The circular economy aims to help the environment by reducing waste, mainly by keeping goods and services in circulation for as long as possible. Unlike the traditional linear economy, in which things are produced, consumed, and then discarded, a circular economy ensures that resources are shared, repaired, reused, and recycled, over and over.
What does this have to do with your digital platform? In a nutshell: everything.
From tackling climate change to creating more resilient markets, the circular economy is a systems-level solution for global environmental and economic issues. By building digital platforms for the circular economy, your business will be better prepared for whatever the future brings.
The Circular Economy isn’t Coming. It’s Here.
With environmental challenges growing day by day, businesses all over the world are going circular. Here are a few examples:
- Target plans for 100% of its branded products to last longer, be easier to repair or recycle, and be made from materials that are regenerative, recyclable, or sustainably sourced.
- Trove’s ecommerce platform lets companies buy back and resell their own products. This extends each products’ use cycle, lowering the environmental and social cost per item.
- Renault is increasing the life of its vehicle parts by restoring old engine parts. This limits waste, prolongs the life of older cars, and reduces emissions from manufacturing.
One area where nearly every business could adopt a circular model is the creation and use of digital platforms. The process of building websites and apps, along with their use over time, consumes precious resources (both people and energy). That’s why Oomph joined 1% For the Planet earlier this year. Our membership reflects our commitment to do more collective good — and to hold ourselves accountable for our collective impact on the environment.
But, we’re not just donating profits to environmental causes. We’re helping companies build sustainable digital platforms for the circular economy.
Curious about your platform’s environmental impact? Enter your URL into this tool to get an estimate of your digital platform’s carbon footprint.
Changing Your Platform From Linear to Circular
If protecting the environment and promoting sustainability is a priority for your business, it’s time to change the way you build and operate your websites and apps. Here’s what switching to a platform for the circular economy could look like.
From a linear mindset…
When building new sites or apps, many companies fail to focus on longevity or performance. Within just a few years, their platforms become obsolete, either as a result of business changes or a desire to keep up with rapidly evolving technologies.
So, every few years, they have to start all over again — with all the associated resource costs of building a new platform and migrating content from the old one.
Platforms that aren’t built with performance in mind tend to waste a ton of energy (and money) in their daily operation. As these platforms grow in complexity and slow down in performance, one unfortunate solution is to just increase computing power. That means you need new hardware to power the computing cycles, which leads to more e-waste, more mining for metals and more pollution from manufacturing, and more electricity to power the entire supply chain.
Enter the circular economy.
…to a circular approach.
Building a platform for the circular economy is about reducing harmful impacts and wasteful resource use, and increasing the longevity of systems and components. There are three main areas you can address:
1. Design out waste and pollution from the start.
At Oomph, we begin every project with a thorough and thoughtful discovery process that gets to the heart of what we’re building, and why. By identifying what your business truly needs in a platform — today and potentially tomorrow — you’ll minimize the need to rebuild again later.
It’s also crucial to build efficiencies into your backend code. Clean, efficient code makes things load faster and run more quickly, with fewer energy cycles required per output.
Look for existing frameworks, tools, and third-party services that provide the functions you need and will continue to stay in service for years or decades to come. And, instead of building a monolith platform that has to be upgraded every few years or requires massive computing power, consider switching to a more nimble and efficient microservices architecture.
2. Keep products and services in use.
Regular maintenance and timely patching is key to prolonging the life of your platform. So is proactively looking for performance issues. Be sure to regularly test and assess your platform’s speed and efficiency, so you can address problems early on.
While we’re advocating for using products and services for as long as possible, if your platform is built on microservices, don’t be afraid to replace an existing service with a new one. Just make sure the new service provides a benefit that outweighs the resource costs of implementing it.
3. Aim to regenerate natural systems.
The term “regenerate” describes a process that mimics the cycles of nature by restoring or renewing sources of energy and materials. It might seem like the natural world is far removed from your in-house tech, but there are a number of ways that your IT choices impact the environment.
For starters, you can factor sustainability into your decisions around vendors and equipment. Look for digital hosting companies and data centers that are green or LEED-certified. Power your hardware with renewable energy sources. Ultimately, the goal is to consider not just how to reduce your platform’s impact on the environment, but how you can create a net-positive effect by doing better with less.
Get Ready for the Future
We’ve long seen that the ways in which businesses and societies use resources can transform local and global communities. And we know that environmental quality is inextricably linked to human wellbeing and prosperity. The circular economy, then, provides a way to improve our future readiness.
Companies that invest in sustainability generally experience better resilience, improved operational performance, and longer-lasting growth. They’re also better suited to meet the new business landscape, as governments incentivize sustainable activities, customers prefer sustainable products, and employees demand sustainable leadership.
Interested in exploring how you can join the new circular economy with your digital platforms? We’d love to help you explore your options, just contact us.