In practice the aim is to design products that can be ‘made to be made again’ and powering the system with renewable energy. It poses the challenge of turning the built environment from a linear model of use and discard, into a circular model of use, recycle, and reuse with creativity and innovation. Visit the Ellen Macarthur Foundation’s website to learn more.
What is CarbonCure’s role in creating a circular economy?
CarbonCure enables the recycling of carbon dioxide (CO2) captured from industrial emitters such as cement or power plants. This process of incorporating CO2 into concrete production enhances the material properties of concrete, and can potential result in the increased use of recycled materials to replace the use of virgin materials. The built environment can use this lower carbon concrete to build resilient buildings, which is compatible with carbon regenerative models of CO2 capture and use.
Bloomberg's 1st sustainability summit
As a panelist in the session titled “Case Studies from a Circular Economy”, Rob Niven shared his view on the potential behind the concept of a circular economy and how we can accelerate the adoption of sustainable materials. Niven placed an emphasis on the fact that fundamentally the key to growth is in making a strong business case by ensuring there is a demand for these materials, and that they are affordable in the market. He explained that the CarbonCure solution has been tested in the marketplace, and has been shown to be a cost effective method to reduce CO2 emission, while simultaneously improving the properties of concrete. On the demand side, the building industry is hungry for low carbon footprint options, which is demonstrated by the growing number of specifications for concrete made with CO2.
The concept of a circular economy was also aligned with other more widely used practices in sustainable business models such as how businesses can optimize their supply chains. A great example of this can be found in the collaboration between panelists Eben Bayer’s company Evocative, who is partnered with Dell to provide an environmental packaging alternative for Dell’s products. Dell’s David Lear characterizes the concept of a circular economy as a recasting of the common place reduce, reuse and recycle practices. All three panelists shared the conclusion that the concept has helped turn the conversation, but is yet widely used at a customer level.
Panelists were asked to come up with the craziest circular economy idea that would relate to their business. Answers ranged from 3D printing to using cuttlefish skin to make television screens. The conversation ended on the point that in today’s technology climate, no idea is crazy!
The final question of the Q&A period raised an important note asking the panelist to consider the fact that looking at individual activities underwhelms the problems we are facing globally. Attention was put on the idea that in order to combat climate change, more fundamental changes are needed. Emphasis was placed on the importance of scalable systems - Rob Niven contributed that ease of adoption, economic drivers and a transparent enviromentally benefit are all key to creating a truly scalable system. Panelists reflected on past revolutions such as the decision for businesses to start tracking and reporting their emissions with the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) and that change is happening now through innovation and creativity. The session concluded with the recommendation that innovators look at the big picture when commercializing their ideas, and that folks should stay tuned as many interesting innovations are coming out of the space created by the concept of a circular economy.
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