The current linear economic model of production and consumption is unsustainable. Negative impacts from a “take-make-use-dispose” model are evident everywhere we look: rising global temperatures, loss of biodiversity, water stress and increased waste and emissions. This destruction divides people and leads to greed and inequalities. Yet, we can change.
It is possible to change the world by changing the way the world does business. Tackling the environmental crisis requires a shift of economic models towards sustainable consumption and production (SCP) and low-carbon circular economies. MedWaves incubates the development of sustainable business models.
Sustainable business models are based on a triple bottom line approach and on the interdependency between environment, society and the economy. Together with them, it is possible to address the collective environmental and social crisis and move onto the sustainable pathway.
In order to understand the power of business to positively affect social and environmental change, MedWaves established a definition of a sustainable business model, which was subsequently adopted by Contracting Parties during COP22 of the Barcelona Convention in December 2021. “A sustainable business provides commercial solutions which create ecological value and/or safeguard the environment (addressing environmental challenges and/or reducing environmental impacts) and are economically viable and socially empowering” (Decision IG.25/18 – Annex II).
Sustainable business models can transform ecological challenges into economic opportunities by creating environmental value and reducing the impacts of current consumption and production patterns. Sustainable business models utilise two main approaches to establish a circular business: eco-innovation and life-cycle thinking/eco-design.
Eco-innovation identifies new and alternative solutions to business-as-usual in order to reduce environmental impacts of production and consumption, simultaneously creating environmental value. Via eco-innovation businesses can improve their ecological footprint, incrementally, tackling process, product and system levels. For example, when a business improves production processes by increasing resource and energy efficiency, there is an opportunity to save money, reduce emissions and prevent pollution. Sustainable businesses can also innovate by developing different approaches to the same products and services that perform better environmentally, such as electric vehicles. Eco-innovation can also transform an entire value chain, such as the promotion of services over products to radically shift consumerism. An example would be moving from car production towards mobility services solutions such as car sharing, e-scooters or bikes rental systems, etc.
Eco-design is another key approach in sustainable business models. The design stage is extremely important, establishing 80% of gross environmental impact. The eco-design lens, aiming for a circular model, accounts for the entire lifecycle of a product or service, including: design; extraction and/or purchase of raw materials; production; packaging and distribution; sales and marketing, product use; and end of life management. Through eco-design, companies can assess their ecological impacts and define strategies to improve their environmental performance at each stage of the lifecycle of their products and services. Thanks to this analysis, eco-design optimises environmental performance by reducing material and energy input requirements, thereby increasing efficiency and potentially saving money.
MedWaves developed the Switchers Support Programme (SSP), a regional strategy in the Mediterranean promoting and enhancing sustainable business models. The SSP creates an enabling environment, supporting the ecosystem of relationships that empower entrepreneurs and businesses to become sustainable: the Switchers. Switchers are green and circular businesses implementing eco-innovative solutions that contribute to sustainable and fair consumption and production models. They are active in a variety of fields, such as sustainable farming, green construction, sustainable textiles and cosmetics, eco-tourism, renewable energy, or waste management.
The SSP works closely with a diverse range of stakeholders, including entrepreneurs and businesses, Business Support Organisations (BSOs), trainers and mentors, financial actors and policy makers.
MedWaves offers core support services such as:
SSP responds to the “Set of Regional Measures to Support the Development of Green and Circular Businesses” that was approved by Contracting Parties during COP22 in December 2021 (Decision IG.25/18). Additionally, SSP offers support for other regional and global policies, such as: the EU Green Deal External Dimension; the New Agenda for the Mediterranean; the Mediterranean Strategy for Sustainable Development; UNEP/MAP – Barcelona Convention Mid-Term Strategy; the UfM’s 2030 GreenerMed Agenda; and the 2030 Agenda and several of its SDGs.