Research into circularity: Why do companies opt for circular?

Before Article

Berber Veenstra

Berber Veenstra started out at CFP as a researcher and is now a consultant. Her initial research into circularity has been completed and in this interview she would like to explain more about her findings.

Research into circularity

Berber studied the reasons for circularity and then looked at the impact that this has on the current real estate industry. The research was carried out using desk research and in-depth interviews. Since buildings are currently responsible for 35% of CO2 emissions, 12 respondents were questioned who work for the top 20 real estate and facilities companies in the Netherlands. The research question was as follows:
What is the impact of circularity on the added value of the facility and real estate industry?

The most important results of the study

Within real estate, circularity offers opportunities for:

  1. The future shortage of raw materials;
  2. A strategic position for attracting the new generation and young talent;
  3. Encouraging new technology and automation to reuse materials as effectively as possible.

Berber explains: “Technology will help us, by means of maintenance, to extend the lifespan of our products at natural intervals. It will also help us to ensure that we can better adapt to changing climate and other conditions. Serious opportunities will arise to reduce CO2 emissions from buildings. How? By, for instance, reducing the use of new materials, reusing more materials and preventing waste. It will, however, be necessary to examine how expensive it is to reuse products. In addition, circularity offers opportunities to create a multifunctional building in which the circular image attracts talents from the new generation.”

Improve market position through circularity

The most surprising conclusion of the study is that the image of a company/property is one of the main reasons for carrying out circularity. It attracts new talent and improves the position in the market. Berber: “At present, circular choices are sometimes more expensive than non-sustainable choices. But it turns out that circularity has been chosen in order to improve the current market position. This also indicates that the market assumes a high potential for circularity and the important search for new talent.”

The subject of circularity appealed to me from an early age! As a child, I was already used to using things (like bikes and clothes) second hand and I see the potential and the need to use products endlessly. Devising and implementing a proposition for this together with customers (such as Vattenfall and Alliander) is extremely satisfying.

– Berber Veenstra, Consultant at CFP

Recommendations for real estate managers / real estate owners

The study resulted in a number of recommendations for real estate managers and owners. Berber: “First of all, it is important to identify how circularity can be applied in a company in a logical manner. In addition, a circular awareness among staff is important, in which everyone is aware of his or her own responsibility. The origin of the building materials is also important (the number of kilometres from the construction site) and whether they can be disassembled and modified. Finally, it is vital that clear criteria apply to suppliers. If together we can increase the demand for circular materials, the supply will grow and the business case will become more and more attractive.”

Circularity ‘logical’ for everyone

According to Berber, circularity should be ‘logical’ to everyone. She explains this: “Why would you want to buy a product that won’t last forever? And why wouldn’t a manufacturer want to make a product as well as possible, with a long lifespan? Regardless of the climate and the future shortage of raw materials, this is the most ‘logical way’ to use products. In addition, the amount of waste must be reduced and this can be achieved only by boosting re-use.”

Future research

This investigation has provided Berber with many new insights. But she is taking a step further into the future. “I think it would be very interesting to eventually design a circular landscape with which we can measure not only the consumption of raw materials in buildings, but which we can also use to guide companies through a circular business operation. This also means that with a new and fresh perspective, business processes can be designed in a ‘logical’ and circular way.”

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