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Our Journey to Shape a Circular Economy (So Far)

September 28th, 2017

About 18 months ago, Environmental Initiative and Minnesota’s business leaders began drawing up a new partnership. Along with sustainability experts in our state, we came to the conclusion that no one company can solve the environmental problems of today on their own. Huge issues, like Minnesota’s water quality or organic waste recycling, cannot be completely addressed by one company alone.

The Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition came out of that realization. The Coalition is a business-led initiative focused on collective action. The growing partnership started out with a huge goal: move from a linear, waste-generating economy to a circular, waste-transforming economy.

A year and a half later, the Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition is a group of more than 30 members who’ve achieved a great deal to begin making impactful change.

Year one, and a little more

We officially launched the Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition in June 2016 and were immediately noticed, with over 500,000 social media impressions and coverage in 12 local and national news outlets. We were even called out in the Harvard Business Review as one of the top 9 sustainability trends in 2016. By 2017, the number of coalition members has doubled to 32, including seven from the Fortune 500. The need and desire for this type of innovative partnership were apparent.In its first year, members worked together to develop the infrastructure to support such major undertakings, despite being composed of highly diverse organizations. Perhaps most importantly, we developed our first three focus areas – advancing clean energy, converting organic waste into valuable resources, and protecting or restoring the natural water cycle.

In its first year, members worked together to develop the infrastructure to support such major undertakings, despite being composed of highly diverse organizations. Perhaps most importantly, we developed our first three focus areas – advancing clean energy, converting organic waste into valuable resources, and protecting or restoring the natural water cycle.

Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition Meeting 8-17-16

100 percent renewable energy

The Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition recognized early on that a circular economy can only exist if it is powered by 100 percent renewable energy, which is why members selected clean energy as the initial priority for action.

Throughout 2017, we’ve been focused almost solely on how we can advance that goal. Currently, we’re working on building a roadmap for the state of Minnesota to follow and work toward 100 percent renewable energy. The Coalition is also planning a series of workshops for members to better understand renewable energy options available to them and how to work together to purchase renewable energy more efficiently.

Impacts on water

Our next area of work—which we’ve just begun scoping— will focus on the role Minnesota businesses can play in improving regional waterways, which are in many ways our most valuable natural resource. We can’t wait to be able to share more details with you in the coming months.

The Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition has made a lot of headway in the past 18 months in defining and shaping goals toward such a big outcome—a regional, circular economy. What makes it exciting is the way this work is taking shape. We’re beginning to see the true potential for a circular system. Through our work so far, we know our goal is possible and achievable—and will have a limitless impact.

Sam Hanson

POSTED BY:

Director, Sustainability Program

A Year and 30+ dedicated organizations later…

February 23rd, 2017

The Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition is just over a year old, but already we’ve come a long way. More than 30 businesses and organizations now form a business led partnership that harnesses each member’s expertise to advance the next frontier of corporate sustainability – the circular economy.

Together, the Coalition has designated three strategic priorities for regional transformation and are actively educating on what a circular economy can do for Minnesota and the region.

NEW MEMBERS

The Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition is a business-led effort that also includes key public and nonprofit entities within its membership. This cross-sector representation is essential to advancing the circular economy. In June of 2016, the Coalition publicly announced itself as a 27 member strong collaboration. Since then, six additional organizations have joined the effort, including:

 

 

With these six additions, the Coalition expands to just over 30 members. Each new member brings a different perspective and a wealth of experience. This knowledge continues to better position the Coalition, allowing the group to more effectively work on advancing the aspects of a more circular economic system. With each new member, we get closer to realizing our vision.

CIRCULAR ECONOMY EDUCATION

Our members have been quick to explain and project circular economy concepts. Jessica Hellman, Director of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment (IonE) and Coalition member, recently penned an op-ed in the Pioneer Press demonstrating the value of transformative, far-reaching sustainability efforts.

Ackerberg, a recent addition to the Coalition, is the first commercial real estate company to join. Shortly after entering the group, they shared more information on the value they see in collaboration through a piece by Finance & Commerce.

And finally, the Coalition as a whole was featured in the Harvard Business Review as part of the 9 Sustainable Business Stories that Shaped 2016. Number nine focuses on the circular economy, with special mention of the Coalition.

OUR THREE PRIORITIES

Soon after the Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition launched, Environmental Initiative convened members to select priority areas for their work. Three areas of focus quickly emerged from these conversations including: 1) advancing clean energy, 2) transforming organic waste into resources, and 3) greening grey infrastructure.

Members selected clean energy as the initial priority for leadership and collaboration. Coalition members recognize a circular economy can only exist if is powered by 100% clean, renewable energy. It’s a big commitment, but we aren’t taking it lightly. Over the past six months, members have developed a clean energy work plan, have secured initial funding to support that work, and have begun taking actions that support increased access to renewable energy resources.

While a lot of progress has been made already, much more is ahead. You’ll be hearing a lot more from us as we continue to make progress on our clean energy work plan while also digging deeper in our greening grey infrastructure and organics focus areas.

Sam Hanson

POSTED BY:

Director, Sustainability Program
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