Photo of the Clyde Arc in Glasgow with pink lights at night

Business and innovation is key to the circular economy

28 Nov 23 4 minute read

Scotland has long been considered a leading nation on the circular economy, and our support for businesses to grow in a fair and sustainable way has played a huge part in achieving and maintaining that recognition.

Photo of Louise McGregor, Head of Research and Propositions at Zero Waste Scotland


Louise McGregor

Head of Research and Propositions

Businesses are integral to building and championing Scotland’s circular economy, says Louise McGregor, as she reflects on how far we’ve come and exciting times ahead.

It’s still a work in progress, with a challenging financial landscape and recovery from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic meaning many businesses are preoccupied with simply staying afloat. But the long-term benefits of a circular economy are clear – and businesses have a central role in driving it forward.

Circular economy – the benefits

For individual businesses, embedding circular approaches can give them a competitive edge, help them boost their resilience to future market shocks and give them more confidence when it comes to long-term planning.

Bigger picture, taking a circular approach creates skilled jobs in remanufacturing, repairing, and new services, which bring local benefit. Circularity also safeguards against future raw material shortages and reduces the greenhouse gas emissions that are embedded into materials during their lifetime.

What’s more, businesses embedding circularity into their operations also have huge power to influence consumers to do their bit. Each and every one of us can have a huge impact on climate change through making a conscious choice to consume more responsibly and reduce waste – and we could be inspired to do so by the brands we trust.

New Zero Waste Scotland support

Driving circular business innovation is at the core of our work at Zero Waste Scotland. It’s why, for example, we have helped more than 200 businesses join Scotland’s growing circular economy, commissioned and worked on Scotland’s first-ever Circularity Gap Report, and continue to work with partners across Scotland to develop circular economy capacity and capability.

And we’re delighted to have recently been awarded £44,900 from the Scottish Ecosystem Fund. Not only is this a recognition of the critical role Zero Waste Scotland plays in supporting Scotland’s circular entrepreneurs and the innovation they drive, but it will also allow us to go further by enhancing our offering to circular economy start-ups.

Scottish Enterprise and Scottish Government logos

Proudly supported by the Scottish Ecosystem Fund 2023-24, this new funding will enable us to support entrepreneurs and fledgling circular economy brands to adapt and enhance their value proposition. We’ll help them refine and connect with their market, ultimately helping them hold their own in a competitive business landscape where genuine sustainability claims often struggle to cut through.

The project will culminate in the creation of a new tool to help everyone in Scotland with an innovative circular economy idea to refine their value proposition for free. Once completed, the bespoke Circular Economy Value Proposition toolkit will be the latest in a suite of circular economy business resources available on the Zero Waste Scotland website and shared with partners through targeted knowledge exchange sessions.

What’s more, businesses will also benefit from the Scottish Government’s Circular Economy Bill and Route Map to 2025 and Beyond , both of which will go a long way to helping establish the broader conditions to allow circular businesses to flourish. 

Growing a fairer, greener Scotland

Our Meet the Market project is an exciting new venture for us that represents a welcome expansion of the scope of our circular economy business support, from working solely with small and medium-sized businesses to supporting start-ups too, and complementing our work with big brands like Balfour Beatty, Tennent’s and Scottish Water to explore circular opportunities at scale.

More importantly however it will unlock Scotland’s thriving circular economy for a whole new cohort of budding sustainable businesses, who will gain access to a network of fellow brands with a shared mission of doing things differently for people and planet.

That focus on both people and planet is meaningful, as the circular economy has come to mean a way of living in which people are happy, healthy, safe, and equal as well as one that respects the limits of our natural environment. It’s the best tool we have to help us achieve a ‘just transition’, in which we work towards a fairer and more equal society as well as a greener economy for Scotland.

We need everyone on board with Scotland’s circular economy vision if we’re serious about tackling climate change, and can’t wait to carry on our work with Scotland’s entrepreneurial talent to make it happen.