NEWSLETTER by Alessia Falsarone. The author acknowledges the team at The University of Chicago Circular Economy and Sustainable Business Management Program and all participants of the innovation knowledge hub for their insights and collaboration.
Like any other transition, the rise of a circular economy is expected to be closely linked to its impact on human health. To address both opportunities and challenges, efforts to connect health policy with any circular program at the national or sector level need to be evidence-based and rely on health impact assessments. The pharmaceutical industry has a significant role to play in leading beyond the regulatory landscape. Industrial symbiosis may unlock the potential health benefits of a circular healthcare system.
| The Science of Impact
Since launching its first report on the health impacts of a circular economy, the WHO Regional Office for Europe has continued to commit resources to investigate the many interconnections and the challenges that exiting the current linear economic system (take-make-dispose) to adopt a circular (renew-remake-reshare) model may entail. If properly implemented, Good Health and Well-Being (SDG 3) goes hand in hand with the promises of implementing SDG 12 (Responsible Production and Consumption) by 2030. Nevertheless, over the years health considerations have received limited attention in the realm of either national and sector specific policies, and initiatives. For policymakers, investors and risk advisors, Health Impact Assessments (HIA) may become go-to instruments to help steer the journey ahead, especially when it comes to addressing the adverse health effects of a circular economy transition. Let’s think, for example, of areas such as handling, rework or disposal of hazardous materials, their management in the context of more informal workplaces and the impact on vulnerable populations.
What are HIA exactly?
The World Health Organization refers to them as multidisciplinary approaches to protect and promote human health by communicating to all stakeholders the potential health impacts of proposed policies and programs and recommended actions for more healthy outcomes. That means: enhancing (health) benefits and mitigating any adverse consequences.
As a result, HIA can be deployed in a variety of geographical and sectoral contexts, with the involvement of a variety of stakeholders in framing the right set of questions from the very beginning and addressing societal inequalities.
>>click to zoom in | Assessing the health impacts of a circular economy. Copenhagen: WHO Regional Office for Europe; 2019
| Circularity Roadmaps Explained
Outside of the regulatory context, the pharmaceutical industry has been slow at connecting policy and drug development with a sustainability transition, particularly when it comes to the health impacts of a circular economic system. Few years back, the EFPIA – European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations had started a promising dialogue within its membership on the topic. Specifically, it focused on the need to address the full-life-cycle of medicines in light of resource efficiency needs as a way to directly improve healthcare and maintaining it cost effective. While extending support to a transition towards circularity and the extensive practice involving recovery and recycling of materials (already part of the sector best practices), the EFPIA did recognize the many challenges ahead, particularly:
- the design of circular supply chains,
- the disruptions that may occur in the development of life-saving medicines,
- the reuse of materials and drug efficacy, and
- the return of unused medicines and patient behavior.
The case study presented by Novo Nordisk illustrates its participation in the Kalundborg, Denmark-based Industrial Symbiosis ecosystem as an early example of the role that innovation will have in promoting cross-industry collaboration as the pharmaceutical industry aligns itself with the changing regulatory environment as a promoter of change as opposed to a follower. Going back to the early Seventies, Kalundborg today is the sprawling home of sixteen public and private companies pioneering the world’s first circular production approach. The main idea is to convert residual resource flows from one company into resources available to others, while sharing the economic and environmental benefits that come with this closed-loop architecture.
Connecting the dots between industrial symbiosis and the health benefits of a circular pharmaceutical ecosystem may represent an important next step for human health.
| Investing in the Circular Economy
Southeast Asian markets offer unique opportunities for alternative investors seeking to participate in sustainability transitions that affect entire economies. Indonesia-based AC Ventures is one of such players in the domestic market.
On the back of the challenging macroeconomic environment, Southeast Asia’s privately-held firms reached the lowest fundraising level in two years, with technology-oriented deal flow dropping almost 50% to $10 billion in 2022. Despite the more cautious stance, sustainability and circularity themes are up in the wish list for domestic investors. As Helen Pei-Hua Wong, Managing Partner at AC Ventures, has recently shared, “we are spending more time on the sustainability theme as we see interesting opportunities in Electric Vehicles (EV), circular economy, and sustainable agriculture. We have also been spending time looking at carbon offsets and hope to make an investment in this space soon.” AC Ventures portfolio already counts on portfolio companies such as food service startup EdenFarm and broom.id, an all-in-one automotive SME solutions provider, where sustainable business models are set to drive significant operational efficiencies.
For circular economy ventures, Helen’s remarks on the structural characteristics of VC funding are an important reminder that alignment of financial partners with the life stage of the business is an important step when seeking liquidity to scale.
(..) venture capital is a long-term investment, and if we look at the longer-term horizon, there are few countries that have a large young population with a rising middle class and relatively strong economic fundamentals like 5 percent gross domestic product (GDP) growth and a trade surplus consecutively for the past 34 months than Indonesia.
/*Courtesy of TechNode.com/
| You don’t want to miss this week
From Rome, to Paris, and Cardiff, this week offers new opportunities to connect with fellow circularity practitioners both in person and in hybrid mode.
Discover, grow and leave your mark!
〉July 10th: International Multiplier Event (Rome, EU Parliament Office)* Join project partners of OREN – an ERASMUS+ funded project started in February 2022 with the objective of promoting an interactive learning environment for agricultural entrepreneurs, adapted to the unique needs of rural development in the current landscape. OREN’s interactive learning platform will be showcased. The event is open to all rural entrepreneurs interested in reshaping their business towards the circular economy and adapting their activities to the challenges of the rural context.
(*) Note: Some parts of the event will be held in Italian. The afternoon session on the co-creation of strategic business models through systems thinking methods will be held in English.
〉July 11th: Méga Fresque de l’Economie Circulaire (Paris). Marrying science with play, the “Circular Economy Fresco” is organized as an evening workshop (19h00 – 22h00 CEST) aimed to fostering public awareness into the many aspects of the circular economy. It will take place in the Maison du Zéro Déchet, the first place dedicated to zero waste initiatives in France.
〉July 12th: Circular Economy in Construction (Cardiff, UK). Cardiff Business School is organizing an all-day open door workshop on the application of digital products passports in the construction industry, with a live demonstration in the area of materials. Renowned digital deconstruction experts will cover CE developments and provide valuable insights into their work, including blockchain enabled LCA, and smart circularity indices. Contact Dr. Martin Agyemang (AgyemangM@cardiff.ac.uk) for inquiries.
Off to another impactful week!
Alessia Falsarone is executive in residence, practitioner faculty at the University of Chicago, where she leads the Circular Economy and Sustainable Business program. The article is based on the author’s newsletter A Week of Circularity from the innovation knowledge hub.
| All opinions expressed are those of the author and/or quoted sources. investESG.eu is an independent and neutral platform dedicated to generating debate around ESG investing topics.