The world is on track to increase waste generation by 70% over the next 30 years. Much of this garbage is plastic, and it’s no surprise why: plastic production increased from 2.3 million tons in 1950 to 448 million tons in 2015 and is expected to double to 896 million by 2050. Now, about 8 million tons of plastic waste winds up in the ocean each year.

George Leonard, chief scientist at the Ocean Conservancy, says, “If we don’t get the plastic pollution problem in the ocean under control, we threaten contaminating the entire marine food web, from phytoplankton to whales. And by the time the science catches up to this, perhaps definitively concluding that this is problematic, it will be too late. We will not be able to go back. That massive amount of plastic will be embedded in the ocean’s wildlife essentially forever.”

Clearly, the time for action is now. “We must rethink, innovate, and implement at an unprecedented pace and scale to enable a thriving future for environment, economy, and society,” says Thomas Saueressig, member of Executive Board of SAP SE, Product Engineering.

It can be easy to feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the waste crisis facing the planet. Through education, the leaders of today can be empowered to change how we consume, how we operate, and how we do business.

That thriving future will not be built on the current disposable culture but instead by embracing the circular economy model, one in which waste is eliminated, resources are recirculated, and nature is regenerated.

As a leader in business software — including product design and manufacturing, supply chain and logistics, and product lifecycle management — SAP has both the technology and the responsibility to help global enterprises to develop circular systems. Indeed, the company has already started this vital work by providing the tools to companies that are interested in the circular economy through sustainability solutions.

With these business models already in place, a new openSAP course, Helping Business Thrive in a Circular Economy, offers anyone — SAP customer or not — a better understanding of how to apply these principles to their own business.

Specifically, three key principles are defined by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, an NGO dedicated to accelerating the adoption of this sustainable model:

  • Keep products and materials in use as long as possible
  • Design out waste and pollution
  • Regenerate natural systems

With these three directives as a guide, the free on-demand course features pioneering experts in the circular economy, such as Andrew Morlet, CEO of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, and Peter Hopkinson, professor of Circular Economy and co-director of the Exeter Center for the Circular Economy. It also features environmental activists and sustainable product luminaries, including Emily Penn, an ocean advocate and co-founder of eXXpedition, a trip that took 300 remarkable women on a circumnavigation of the globe to study the problem of plastics in the ocean. Stephanie Benedetto, CEO and co-founder of Queen of Raw, a marketplace for sustainable textiles, is a featured lecturer.

Helping Business Thrive in a Circular Economy is more than just a course. It tackles some of the most important issues of the day and is intended to change the global trajectory on waste by bringing businesses into the process. According to Saueressig, “Now more than ever, to achieve circularity, we must connect linear fragmented supply chains into unified, collaborative, and intelligent business networks that enable the reuse of materials.”

At SAP, we believe that technology is an important enabler to driving a circular and regenerative economy. It’s not the whole answer, but a key part of the solution. We need organizations to come together to tackle this, so SAP has launched the course to help spread the word and evangelize on why we must move to a world of zero waste — and move now.

The course begins October 4, 2021, and is free and open to anyone who wants to make a difference to the future of the planet.Content is available on demand. Sign up here, and share it with your networks.

Participating in just a few hours of coursework each week provides a cutting-edge education in how to bring the principles of a circular economy to businesses operating today. In five weeks, participants can gain a new understanding of this pivotal concept for their edification and to share with friends and colleagues, and see how to apply this to their own organizations.

In addition, it’s a valuable opportunity for team building. There are many options for collaboration within the course, including a discussion forum as well as optional peer-graded teamwork activities to gain extra credits. Those who complete all coursework will be eligible for a Record of Achievement certificate.

Importantly, participants will also be engaging with a vital concept that is already helping to build a sustainable future through partnerships between SAP and their clients. This course could be the first step on the journey to a better future for all.

Darren West is business development director for Circular Economy at SAP.