Local Firms Face Circularity Learning Curve: Survey

THEME: Circular Economy, Supply Chain, Sustainability

Circularity appears to be a vague concept for some local businesses.

As a result, Supply Chain Manitoba is launching a tool for Prairie companies to assess their own supply chains.

“This is obviously a learning curve for everyone, on the concept of circularity,” said Erin Lubinski, Supply Chain Manitoba’s director of workforce development.

circular logic


The capital investments required for some companies are going to be significant, says Rick Reid, CEO of Supply Chain Manitoba.

The non-profit recently unveiled results from its second survey on circularity, where it questions stakeholders about their awareness and implementation. The first report published in 2022.

A slight uptick of respondents — nearly 70 per cent — conveyed being familiar with circularity’s practices and principles this year. A circular economy involves reusing and regenerating materials.

However, less than one in five of the 103 surveyed organizations said circularity was a core part of their operations.

The data come as Canada races towards a net neutral emissions goal by 2050. Supply Chain Manitoba received roughly $1.1 million from Ottawa to raise awareness, promote and track circularity locally over three years, ending in March 2025.

Its previous report in 2022 sparked an idea to create an assessment tool for businesses, according to Rick Reid, Supply Chain Manitoba’s chief executive.

The tool will be piloted this fall. There will be an online component, but also, a consultant may visit businesses to perform assessments, sharing how to increase their supply chains’ circularity and improve profitability.

Supply Chain Manitoba’s goal is to assist 200 small and medium enterprises this autumn, spanning Manitoba and Saskatchewan, Lubinski relayed. The tool will be open to non-members; there may be a fee.

More education and legislation targeting circularity would further the goal of a circular economy, both Lubinski and Reid asserted.

Prohibitive costs, a lack of financial support, lack of internal skills or capacity and feeling of not needing to change are perceived hurdles to increasing circularity, Supply Chain Manitoba’s survey flagged.

The report clocked a slight decrease — to 53 per cent from 59 per cent two years ago — in companies introducing technology to reduce waste and pollution. Reid guessed cost was a factor.

“The capital investments that are going to be required for some companies (are) going to be significant,” he said, giving the example of buying equipment to reprocess plastic bottles.

Still, keeping supply chains close to home is less risky, he added. Adopting near-shore circularity where possible and using materials for a longer period of time will help in future pandemics, he explained.

Peer-to-peer sharing — via professional networks, employees and sector associations — was the most common way organizations wanted to learn about circular practices, Supply Chain Manitoba’s survey found.

“We’re trying to look at … change that not only sends us towards a trajectory of a greater Manitoba, but … also brings a return on investment for the business,” said Christa Rust, program director for Manitoba Green Advantage, a Manitoba Chambers of Commerce initiative.

The Green Advantage program is funded by the federal government. Rust is in the process of creating a grant tailored to small- and medium-size companies to conduct green assessments.

The grant, which will allow up to $10,000 each for 60 enterprises, is planned to launch in the fall. If a company conducts a green assessment and learns they can improve their supply chain, they’ll be directed to Supply Chain Manitoba, Rust said.

By: Gabrielle Piché
Posted: The Free Press