Waste should be seen as valuable materials circulating in our systems

Published on Monday, 14 September 2020

Identify opportunities

Circular Economy means transforming the current economic model– based on extracting, producing, consuming, and discarding– into new circular business models. This innovation is allowed by the 4.0 industry and environmental sustainability.  It is an invitation to rethink our production and consumption methods to reduce the exploitation of raw materials and reduce waste drastically.  From a more macroeconomic perspective, it seeks to decouple economic development from the exploitation of natural resources.

"It is fundamental to change the way companies, clients and the market relate to one another. The mentality of throwing away, for example, must change towards one where waste does not exist, but rather that seen as valuable materials that circulate in our systems," says Natalia Correa.

In 2019, under Enel Chile's Sustainability Management and directed by its executives, the Circular Economy area was launched. In 2020, appointed experts in the area began working in each of the company's business lines. These leaders, who form a multidisciplinary team of 12 professionals, will have the challenge of promoting the group's Circular Economy strategy throughout the value chain, from our suppliers to our end customers.

The work carried out by Enel Chile is not something that happens in isolation within our company, but in synergy with the ecosystem. Our objective is to promote alliances and partnerships for the development of the Circular Economy in the country.

"We are part of the Technical Table's conversation about new markets for the Road Map of the Circular Economy that is being led by the Ministry of Environment, through Fundación EuroChile. We are also participating in the technical committee that is discussing the new ISO/TC323 of Circular Economy", says Correa. She also highlights their participation with other 12 Chilean experts in the planetary meeting in June of this year and representatives from 79 countries worldwide, through the Chilean National Standards Institute (INN).

"The challenge for Enel is to identify opportunities along the value chain to implement new business models innovatively," says Natalia. To this end, the company seeks to transform a linear economy into a circular one, based on five business models that have become our pillars:

Measuring generated benefits

At Enel, business circularity is quantified and valued, allowing us to have an exact notion of all benefits generated. For this purpose, the company has developed the Circulability Model, a measurement system based on life cycle analysis methodology, which allows for evaluating an asset's circularity in its value chain.

"This indicator allows us to generate a baseline of the circularity of our assets, services, and processes, measuring how this improvement occurs thanks to the application of one or more pillars of the Circular Economy, defined in our corporate strategy," explains the executive.

She adds that companies that adopt a circularity mentality can benefit from cost reduction, new income, innovation, efficient use of energy, and lower CO2 emissions. Thus, allowing them to reduce their risk exposure and develop a sustainable strategy through this new way of relating to natural resources, markets, and customers.

Extend the useful life of materials

Enel Group's international meeting held in 2018 in Rome brought together executives from various parts of the world to share results and strategy and analyze visions on safety, technical, environmental, and social issues related to energy production. Four women from Cerro Obligado in the city of Coronel attended the meeting. Letty Núñez, Claudia and Lorena Sandoval, and Elba Gutiérrez went on stage in front of four hundred people to talk about their experience with the "Entre Pallets." Created within the framework of Enel's Sustainability Plan developed in the Biobío region, the “Entre Pallets” workshop uses pallets from Bocamina Central and other industrial plants to make beautiful eco-furniture based from recycled wood.

Trained in eco-construction and recycling by Enel and the NGO Sembra, these women can design, create furniture and equipment for offices, homes, and community centers such as chairs, benches, furniture, desks, and beds. They seek to give new life cycles to materials that would otherwise be thrown away. "The current linear model, based on extracting, producing, consuming and discarding, is no longer sustainable," emphasizes Natalia Correa.

Circular cities

Currently, 55% of the world's population lives in urban areas, consumes 66% of the planet's energy, and produces 70% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, the same percentage that is estimated to increase waste production in 30 years. In this context, Enel began to work on the concept of Circular Cities, which seeks to have a holistic vision of the urban context in all its spheres.

Enel's Head of Circular Economy points out that Circular Economy is not something that happens in isolation within a company but in synergy with the ecosystem. "This is why part of the action plan is to identify alliances and partnerships and promote Circular Economy within the country," says Natalia Correa.

Enel's work in Chile in this area reflects the development of electromobility in public transport in Santiago. The latter came off from a joint effort with the Ministry of Transport and Telecommunications and an alliance between Enel X, Metbus, and BYD. The result: 433 electric buses are running through the capital with zero emissions to the environment. Another example is the Nueva Córdova Building, built by the Echeverría Izquierdo Company for the Sencorp Company, on Alonso de Córdova Street. The building has a distributed generation system using photovoltaic solar panels installed on the façade and roof of the building, generating around 11% of solar energy for consumption, allowing for self-sufficiency, lowering operational costs, and providing clean energy to recharge electric cars and bicycles. "This project will contribute to our environment, society, and the planet, through the efficient use of energy and the reduction of CO2 emissions," assures Correa.  The climate crisis calls us to action. At Enel, we work day by day to spread the principles of the Circular Economy throughout the entire value chain. We hope that many more companies will join this challenge, to achieve sustainable development and a more prosperous future.

To learn more about Circular Economy, click here.