The call for action on climate change has never been louder. Currently, the Earth takes almost 1.5 years to regenerate what we use in a year, meaning we are consuming natural resources faster than we can replace them. And yet, according to the International Institute for Sustainable Development, only about 5% of the remaining value of material goods is recaptured and used when we dispose of products.
Given these facts and their implications for our future, we must redesign our economic and social paradigms in order to integrate sustainability into all levels of the value chain. One of the most impactful ways to ensure a sustainable future is through the circular economy.
That is why Enel has launched its Journey into the Circular Economy report in which it shares its strategy, projects and results in this area. The document has eight chapters and is divided into three main sections, including New business models, Raw materials and City. In the New business models section, the report explains how circular business models are being adopted throughout Enel. The Raw materials section focuses on the company’s circular and sustainable approach to raw materials, while the City section delves into the efforts made by Enel to define a circular city model, as well as the development of new solutions.
Enel’s successful journey toward sustainability
Although much progress has been made, our world economy is only 9.1% circular, and this means there is a massive circularity gap. For this reason, at Enel, we have developed a circular economy business model in order to ensure a sustainable future.
According to Enel’s Journey into the Circular Economy report, in order to succeed in developing a circular economy business model, change had to occur first and foremost in the company’s core businesses for it to have a substantial impact on operations and on a larger scale. Innovation also played a fundamental role in adopting a circular economy business model that went beyond technology. For example, Enel adopted innovative approaches in its relations with suppliers and clients.
The eight milestones that have proven successful in the company’s journey toward fostering a circular economy mindset include the integration of the circular economy and decarbonization, the switch from waste management to innovation and design, rethinking the entire value chain and a new approach to governance across all departments, among others.
An example of an initiative our company has taken in order to be more sustainable comes in the form of Enel X’s electrification of urban transport project. Here we promote the replacement of old fossil fuel buses with the latest electric models to reduce air contamination in cities, as well as maintenance costs. Another example of Enel’s commitment to sustainability is Enel Grids’ Circular Smart Meter, a circular model process that rethinks the electronic meter’s value chain. It uses materials from disused meters with 48% of its weight made up of reclaimed materials. Each Circular Smart Meter allows for savings of 7Kg of CO2 and 1.1 kg of raw materials.
The publication of our report comes at a time when the circular economy is a key issue in sustainability. The integration of the circular economy and decarbonization was, for example, a major topic at the COP27 Climate Change Conference which gathered world leaders in Egypt from November 6-18.
Our journey toward circularity
Circularity doesn’t simply mean recycling or closing the product loop. Rather, this model rethinks the production and consumption of materials in order to combine market competitiveness with environmental sustainability by extending the product lifecycle, increasing resource efficiency and reducing carbon emissions. The shift from a linear model based on resource-extraction-production-consumption-waste to a circular model that maintains the value of products and goods through innovative design, repair, services, reverse logistics, and recycling amounts to a disruption to the entire business ecosystem with wide-ranging social, economic and environmental benefits.
Enel's commitment to the circular economy entails introducing a sustainable business model into all our activities, including our decarbonization strategy to become Net Zero by 2040. Thus, the circular economy is already part of our business structures, such as in the field of power generation, with the strong push for decarbonization through the development of power plants based on renewable sources and the gradual reduction in the use of fossil fuels.
Innovability® for a circular future
Furthermore, we are encouraging this initiative externally: Enel Open Innovability® is constantly launching countless challenges related to circularity and other sustainable models. For instance, we are currently hosting challenges in which we seek the best solutions to, for example, recovering Secondary Raw Materials (SRM) from end-of-life PV modules and redesigning Primary Substations.