Sir Ian Cheshire has said that businesses that embrace resource efficiency are likely to be the ones that succeed.
The Kingfisher boss, which owns the B&Q chain, was giving evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee Growing a Circular Economy inquiry.
In his evidence, he also suggested that resource efficient products could be given a VAT incentive over conventional products and that BIS should have a role in promoting the circular economy and businesses becoming more resource efficient.
But he also warned that raw material prices are only likely to rise upwards and that this is one of the reasons why the introduction of the circular economy will be vital for businesses. He said that those businesses that are most adaptive to a rise in commodity prices, in terms of substituting materials for example or finding new sources from existing materials in the economy, will be those that are most successful.
And he also called for standardisation of local authority waste streams and materials to make it easier for businesses to access and use the materials in their supply chains.
He added: “We started looking at this because of concerns over raw materials. We are now seeing businesses leaders being interested in the offensive opportunity. How might this be a new model for the economy? And as new models and value disruption happens, there is a big shift between those that get it and get it earlier and win and those that don’t.
“Unless business gets interested, no amount of prodding by politicians is going to make a difference. But the real challenge, and maybe why it has been difficult, is that business has to re-design models and in some case products…
“…You can’t take an existing product, rub it a but, and make it circular. You have to go right back in….
“…It is something that if can engage customers in, they will prefer to use it.
“We have beginning of business interest in it, lots of work in terms of re-design and potentially a new generation of industrial designers coming out of colleges with this type of thinking, and the final bit is the opportunity courtesy of social medial to make this more mainstream much more quickly than it would have been possible 30 years ago.
“We are literally at the foothills at the moment of this. B&Q has 40,000 products and we are aiming for 1,000 of them to be resource efficient by 2020.”
WRAP chief executive Liz Goodwin was asked by committee chair Joan Walley MP whether the drive to develop a circular economy should come from Defra, BIS or incentives from the Treasury.
She answered: “It is something that is cross-Government. There needs to be mechanisms and financial drivers in there. But this is about the was we do business in a way that is better because it is include a more sustainable use of resources.
“If you manage to keep the resources in the economy better, then it is a better way of doing business. I come at it from the business point of view.
“Yes there are environmental gains as you are making better use of resources and saving carbon and materials. But it is about business and therefore there is a huge opportunity for us in the UK in terms of jobs and growth in the economy.”
Also giving evidence to the committee were Ellen Macarthur Foundation chief executive Jamie Butterworth and Green Alliance head of resource stewardship Dustin Benton.