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拯救地球:循环经济的巨大挑战和机遇

Peter Lacy,Jakob Rutqvist 2015年01月26日

倘若我们按照目前的增长速度消耗地球资源,那么到2050年,人类将需要三个地球。但如果我们认真反思全球生产与消费的组织方式,以及改变这种方式所需的新技术和商业模式,或许会为我们带来下个十年最大的商机。

    如何突破资源限制以实现经济增长,是全球经济面临的核心挑战。如果我们不采取任何措施来解决当前的困局,那么到2050年,对稀缺资源(比如有机物、化石能源和多种金属)的总需求量有望达到1300亿吨,远远超过2014年500亿吨的需求量。哪怕对科技创新的乐观预期成为现实,全球经济的资源生产量也不大可能超过800亿吨,也就是说,到了2050年,全球的资源缺口将达到400亿吨左右。这种短缺将导致世界各国及企业暴露在巨大的风险之下,而资源短缺问题的解决,有赖于循环经济发挥作用。

    循环经济背后的理念很简单:始终推动资源发挥最大的价值,消灭浪费,使资源“永远够所有人用”。在讨论循环经济时,浪费的概念要比单纯的物理垃圾更加广泛,它还指产品生命周期的终止,以及市场中大量利用率不足的产品和资产。例如,一个被丢弃的产品如果没有回收利用,就是一种浪费;提前终结一个产品的使用寿命或闲置不用,也是一种浪费。比如说,一辆普通的汽车只有5%到10%的时间被使用。在普通家庭中,有80%的家庭用品每月只被使用一次。

    但如果使用了正确的商业模式,产品停留在经济中的时间可以比今天延长好几倍。通过创新性的分享模式,从汽车到消费品,所有产品的利用率可能会提高十倍之多。但对于企业来说,这究竟意味着什么呢?

    不妨设想一下:单单美国这一个国家,就有近2亿部智能手机。智能手机是一种高度复杂的产品,其中含有大量化学和金属元素。但随着科技进步的脚步加快,智能手机的平均寿命也在逐步缩短。如果智能手机是以模块化的方式设计的,各个部件可以轻易地组装和拆解呢?如果手机采用开源设计方式,那又会是怎样的情形呢?消费者就可以购买并使用一部手机的核心部分(框架、屏幕和外壳)达10年之久,在这期间,他可以根据个人需求频繁升级它的功能(如摄像头、内存和处理器),而不是每两年就买一部新手机。那么不想要的零部件怎么办?可以通过在线平台将它们卖给其他想要的消费者。

    这样一来,在生命周期结束时,手机就可以很容易地拆解回收,变成有价值的金属。一个循环经济产业和消费者生态系统由此形成,它包括围绕销售手机核心部件与零部件、促成硬件市场、手机翻新、回收利用等环节构建的一系列业务模式。在手机的产品生命周期中,收益会翻上好几番,然而资源利用只增长了一点或几乎没有增长。这只是循环经济增长模式的创新潜能之一。

    那么,怎样才能形成循环经济呢?我们确定了五种商业模式,包括将产品作为服务,以及建立一个能够培养分享社区的平台等等。我们也发现了十项技术,尤其是数字技术,它们也能促进这种转型。比如最近大热的AirBnB和Uber等公司,他们所从事的业务如果没有社交、移动和“机器对机器”通讯等技术作为支撑,几乎是不可能实现的。这些技术使得供应商、用户和产品能够通过复杂的网络进行互动,而不需要企业投入成本高昂的现场服务或设备投资。

    好消息是,在我们即将出版的新书中所调查的这些企业、模式和技术显示,循环经济可以为许多部门的企业带来极大的生产率提升,幅度最高可达四倍,因此足以解决2050年前可能出现的400亿吨资源缺口。考虑到当前制造企业的材料成本往往高达总成本的40%,而人工成本一般不超过20%,因而这绝对是一种有益的竞争优势。

    我们认为,事实上,大规模循环经济所能带来的经济效益目前被严重低估了——相关内容我们会在即将上市的新书中详细讨论。

    从宏观层面上,这些都是利好消息。我们现在需要的,是各个部门都要研究出企业、消费者与政府携手推动这种转型的办法。目前在这方面已经取得了一些进步。比如本周在瑞士达沃斯召开的世界经济论坛就颁发了一项“循环经济奖”。除了循环经济之外,还有什么方式能更好地预示着全球资本主义迈进新篇章呢?(财富中文网)

    作者Peter Lacy为埃森哲可持续服务董事总经理,JakobRutqvist为埃森哲可持续服务“循环经济”全球活动领导人。其新书《变废为宝》(From Waste to Wealth)将于3月出版。

    译者:朴成奎

    审校:任文科

    The core challenge for the global economy is to decouple economic growth from resource constraints. If nothing is done to address the current situation, total demand for constrained resource stocks (like biomass, fossil energy, and many metals) is expected to reach 130 billion tons by 2050. That’s up from 50 billion in 2014. Even with an optimistic forecast for technological innovation, the economy is unlikely to be able to produce more than 80 billion tons, leaving a shortfall of around 40 billion tons by 2050. Such shortages will expose countries and companies to significant risks. That’s where the circular economy comes into play.

    The idea behind the Circular Economy is a simple one: keep resources at their highest possible level of value at all times, eliminate the very idea of waste and leave ‘enough for all forever.’ Waste in this context is broader than physical rubbish. It also refers to product end-of-life as well as the enormous under-utilization of products and assets in markets. For example, a discarded product that is not recycled is a waste, but so is ending the working life of a product prematurely or letting it sit idle. A typical car, for example, is used only 5% to 10% of the time and as much as 80% of the things stored in a typical home are used only once a month.

    But with the right business model, products could stay in the economy many times longer than today, and utilization rates of everything from cars to consumer goods could increase up to ten times by the use of innovative sharing models. But what’s in it for business?

    Consider this. There are nearly 200 million smart phone users in the U.S. alone. Smart phones are highly sophisticated products containing a multitude of chemical elements and metals. But the average lifetime of a smartphone is going down all the time as the speed of technological development charges on. What if a smartphone were designed in a modular way where components could easily be assembled and disassembled? What if the design was open source? A customer could now buy and use the phone’s core (frame, screen and casing) over 10 years instead of two, while frequently upgrading its functionality (e.g. camera, memory and processor) according to personal desires. What about unwanted components? They could be traded on an online platform to other customers desiring them.

    At end-of-life the phone would be easy to disassemble and recycle for valuable metals and minerals. You now have a circular business and consumer ecosystem with a range of business models around selling the core and components, facilitating hardware marketplaces, refurbishing, reclaiming and recycling. Over the lifecycle of the phone itself, revenue generation will increase multiple times with little or no growth in resource use. This is just one of the transformative potentials of circular models to economic growth.

    What is enabling the circular economy? We have identified five business models that include thinking about your product as a service and creating a platform to foster sharing communities. We’ve also found 10 technologies, in particular digital ones, which are enabling the transition. Consider the much-touted companies AirBnB and Uber. What they’ve managed to do would hardly be possible without technologies like social, mobile and machine-to-machine communication. These technologies enable suppliers, users and products to interact in complex networks without the need for costly field service or equipment investments by the companies.

    The good news is that the companies, models and techniques we have surveyed as part of an upcoming book demonstrate that the circular economy can represent massive productivity gains for companies in a range of sectors of up to four times, which is enough to tackle the estimated 40 billion ton material shortage we’ll reach by 2050. That’s not a bad competitive advantage when you consider that in a typical modern manufacturing company materials make up around 40 percent of total costs, compared to less than 20 percent for labour.

    Extrapolate this out, and we predict that the huge economic gains the circular economy can produce at scale are in fact significantly underestimated—something we set out in detail in our upcoming book.

    This is all excellent news from the macro level. What we need now is sector-by-sector pathways on how companies and consumers can work together with government. Progress is already being made. Consider the impressive circular economy work being done bythe winners of the inaugural Circulars Awards, announced this week at the World Economic Forum in Davos. What better way to mark the arrival of a new chapter in global capitalism?

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