Embracing the transition to a circular economy in Australia is a significant step toward achieving a better future for people and planet.
Australian industries must move beyond a benchmark of ‘least harm’ and toward one of adding ‘more good’. They can do this by designing to replenish our planet rather than merely replacing our used resources. Businesses and organisations that do not adopt a circular approach will be left behind. The good news is that environmental labels are globally recognised tools that can strengthen your circular strategies.
The circular economy is a transformational framework that forces organisations and individuals to rethink how they work and live in this global community and on this planet. It is based on three principles, driven by design: eliminate waste and pollution, circulate products and materials (at their highest value), and regenerate nature.
According to Planet Ark’s Australian Circular Economy Hub, 88% of Australian senior decision-makers think the circular economy will be critical to the future of their business.
Federal and State governments have also made it clear that business as usual is no longer an option – publishing circular economy policies, statements and resource recovery strategies.
At GECA, we published our GECA Solutions for a Circular Economy action paper to showcase how we can help manufacturers, procurement, and sustainability stakeholders achieve their circular targets via three forms of environmental labelling.
The term ‘environmental labelling’ refers to a voluntary method of environmental performance certification that provides information about a product or service’s overall sustainability benefits. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has created global principles and procedures for environmental labelling, which GECA follows. The purpose of voluntary labelling is the communication of verifiable and accurate information.
So, what makes GECA qualified to talk to you about these tools? GECA is an independent not-for-profit organisation with over twenty years of experience engaging with stakeholders across the entire supply chain, from growers and manufacturers to retailers, procurement professionals, community groups, government agencies and individuals.
Our uniquely holistic approach means we view sustainability as encompassing environmental, human health and social impacts, along with quality considerations. GECA has proudly been a Certified B Corporation since 2015, meaning we meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability.
The lifecycle ecolabel is the most impactful circular solution showcased in our action paper. A true lifecycle ecolabel follows ISO 14024 principles. It is globally recognised as the most robust and credible form of environmental labelling by the United Nations. Lifecycle ecolabels look at multiple impacts across a product or service’s entire lifecycle, from the extraction of raw materials to the end of its life.
At GECA, we’re proud to have developed over 25 lifecycle ecolabel standards for various product and service categories. These are then independently assessed by our Assurance Providers. Many GECA certified products are appropriate for the built environment, including cement and concrete, waste collection services, flooring, steel and more. These are critical materials and services for Australian buildings and infrastructure.
GECA standards include circular criteria such as recyclability, replaceable parts, design for disassembly and product stewardship or take-back services. However, the standards particularly relevant to the circular economy are our Recycled Products, Waste Collection Services, Construction & Demolition Waste Services and Sustainable Products & Services standards.
Another powerful tool, particularly for avoiding ‘circularwashing’, is GECA’s Claims Authentication service which follows ISO 14021 principles. This type of environmental label is beneficial for companies who are not ready to achieve lifecycle ecolabel certification but want to show commitment and transition toward specific circular elements such as reusability or recycled content. Third-party verified claims can help add legitimacy, specificity and transparency to circular economy targets.
Finally, when making gains for a circular economy, Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) and Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) are critical supporting services following ISO 10425 principles.
An EPD or LCA does not imply that a declared product is environmentally superior to alternatives. However, data gathered via an LCA can provide a robust baseline for designing circular economy strategies, including product circular design improvements, identifying circular economy solutions, creating sustainable resource management and recovery, and strengthening circular business models.
GECA’s LCA Suite of services provide EPDs registered with EPD Australasia, which are publicly available and internationally recognised. GECA licensees can obtain $500 off the registration of their first EPD with EPD Australasia and 10% off the first year’s annual fee. Businesses with an EPD registered with EPD Australasia are entitled to a waiver of the $800 application fee for GECA certification and 10% off the annual license fee.
Whether you collaborate with GECA or any other reputable organisation, now is the time to integrate trust and transparency into your organisation, products and services.
A modified version of this article was first published in the inaugural issue of Green Review magazine on page 12 in August 2022.