Today at COP24, The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and Circle Economy, in collaboration with Arcadis, released a report describing the changes required for the circular economy to become mainstream in the built environment.

The report was developed with ArcelorMittal, ABN AMRO, CRH, DSM, EDGE, Enel, Madaster, Rabobank, Renewi, Saint-Gobain, Bureau SLA, Solvay and Stora Enso. 

The report, titled “Scaling the Circular Built Environment’’ highlights the circular economy’s great potential to help meet global sustainability targets. The built environment consumes almost half of the resources the world extracts each year and is responsible for a massive environmental footprint which contributes 33% of global carbon emissions, making it a fundamental sector in the transition from a linear to a circular, more sustainable world.

Key recommendations include:

  • Remove key financial, legal, technological and political barriers that prevent companies from adopting circular business models
  • Ensure companies can access the market equally and plan for long-term investment and innovation
  • Accelerate the development of relevant regulations and legislation to support new business models under the circular economy
  • For private and public sectors to collaborate across the value chain and integrate circular principles in standard purchasing practices.

Moving from a linear model of take-make-dispose to a circular model where buildings, facilities and materials enter a longer lifecycle and reuse model, offers enormous economic and environmental advantages. 

This report shows the economic opportunity that circular built environment can bring to companies in terms of avoided costs, reduced resource risks, and environmental benefits. It also describes the opportunities, business models and changes that are necessary to leverage this in the built environment. It also identifies the barriers that are currently hampering the transition and concludes with recommendations to both the public and private sectors on ways to level the playing field and scale-up the potential of the circular built environment. Circular materials, products and services will need to be the new normal in buildings if the Paris Agreement’s targets are to be met. 

The circular economy has been estimated as a USD $4.5 trillion opportunity and ArcelorMittal is working hard to integrate the circular economy into its business model by developing products, services and production processes that position steel as the ideal material for tomorrow’s circular, low carbon economy. 

Steligence, ArcelorMittal’s new modular design philosophy for the construction industry, is a great example of the kind of innovative thinking that can make the built environment more sustainable. This holistic approach to responsible, yet commercial, construction is pushing architectural boundaries through steel innovation. It also promotes disassembly and reuse at the end of a structure’s lifetime, in line with circular economy principles. This is in addition to steel’s inherent and unique properties such as its magnetism and its ability to be endlessly recycled – and even upcycled – makes steel the material of choice for a circular built environment.

As the circular economy is ultimately about eliminating the concept of waste, ArcelorMittal is actively seeking ways to repurpose the by-products it generates through the steelmaking process into valuable materials for other industries. Its industrial scale testing of a process which will turn its steelmaking off-gases into fuels for transportation is a good example of how the company is embedding circular economy principles into the way it does business.

ArcelorMittal is a member of WBCSD, a global, CEO-led organisation of over 200 leading businesses working together to accelerate the transition to a sustainable world.