Clockwise from top left: panelist Jacomien van Tonder, moderator Kerry Slavens and panellists Paul Shorthouse and Ross Blackwell discussed the concepts behind the circular economy during a session at the State of the Island Economic Summit on Wednesday. (Vancouver Island Economic Alliance image)

Clockwise from top left: panelist Jacomien van Tonder, moderator Kerry Slavens and panellists Paul Shorthouse and Ross Blackwell discussed the concepts behind the circular economy during a session at the State of the Island Economic Summit on Wednesday. (Vancouver Island Economic Alliance image)

Why the doughnut economy is good for business and sustainability

Vancouver Island Economic Alliance: produce to survive, but within boundaries of what the Earth has

Creating a circular economy revolves around a doughnut, or at least a doughnut-based model.

It’s Good to Produce Goods: New Thinking About Local Economic Resiliency, was a morning session at the State of the Island Economic Summit on this week as experts in community planning, economy and land development discussed how shifts in thinking can guide communities toward manufacturing-based, but environmentally sustainable local economies, known as circular economies.

The concept, conceived by economist Kate Raworth, is based on a doughnut and was explained by panelist Jacomien van Tonder, project coordinator with Metal Tech Alley, a B.C. firm that helps companies adopt circular economy practices.

“You have the inside and the outside of the doughnut. The inner circle is the social foundation and the outer circle is the ecological ceiling,” van Tonder said.

RELATED: Not-so-rosy State of the Island report caps off virtual summit

RELATED: Prime minister greets Vancouver Island economic summit attendees

“So we produce those goods that we need to live, but you need to take the outer circle, which is the ecological ceiling, into account … and you have to respect that if you want to the Earth to thrive and to survive. So for us, it’s a system where we have to survive, but you have to do it within the boundaries of what the Earth gives you.”

The drive to find circular economy-based ways to bring manufacturing of goods back to Canada has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which disrupted global supply chains and created high demand and shortages in a wide spectrum of products and raw materials, ranging from surgical masks to germanium – used in the manufacture of thermometers – and copper, which has anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties.

With global supply chains suddenly unreliable, local companies such as VMAC and Harmac stepped in to fill supply shortfalls. A cottage industry of home-made mask making also sprung up, effectively bringing home production of items normally made overseas.

Panellists discussed how localizing production was already happening around the world pre-COVID, especially in Europe where communities are finding new ways to invest in commercial-scale manufacturing while meeting local demands for environmental sustainability.

The trend is forcing new thinking about land use, resources, transportation infrastructure and other factors that affect decisions to invest in communities. There are also social challenges to encouraging circular economic growth through local manufacturing that include opposition from groups and individuals who are against drawing manufacturing to their regions.

“The one unspoken elephant in the room is the social licence and how various community voices can be quite challenging in major investment opportunities,” said Ross Blackwell, Urbanics Consulting executive vice-president. “As we all know, it’s a very risky thing bringing in new money to a community and investment looks for some degree of assurity and the less stable that social licence, is the less assurity, and it means investment may choose to look elsewhere. It’s one of the challenges that we try to unpack and try to find solutions to.”

Zoning regulations are another potential “pinch point” restricting investment, Blackwell said. There often needs to be flexibility to protect baseline conditions that ensure the health of the environment and community and avoid uncertainty caused by potential social discord and activism associated with re-zoning that can cause investors to choose other locations.

“Flex zoning” can allow latitude to accommodate unforeseen situations and allow communities to take advantage of opportunities.

The circular economy concept brings together thinking that has been around for a long time and combines sustainable development, product design and innovation under one umbrella, said Paul Shorthouse, senior director with the Delphi Group.

The concept is based on three key principles: rethinking resource consumption and designing waste and pollution out of products and services, optimizing products and components for highest value and keeping them in use for as long as possible by designing for durability, reusability and repairability; and preserving ecosystems by minimizing waste through incineration and other forms of disposal.

“It’s really about moving away from what we have today, which I call the linear model, which is take or extract – you make and then at the end of the product’s lifetime you dispose of or waste that product,” Shorthouse said.

“What the circular economy is looking to do, within the finite planet of resources we live on, is decouple those resources from economic activity and eliminate the concept of waste … through that sort of re-thinking it really creates major opportunities for new investment, for innovation, for jobs and businesses.”

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.



photos@nanaimobulletin.com
Like us on
Facebook and follow us on Twitter

economyEnvironment

Just Posted

West Vancouver Island’s Ehattesaht First Nation continues lock down after 9 active cases were reported today after a visitor tested positive last week. (Ehattesaht First Nation/Facebook)
Ehattesaht First Nation’s COVID-19 nightmare: nine active cases, a storm and a power outage

The Vancouver Island First Nation in a lockdown since the first case was reported last week

The Ahousaht First Nation confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on Nov. 26, 2020. (Westerly file photo)
Ahousaht First Nation on lockdown over COVID-19

“Emotions are high. The anxiety is high. We want our community to pull through.”

Victoria police were called to a single-vehicle crash shortly before 3 a.m. Nov. 27. (Black Press Media file photo)
Driver dies after fiery early morning crash in Vic West

The driver was the sole occupant of the single-vehicle crash involving a hydro pole

Lake Cowichan’s Oliver Finlayson, second from left, and his family — including grandma Marnie Mattice, sister Avery, mom Amie Mattice and dad Blair Finlayson — were all smiles on Nov. 16 when their pool arrived, thanks to lots of fundraising and the generosity of the Cowichan Lake community. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Cowichan Lake community comes together to help family get vital pool

Oliver Finlayson, 9, has Duchenne muscular dystrophy and hydrotherapy is a big help

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks along the seawall in North Vancouver Wednesday, November 25, 2020.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
911 new COVID-19 cases, 11 deaths as B.C. sees deadliest week since pandemic began

Hospitalizations reach more than 300 across the province

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Victoria police arrested a man in a Yates Street grocery store Nov. 27 after he refused to wear a mask. (Black Press Media File photo)
Belligerent man arrested in Victoria grocery store after refusing to wear mask

Officers fined the man $230 under the COVID-19 Related Measures Act

A 43-year-old woman is facing charges for impaired driving and leaving the scene of a crash after attempting to flee from police by driving down the beach in front of the Oak Bay Marina on Nov. 23. (Oak Bay Police/Twitter)
Victoria woman drives over seawall onto beach near Oak Bay Marina

Driver faces charges for fleeing crash, refusing breathalyzer test

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. The church has decided to continue in-person services despite a public health order banning worship services that was issued on Nov. 19, 2020. (YouTube)
2 Lower Mainland churches continue in-person services despite public health orders

Pastors say faith groups are unfairly targeted and that charter rights protect their decisions

Campbell River city council recently held a roundtable meeting with leaders from the aquaculture and forestry industries to discuss how they can be part of a post-COVID economic recovery in the region.
North Island officials holding roundtable on aquaculture, forestry

Will go forward with quarterly meetings involving industry leaders to address issues in the sectors

West Shore RCMP arrested four suspects in connection with an armed robbery that occurred in View Royal Nov. 26. (Black Press Media file photo)
West Shore RCMP arrests four following armed robbery

A victim was assaulted and robbed in View Royal early Thursday morning

These boards were delivered to Brooklyn Elementary before being stolen this fall. Facebook photo
Vandalism damage at Comox Valley schools way up this year

The amount in 2020/21 is already 50 per cent higher than the previous year

Most Read