People are increasingly aware of the impact their purchases can have on the environment. According to a recent Accenture survey, more than half of consumers would pay more for sustainable products designed to be reused or recycled.

This trend is also an opportunity for companies to drive growth and compete in a market starting to embrace the circular economy. This was the theme of the 2019 Responsible Business Forum, a key topic I discussed in my keynote speech.

What is the Circular Economy?

The circular economy is based on three main principles:

  1. Designing out waste and pollution,
  2. Keeping products and materials in use, and
  3. Regenerating natural systems.

Circular economy vs linear economy
Circular economy ideas and models could be used to transform businesses, boost future job creation and help societies to achieve the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030.

SDG number 12 focuses on ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns. It calls for policies and practices that improve resource efficiency, reduce waste, and mainstream sustainability practices across all sectors of the economy.

Our unique business model is ideal for connecting the dots of circularity. We are working on several fronts to address this issue, through corporate initiatives and through the job our independent small business owners do every day within their communities in 94 countries across the world.

How We Are Helping the Environment

While we are primarily focused on SDG 2 (Zero Hunger) and SDG 3 (health and well-being), like all companies that manufacture and market products, there is a need to focus on SDG 12. Plus, the goals are not mutually exclusive.

Here are some actions we’re taking towards sustainable consumption and production:

Supervising the entire product life cycle

We have control, oversight or influence over the entire life cycle of our products – from R&D to the farm, manufacturing, supply chain, distribution – all the way to the consumer. Furthermore, our independent entrepreneurs provide us insights and feedback into product consumption.

This first-hand knowledge allows us to identify areas of opportunity where we can make improvements in packaging, reuse, and disposal. Plus, the fact that 70 percent of the manufacturing of our key product units happens in-house allows us to implement improvements in a timely manner.

Currently, we have more than 50 active, meaningful environmental sustainability projects across the globe, including eliminating shipments between manufacturing sites to reduce carbon emission and eliminating paper copies of business books and receipts, saving acres of trees annually.

Reducing overall waste

Over the years, we have made strides at the corporate level in reducing our packaging footprint and minimizing overproduction and product waste. However, we are also focusing on reducing food waste.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, an estimated $1 trillion dollars’ worth of food is wasted globally each year. We donate our still good, but closer to expiry date products to food banks and other worthy recipients as opposed to disposing of them. We also donate over-runs and off-brand apparel.

Reducing the use of plastic

Another key initiative we are focused on right now is eliminating plastic bags. Every year, more than 8 million metric tons of plastics enter the ocean. We have already started to remove plastic bags from our distribution centers in Latin America, Asia, and Europe and replaced them with reusable bags. We are embarking on this project in North America, which was widely accepted by our distributors. Once globally in place, we are expected to eliminate more than 30 million plastic bags per year.

In addition, we have reduced the amount of plastic used in our plastic canisters, which further reduces vehicle weight, carbon emission, plastic waste, and pollution. We have introduced larger containers of product designed for Nutrition Club owners, so they can be more environmentally sound too.

There is so much more that can be done. We are evaluating where the greatest impact is for the environment, based on our unique supply chain, manufacturing, and distribution model. It is a journey that we are proud to be on and excited to be part of, ensuring our company continues to thrive, as does the environment we live in.

Erin Richards-Kunkel

Erin Richards-KunkelSr. Director, Strategic Partnerships and Corporate Social Responsibility

Erin leads the development and execution of global partnerships and corporate social responsibility initiatives for Herbalife Nutrition. Her background combines analytical and creative expertise with degrees in both biological sciences and journalism from the University of California, Davis and the University of Southern California respectively. Her love of storytelling, science, and social good comes together in her approach for engagement and holistic campaign strategy and development.