Article

Breaking the barriers to the Circular Economy

According to businesses and policy makers
 

The Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Utrecht University, the Netherlands and Deloitte have jointly carried out research on barriers to the circular economy in the European Union. For this research, we have conducted a survey with 153 businesses and 55 government officials. These are from all over the EU, e.g. countries such as Portugal, Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium, the United Kingdom and Germany. Our survey respondents are CE experts with 82% of them working on CE in their daily jobs.

Executive summary

The Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Utrecht University, the Netherlands and Deloitte have jointly carried out research on barriers to the Circular Economy (CE) in the European Union. For this research, a survey with 153 businesses, 55 government officials and expert interviews with forty-seven thought leaders on the circular economy from businesses, governments, academia and NGOs have been carried out. Two types of barriers emerged as main barriers.

Firstly, there are the cultural barriers of lacking consumer interest and awareness as well as a hesitant company culture. This finding is at odds with claims that the circular economy concept is hyped; rather, the concept may be a niche discussion among sustainable development professionals. Research Program The Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Utrecht University, the Netherlands and Deloitte have jointly carried out research on barriers to the circular economy in the European Union. For this research, we have conducted a survey with 153 businesses and 55 government officials. These are from all over the EU, e.g. countries such as Portugal, Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium, the United Kingdom and Germany.

Our survey respondents are CE experts with 82% of them working on CE in their daily jobs. The survey was complemented by forty-seven expert interviews with CE thought leaders from businesses, governments, academia and NGOs. Examples of players interviewed are: Fairphone, Zero Waste Scotland, Springloop and the German Council for Sustainable Development. These expert interviews could take up to one hour or longer. Barrier sub-categories depicted in Figure 3 of this white paper were derived from these interviews. Data collection for this white paper was undertaken from May 2017 to September 2017. As far as we know, our research has resulted in the largest dataset collected on CE. The intention of this white paper is to ensure the rapid dissemination of recent research results. This paper will be followed by a more in-depth working paper which will undergo peer-review. The lead author of this paper may be contacted for additional information on this.

Secondly, market barriers emerged as a core category of barriers, particularly low virgin material prices and high upfront investments costs for circular business models.

Government intervention might be needed to overcome the market barriers which then may also help to overcome cultural barriers. Cultural barriers do also need to be overcome by circular start-ups. And, even though there is still no circular startup that has made global headlines, this may change soon. On the other hand are established firms with wait-and-see approaches regarding the circular economy, who are adopting risky strategies.

Breaking the barriers to the Circular Economy

More information?

For more information please contact Anne Huibrechtse-Truijens via the contact details below.

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