Ricoh Group is a UK-based company which provides managed document services. The company has been the leading in the provision of innovative products and services since it was started in 1936 (Yamashita 2018). The company offers many products and services. They include office products, commercial and industrial printing, consumer products, industrial products, and services.
One of the products produced by the company is office products such as printers and copiers; projectors; video conferencing; and interactive whiteboards. Ricoh produced its first office digital copier in 1987. Since then, the company has been at the forefront in the shift from analogue copiers to digital copiers and from black and white copiers to colour copiers. Also, Ricoh Company produces different models of projectors with various features. These models include Entry, Standard, Desk Edge, Short Throw, Ultra Short Throw, and High Edge (Ricoh 2018).
Additionally, the company is a leader in video conferencing technology. Ricoh's telecommunication technology includes video, audio, documents, and other types of media. The video and audio communication take place via the Internet. Consequently, this communication technology has enabled companies to free themselves from the location and environmental constraints that are common in conventional video conferencing systems. Lastly, Ricoh's Interactive Whiteboards have been reported to be of high quality, to enable remote sharing of images, and to allow smooth handwriting (Ricoh 2018).
Ricoh's commercial and industrial printing products include production printers, industrial inkjet, garment printers, and thermal media. The industrial injects many applications. They include sign graphics (printing of large, eye-catching signs to posters), textiles (digital textile printing, DTG, and banner), 3D printing which has enabled the development of three-dimensional objects, labels and packages, and decorations. Ricoh is also the leading provider of consumer products such as digital cameras, spherical cameras, and watches. Some of the types of cameras manufactured by the company include Digital SLR, Mirrorless, Compact, Action Camera, and 360 Spherical Camera. Apart from cameras, the company produces lenses such as wide-angle lenses, standard lenses, telephoto lenses, and macro lenses (Ricoh 2018).
Ricoh products have a diverse customer base. With its global network, it supplies its products to about 200 countries. Its customers include offices which purchase printers and copiers; projectors; video conferencing; and interactive whiteboards. Also, Ricoh products, such as printers, industrial inkjet, garment printers, and thermal media, are utilized in industries. Other industrial uses of Ricoh products include digital textile printing, 3D printing, labelling and packaging, and decorations (Ricoh 2018).
Concepts and Characteristics of the Circular Economy
The idea of the circular economy can be traced to the late 1970s when its use was first embraced (Geissdoerfer, Savaget, Bocken, & Hultink 2017). According to Geissdoerfer et al. (2017), the circular economy is a term used to describe an industrial economy characterized by its capacity to restore or regenerate itself, both intentionally and by how it is designed. This definition was framed and popularized by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Also, Circular Economy has been defined as a system which can regenerate itself through minimization of resource input and waste, pollution, and energy leaks by a slowdown, closure, and narrowed material and energy loops. This can be attained via endurable design, maintenance, repairing, reusing, remanufacture, refurbishment, and recycling of materials (Geissdoerfer et al. 2017).
In a circular economy, the economic activities build and rebuild the overall health of the whole system (Ellen MacArthur Foundation 2017). In this type of economy, it is vital for the economy to need to work effectively at all levels, from small businesses to large, from individuals to organizations, and from a local scale to global scales. It is worth noting that a shift to a circular economy does not necessarily imply adjustments meant to reduce the adverse effects of the linear economy. Instead, it reflects a systemic shift that results in long-term resilience, yields business and economic opportunities, and generates benefits to both the environment and the society.
The circular economy model gives a clear distinction between technical and biological cycles (Mestre and Cooper 2017). Based on this model, consumption occurs in the biological cycles, where food and organic materials are made to get back into the system via a process such as composting and biogas digestion. The biological cycles lead to regeneration of living systems, e.g. soil which supplies renewable resources back to the economy. On the other hand, technical cycles lead recovery and restoration of products, materials, and components via reusing, repairing, remanufacturing or recycling.
The Main Drivers of the Circular Economy
Environmental Benefits of Circular Economy
The global need for the circular economy has been fueled by diverse sustainability issues. First, there is an increasing need to move to more sustainable sociotechnical systems globally (Markard et al., 2012). Second, the need for the circular economy has been linked to the contemporary environmental problems such as loss of biodiversity, various types of pollution (such as soil, air, and water pollution), and over-exploitation of land. These environmental hazards have jeopardized planetary life-support systems and put the living things (animals and plants) at risk. Third, the need for circular economy is linked to unmet social expectations such as increased poverty rates, the increased gap between the wealthy and the poor, social vulnerability, poor working conditions, and elevated unemployment levels. Lastly, economic problems, including risks in supplies, problems in ownership structures, markets deregulations, and presence of weak incentive systems have necessitated a circular economy.
It is important to note that the environmental benefits of the circular economy have been reported in the literature. According to the European Environmental Agency (2016), a circular economy, unlike the traditional take-make-consume-dispose approach, is implemented with strict adherence to environmental boundaries as manifested through increased availability of environmentally-friendly or recyclable resources and decreased use of raw materials as well as energy. Because of the use of renewable resources, the circular economy has lower rates of environmental pollution and reduced loss of resources. The environmental benefits associated with the circular economy can also be linked to strategies such as eco-design, re-use, repair, refurbishment, sharing, and recycling of the current products and materials. Consequently, this type of economy is vital for the maintenance of products, its parts, and materials and in maintaining the value of the products.
In Europe, the benefits of the move towards this type of economy have been reported to be high. Most significantly, it has led to decreased environmental pressures in Europe and beyond. Consequently, Europe has reduced its high dependence on imports. Therefore, adoption of the circular economy has thus resulted in cost savings as imports have been cut, thus increasing the competitiveness of the products manufactured in Europe. Because of the increased competitiveness of Europe's industry, there have been substantial benefits to the economy such as increased employment opportunities. This is despite that fact that the ever-rising global competition for natural resources has led to increased prices as well as the volatility of prices in other parts of the world.
Economic Benefits of Circular Economy
The World Economic Forum has also reported the economic benefits associated with the adoption of a circular economy. Specifically, the World Economic Forum notes that the elimination of waste provided by a circular economy through the reuse of materials has led to increased cost savings and decreased dependence on natural resources. These benefits extend beyond the industries as it is also beneficial to customers. Some of these economic benefits include increased employment opportunities, innovation, mitigation of price volatility and supply risks, and higher net material savings (World Economic Forum 2016).
On the potential of this economic model to create new jobs and reduce unemployment, the World Economic Forum explains that the circular economy has the potential of increasing local job opportunities, mainly in entry-level and semi-skilled jobs. Thus it can address the unemployment problem existing in developed countries. The new business models associated with the circular economy are highly likely to have a better competitive advantage because of their ability to have much more value from each unit of resource. Unlike other models, the circular economy also has a higher likelihood of meeting market requirements such as security of supply, higher convenience for customers and decreased environmental costs. Moreover, it has been argued that in a world of nine billion of people and high competition for resources, there is higher tendency for market forces to favor circular economy models that incorporate specialized knowledge and cross-sector collaboration to come up with the highest value per unit of resource compared to linear models that have been associated with higher resource use.
Another economic benefit of the circular economy model is increased innovation. According to the World Economic Forum, the increased need for replacement of linear products with circular products and the creation of reverse logistics networks has been linked to spurring of new ideas. That is, the adoption of circular business models would lead to enhanced innovation across the economy. Moreover, the circular economy has proven essential in mitigation of price volatility and supply risks. The decrease in the price of the raw materials is linked to the net material savings. For a resource like steel, the use of circular economy model could lead to savings of over 100 million tonnes of iron ore in 2025. Lastly, circular economy model results in substantial net material savings. It has been estimated that the implementation of a circular economy, especially in the medium-lived complex products industries, leads to savings of up to $630 billion per annum at the European Union level. These cost savings opportunities are associated with a net materials cost savings opportunity.
Circular Supply Chains Supporting Circular Economy Processes
A circular supply chain refers to a chain that maintains resources in use as long as possible. That is, it is associated with a reduction of waste in each of its stages, from the design phase to the when the products and distributed and beyond. A circular supply chain has also been described as having creativity and as being dedicated to the bigger picture. The figure below shows a circular supply chain by Tradeshift, a web-based business network. As it can be seen in the graphic below, re-using or repairing precedes recycling. This is because the recycling process is more likely to consume a lot of energy. Consequently, the identification of re-use opportunities before considering recycling is meant to save energy in the long term (Hassiotis 2018).
The circular supply chain also matters a lot in corporations because of the failure of corporations to act soon will lead to significant adverse consequences globally. Examples of the negative impacts of failing to use circular supply chain incl...
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