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Here's how we can double the size of the circular economy in ten years

A circular economy would reduce pressure on the environment, improve raw material security, stimulate innovation and create jobs

A circular economy would reduce pressure on the environment, improve raw material security, stimulate innovation and create jobs Image: Polina Tankilevitch for Pexels

Stientje van Veldhoven
Vice President and Regional Director of WRI Europe, Co-Chair PACE, World Resources Institute (WRI)
Frans van Houten
Chief Executive Officer, Co-Chair PACE, Royal Philips
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  • The production and consumption of goods is a root cause of climate change and biodiversity loss.
  • It is imperative that we transition rapidly to a circular economy, which keeps products and goods in use for as long as possible.
  • Businesses, countries, and cities need to commit to doubling circularity within the next ten years.

Our current rate of consumption is unsustainable. The production and consumption of goods is a root cause of two of the greatest challenges the world faces: climate change and biodiversity loss. Nearly half (45%) of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions come from the way we make and use products and food, and more than 90% of biodiversity loss is due to the extraction and processing of natural resources. Transitioning to a circular economy can help turn this around.

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A circular economy designs out waste and pollution, keeps products and materials in use for as long as possible and regenerates natural systems. It also decouples consumption from producing more emissions, reduces pressure on the environment, improves raw material security, stimulates innovation, boosts economic growth and creates jobs. It has the potential to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by 39% and tackle interlinked crises such as biodiversity loss and over-extraction of resources.

According to the newly-released Circularity Gap Report 2022, of the 100 billion tonnes of materials which enter the global economy every year, only 8.6% are cycled back into the economy. This leaves a massive circularity gap of over 91% which needs to be addressed with urgent action.

Doubling circularity within the next 10 years

Systemic change is possible. Successful circular models are operating in many different sectors and locations across the world. We need to accelerate action and work together to scale up the change across businesses, governments and civil society. That’s why under a new strategy, the Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy (PACE) and its board members call for a global commitment to double circularity every ten years, working towards climate-neutral and inclusive economies.

As businesses, countries and cities rally behind this shared goal, public and private sectors can collaborate on a collective agenda to accelerate progress towards a circular economy, measured via the Circularity Gap Report. For businesses this means setting strategic circular business ambitions and adopting relevant metrics to measure progress. Depending on a company’s business focus, targets to consider could include, for example, commitments to achieving defined percentages for the amount of recycled input used in products, the number of products designed using circular principles, revenue generated from circular products and services, or the amount of waste sent to landfill.

Of the 100 billion tonnes of materials which enter the global economy every year, only 8.6% are cycled back into the economy
Of the 100 billion tonnes of materials which enter the global economy every year, only 8.6% are cycled back into the economy Image: CGRi

We call for more businesses, countries, and cities to commit to doubling circularity in the next ten years. This will bring more sustainable consumption and production into the mainstream, and initiate and drive the change needed in policy, practice, and behaviours. Leaders will be joining a growing movement of organizations and companies who are already putting circularity into action with new business models, eco-centric design methods, supplier engagement programs and recycling. This goal not only looks at action and resource efficiency in the short-term but provides us with a long-term strategy to tackle climate and biodiversity crises.

How can we double global circularity?

1. Measurement

Governments and businesses need to understand the progress they are making, identify gaps to guide action and share effective examples that can be further implemented to scale up the circular economy. There is a need for improved circular metrics for individual countries, cities and companies to understand their own progress towards achieving the global goal. PACE has been working with partners in the Circular Economy Indicators Coalition to improve metrics and circular transition indicators. Circulytics are company-level metrics available for businesses to reveal the extent their company has achieved circularity across its entire operations. The WEF stakeholder capitalism framework is another helpful guide towards measuring and reporting sustainable value.

2. Take action

The Circular Economy Action Agenda guides action towards the global goal. It sets out what a circular economy would look like, the potential impact it would have, the barriers impeding implementation, and most importantly, 10 calls-to-action across five focal areas designed to optimize impact, overcome barriers, and study the unknown – including practical examples of where to start and case studies of what is already working.

In 2021, the Action Agenda mapped 212 global actions across five focal areas: plastics, electronics, food, textiles and capital equipment. From waste prevention initiatives to recycling solutions and resource-efficiency innovations, there are around 80 inspiring examples of circular best practice to view in more detail on the PACE website.

3. Team up and scale

As we need new partnerships and processes to move at speed and scale in a circular economy, PACE has set up programs in which private, public and civil society partners can come together to overcome challenges and scale change as a collective. Key actors are championing programs for each focal area to advance action, with the need to add key sectors, such as the built environment, to address the complete picture of resource use. In addition, the programs address cross-industry issues or issues that are too complex for one company alone to take forward, such as financing and reporting.


What is the World Economic Forum doing about the circular economy?

What can we do now to make progress towards a circular economy?

We call on businesses, countries, and cities to identify where they can reduce emissions through implementing circular strategies. To create a global impact, governments and businesses need to accelerate action. Doubling circularity in the next ten years will bring us much closer to creating a healthy planet and tackling interlinked crises such as climate change and biodiversity loss.

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Forum InstitutionalCircular EconomyClimate Action
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