Critically Exploring the Potential of a Circular Economy for a Nature-Positive Future
Global biodiversity is being lost at an unprecedented rate, giving rise to a sixth mass extinction and constituting one of the core challenges of the triple planetary crisis. Biodiversity forms the foundation of life on Earth and is vital for long-term well-being and prosperity across the environment, economy, and society. However, the extensive levels of current biodiversity loss represent a systemic risk to future human survival.
Global biodiversity loss is extensively driven by human activities and the linear production and consumption model upon which they are founded. The excessive extraction of natural resources is responsible for 90% of biodiversity loss and is expected to double by 2060 within a linear economy model which, left unaltered, is set to perpetuate a lock-in of continued biodiversity loss.
To reverse the biodiversity crisis, a shift beyond incremental adjustments towards transformative systems-wide change is required. Although of central importance, biodiversity conservation efforts alone will not solve the root cause of the crisis without fundamentally rethinking the current economic model. In addition, beyond merely conserving what is left, reversing the biodiversity crisis requires shifting to a regenerative approach.
The circular economy emerges as an alternative economic model that recognises the impossibility of infinite material growth on a finite planet and strives to reconcile and foster long-term environmental, societal, and economic prosperity. This paper addresses an existing research gap by critically exploring whether the circular economy can play a role in not merely halting but also regenerating biodiversity and thereby contributing to a nature-positive future. The paper selectively focuses on the food and textiles sectors as they represent sectors with the greatest potential to regenerate biodiversity and facilitate systems-wide change towards a nature-positive circular economy.
The investigation reveals that to realise the circular economy’s significant role in turning the tide on global biodiversity loss, it is essential to enable businesses and industries to make circular business models the obvious choice. Leveraging circular economy approaches and further integrating them with biodiversity objectives is, so the paper argues, the only plausible way to reach biodiversity-related ambitions and targets.
Policymakers, businesses, as well as citizens all have important roles to play and by implementing a coherent strategy that includes incentives for all actors throughout the value chain the potential of combining the circular economy with regenerative value creation can be explored and unlocked.
To learn more, access the White Paper here: