While circular economy aims to reinvent systems, it actually proposes the larger system to renew itself thanks to the basic principles of the concept. This system we are talking about is, as you can guess, natural ecosystems. As it has been for millions of years, nature ensures its own sustainability through a cyclical system, and thanks to its resilient structure, it continues to survive regardless of the conditions. In fact, we are aware of the fact that nature can renew itself no matter how much damage we do to it. Today, the biggest motivation of humanity in combating the climate crisis is unfortunately still largely 'ensuring the continuation of the human race. The sustainability strategies implemented with this perspective are not designed as strategies that make it fully possible to protect nature.
This is precisely why biodiversity is one of the most popular topics on the global agenda today. Biodiversity basically defines a characteristic of life on earth, biological diversity. Although this expression may seem very simple, the impact of biodiversity is of course much more complicated. While all life on Earth is possible thanks to the current balance of biodiversity, some factors cause biodiversity to decrease and disappear. Here, biodiversity should not be considered only as the extinction of an animal species. Of course, the extinction of an animal species is a very critical and threatening factor as it disrupts the natural balance within biodiversity. However, biodiversity loss is a process that has devastating consequences far beyond just affecting the food chain.
What causes biodiversity loss?
➡️ Misuse of land and sea areas: Humanity is the most dangerous invasive species in nature. This is a feature that causes humanity to try to alter every place it steps into, and thus damage the living ecosystem in that area.
➡️ Planet exploitation: No matter how advanced technology is today, we are still amazed by human inventions, things that exist on their own in nature but can be reproduced with a human mind. It is useful to get used to this feeling of amazement because as humans, we have consumed the resources on earth so inefficiently that in the very near future we will not have access to thousands of natural resources that seem insignificant to us now, but which we actively use in all areas of life. What makes the situation even worse is that we dream of leaving a habitable world to future generations (of humans) under the name of 'sustainability', but we never leave living creatures in their natural ecosystems alone.
➡️ Climate change: Among the most important causes of biodiversity loss is of course climate change. Problems caused by climate change such as changing weather conditions, temperature increase, and sea levels rising affect biodiversity much more than it affects humanity.
➡️ Pollution: You may have come across photos of plastic islands in the oceans or turtles with wires wrapped around their bodies. This information alone explains how humanity causes biodiversity loss, especially in aquatic ecosystems.
➡️ Invasion of alien species: Each ecosystem has a certain balance within itself. While it is possible to come across this balance in all our living spaces, you may have witnessed that different factors shake these balances. Another factor that disrupts biodiversity is invasive species that reduce biodiversity by disrupting the balance within the ecosystem. In addition to considering humanity as the most dangerous invasive species, it is also possible to consider other invasive species (animals, plants, bacteria, micro-organisms, etc.) that cause biodiversity to deteriorate for different reasons.
Once we have seen some of the factors that directly accelerate biodiversity loss, we can discuss the question of what steps should be taken to restore and renew biodiversity with circular economy. The report 'The Nature Imperative - How the circular economy tackles biodiversity loss?" published by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation will guide us in this discussion.
Private sector's road map
As in the fight against the climate crisis, a large part of the responsibility is given to the private sector in the process of systemic transformation within the scope of circular economy. This is, of course, a natural situation considering the impact of the private sector. However, unless the private sector integrates its environmental and social impacts into its profit-oriented perspective, it does not seem possible for it to fulfil its responsibility. Nevertheless, the number of studies carried out by the private sector in the field of biodiversity has been increasing rapidly in recent years. So what steps should the private sector take to protect and increase biodiversity?
Impact and risk analysis
In the private sector, financial risks have been carefully analysed for a long time, and according to the output of these analyses, companies design risk avoidance strategies. The first step for a company taking action to increase biodiversity with the transition to circular economy is to conduct this impact and risk analysis with a focus on biodiversity. Does the company have a direct impact on biodiversity loss? Will biodiversity loss affect the company directly or indirectly (problems in raw material supply, impacts on the regions of operation, etc.)?
These questions allow companies to understand their own impact on biodiversity, and to identify how biodiversity loss will affect them, possible risks and opportunities. The analyses, of course, enable the preparation of new strategic roadmaps that allow these impacts and risks to be properly managed through the correct evaluation of the results. Scientifically designed goals can help halt biodiversity loss and implement restorative practices.
Circular economy principles
As circular economy recommends designing systems from the ground up, it aims to design the system from the very beginning by considering all possible scenarios. This allows not only impact on biodiversity, but also the environmental and social faults of all systems to be recognised at the very beginning. The innovative road maps of transformation that companies will develop based on circular economy principles after the first step of impact and risk analyses are critical for stopping the loss of biodiversity.
Circular economy, which aims to establish innovative systems by imitating nature, and operates on the principle of 'Waste = Raw Material', aims to give back to nature what it takes from it, unlike current linear economy practices. This is already a process that will completely eliminate the most fundamental cause of biodiversity loss.
Regular readers of our publication are well aware of the importance of cooperation in circular economy. Contrary to what is currently being attempted, the process of transition to circular economy requires the active participation of each stakeholder in the system as it designs the system from top to bottom. If this seems complicated, let's simplify it with an example: If a company does not foresee a process on how the consumer uses this product after selling a product produced with circular economy principles to the consumer, if it does not take the consumer's opinion or if it does not somehow contribute to raising consumer awareness on 'waste management', that 'circular' product will unfortunately not fulfil its purpose. This is because the company has excluded consumers from its system by preferring a subjective transformation rather than a systemic transformation. This, of course, does not allow a systemic transformation to take place.
Collaboration is also critical for reducing and stopping biodiversity loss and implementing restorative actions. After analysing the impacts and risks, a company that initiates the transformation process with circular economy principles should seek opinions from other stakeholders (other companies in the sector, consumers, legislators, NGOs or academia), share good practices and allow the transformation to be completed holistically.
These steps are, of course, not enough to completely halt biodiversity loss. Since the private sector has the opportunity to carry out a much more systematic transformation than other stakeholders, the transition to circular economy can be carried out relatively faster. However, this transformation process requires other stakeholders to conduct their own impact and risk analyses, adopt circular economy principles and cooperate with other stakeholders. Of course, each stakeholder will have its own steps and strategies. However, especially when it comes to such a critical issue as biodiversity, the correct understanding of circular economy, the realisation that it is not just a waste management system and raising awareness to start the transformation process can be listed as the steps that each stakeholder should carefully implement.
As for us, the individuals who will ensure social transformation, we should educate ourselves, change our daily lives and make the best contribution we can in this process, which we think we cannot fully grasp because we may not come across in our daily lives such as circular economy, biodiversity or carbon emissions, but in terms of impact, we are as effective as each stakeholder. In order to do this, we need to do more research, understand our impact in our own lives and realise our responsibility.