Closing the Loop: How Companies Can Build a More Sustainable Future

Earth’s natural resources are being depleted at an alarming rate, 1.8 times faster than the planet can replenish them.[1] By 2050 this is expected to reach 2.3 times what is sustainable.[2] Contributing to this is 50 million tonnes of e-waste annually, equivalent to the weight of all commercial airliners ever manufactured.[3]

Fortunately, adopting circular business practices, such as minimising waste, reusing and regenerating products, and promoting sustainable production, can help build a better future. But there’s a long way to go―today’s global economy is only 7.2% circular.[4]

While multinational companies have a vital role to play, circularity can be adopted by organisations of every size and sector. Start-ups are embracing circular models from the outset, while small and medium-sized enterprises are driving sharing platforms and collaborative consumption.

HP, with decades of experience in operationalising sustainability, is taking urgent and decisive action to innovate our products and services for a more circular economy. Here are some of the insights gained so far:

Win over the conscientious consumer

Today’s customers are more environmentally conscious than ever before. As a result, businesses that prioritise circularity can meet these expectations while also achieving long-term environmental and commercial benefits.

Although typically requiring initial investment, circularity programs can help reduce overheads, increase efficiency, and even find new revenue streams. Providing measurement tools that forecast waste prevention and cost savings can help demonstrate the advantages, further building customer trust and loyalty.

Moreover, circular practices can yield positive societal outcomes. For example, HP’s climate-focused programs have enhanced the community components of our Sustainable Impact strategy.

Moreover, circularity and community-focused programs can combine to create even greater positive impact. An example is HP’s partnership with the Haiti-based NGO WORK, which provides educational opportunities for children whose parents work in local recycling programmes. These learning centers are equipped with HP laptops and printers, using cartridges partly made from locally collected waste plastic.

Begin (and end) with the environment in mind

Circular products are designed with the environment in mind, with their lifecycle considered from cradle-to-cradle. Sustainable sourcing should be among the earliest priorities, with a focus on ethical practices and ambitious but achievable targets.

For instance, since 2016 HP has required that all its brand paper comes from recycled or certified sources. In 2020 this was extended to paper-based packaging for home and office printers and supplies, PCs and displays. Our goal is now to be Forest Positive by 2030, counteracting deforestation for non-HP paper used in our products and print services.[5]

Innovation in packaging is also making a difference. 100% compostable chitin-based materials are a recent development, while 3D-printed moulded fibre tooling can drive eco-packaging at scale. Printing advancements, including printing directly onto product shipment boxes and using water-based inks can drive additional benefits. HP aims to eliminate 75% of single-use plastic packaging by 2025 compared to 2018―with a 55% reduction achieved by 2022.[6]  Counteracted deforestation for 32% of all paper used in HP products and services toward goal of 100%.

Reduce waste, boost lifespan

Energy usage is a crucial factor for electronic devices, but it can be confusing for consumers. Organisations like ENERGY STAR, TCO, and Blue Angel can help consumers make informed choices. Along with comparison tools, manufacturers can assist with clear and accurate information on labels, packaging, and marketing materials.

Companies can capture more value from natural resources and reduce impact by offering optimisation, maintenance, and renewal services. HP does this by providing free service documentation for most products, a self-repair webpage, and a parts store for products. HP Renew Services also helps customers securely recover and repurpose or recycle end-of-use devices.[7]

Responsible companies aim to recover and reuse products when customers no longer need them. As-a-service models can improve customer experiences while promoting circularity through company-led takeback.

1 billion reasons for closed-loop recycling

Closed-loop recycling plays a critical role in circularity, and HP has various initiatives to support it. For example, HP’s Planet Partners program helps ensure that ink and toner cartridges do not end up in landfills. By the end of 2022, over 1 billion HP print cartridges had been returned this way. Meanwhile, HP’s EvoCyle toner cartridges, incorporating reused and recycled components from Original HP toner cartridges, are helping customers in France, Germany, and the UK meet sustainability goals.[8]

We are also getting better at reusing a much broader range of materials. For example, you might find bio-derived content such as coffee grounds in monitors or cooking oil in laptop covers.

Collaboration−a force multiplier for impact at scale

Circularity is a team effort, and partnerships with government, suppliers, and other stakeholders are crucial. By broadening networks with NGOs, research institutes, and think tanks, companies can stay ahead of developments. HP, for example, works with the World Wildlife Fund and the Forest Stewardship Council to improve its fibre sourcing and certification programmes.

Collaboration benefits all types of companies, wherever they are on their circularity journey. Participating in industry bodies and working with manufacturing partners can build consensus, progress legislation, and advance the agenda.

Companies with existing programmes can extend their impact by involving their business ecosystem. HP’s Amplify Impact partner programme, which has engaged over 3,500 partners worldwide, is now driving change at scale.

Imagine the future

The concept of a circular economy presents a vision of a more regenerative and sustainable future. Implemented correctly, with responsible sourcing and packaging, materials and products that remain in use longer, and closed loop recycling, it could boost the global economy by $4.5 trillion by 2030.[9]

The transition to circularity is not a choice, but a necessity. To make it happen we must urgently shift mindsets, embrace circular practices, and develop the partnerships and frameworks required for success. The companies that lead the way will reap the greatest rewards.

The future is circular, and it’s up to businesses everywhere to make it happen. Whether you are just starting or already on the path ― it’s time to take the next step.

[1] Overshoot Day. How Many Earths or Countries Do We Need?

[2] World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). Vision 2050: The new agenda for business.

[3] Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy (PACE) & UN E-Waste Coalition. (2019). A New Circular Vision for Electronics: Time for a Global Reboot.

[4] Circularity Gap Report 2023, Circle Economy

[5] HP Sustainable Impact Report.

[6] HP Sustainable Impact Report.

[7] HP Sustainable Impact Report.

[8] HP Sustainable Impact Report.

[9] World Economic Forum. “Helping the circular economy become a reality.”

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