It is becoming progressively clear that the current economic system threatens the availability of our essential resources. Consequently, current and potential scarcity is becoming increasingly pressing: regionally, economically, and geopolitically. This scarcity will, sooner or later, have a substantial economic impact worldwide.
In view of this, many companies have started to develop and apply circular business models, rather than the traditional linear, “end-of-life” concept. In addition, companies are eliminating toxic chemicals that impair reuse, and aiming towards the elimination of waste through the superior design of materials, products, and systems. But also governments all around the world are starting to acknowledge that our current “take, make, waste” economic growth model is living on borrowed time and that a more transformative approach is needed for our economy.
Opportunities and bottlenecks in transition to the circular economy
Going circular offers significant advantages. It boosts innovation and employment opportunities. It introduces brand new economic sectors and saves money at the same time. Research conducted by McKinsey on behalf of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation determined that the closing of economic loops can lead to savings of 290 to 485 billion euros a year in the EU alone. Furthermore, the circular economy offers indirect benefits to businesses as well: e.g. supply chains are better managed and companies become less sensitive to the price volatility of resources.
If circular business is such a good idea, what is keeping us from going ahead? There are many hurdles that have developed over the last 150 years due to the traditional linear economy system. Some existing systems will need to diminish allowing new schemes to appear. The main obstacles currently blocking the transition to a circular economy have been identified by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and others.
Governments: key to the shift to a circular economy
While companies can start doing circular business in our current linear economy, only governments can tackle many of the barriers that hamper the transition towards a circular economy. Many business models are held back from mainstreaming under existing regulations and limitations. Governments and local authorities have several instruments that they can use to present a more conducive environment for a circular economy. They can: introduce or tighten laws & regulations; take financial measures (like offering subsidies and taking fiscal measures); utilize procurement power; and develop symbiotic partnerships.
To inspire governments, De Groene Zaak set out on a journey to identify best practices worldwide. As far as we know, this is the first survey of governmental best practices accelerating the circular economy. Together with our partners: Accenture, EY, IMSA, Royal HaskoningDHV, and their global networks, we have identified case studies that are collected on this website. We invite all governments to find inspiration here and add their success stories as well to help promote the transition towards circularity.
We would also like to thank the civil servants of governments worldwide, who shared their observations and approaches and we hope it gives you valuable insights to follow those leaders.
In February 2015 we not only launched this website but also our publication Governments going Circular - Global Scan Best Practices. You can download the publication here.