Sustainable Development

Making the $4.5 trillion circular economy opportunity a reality

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It is now increasingly important to adopt circular economy business models.

In the backdrop of spiraling prices and unmatched volatility it is increasingly important to adopt circular economy business models.

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Harnessing the Fourth Industrial Revolution for the Circular Economy: Consumer Electronics and Plastics Packaging

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The impact.

The World Economic Forum has committed to harness the potential of Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technology, innovation and smart policy through a global partnership called Scale360°.

Building on the Harnessing the Fourth Industrial Revolution for the Circular Economy Consumer Electronics and Plastics Packaging report, Scale360° brings together global partners to fast-track 4IR impact in the circular economy by supporting bottom-up innovation.

The Forum’s work will facilitate connections across its networks of experts, civil society, government and industry leaders--including the Platform for Accelerating Circular Economy (PACE), the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and others. The first national chapter was launched in November 2019 in collaboration with the Government of the United Arab Emirates. In 2020 a second national chapter will launch in Chile in collaboration with SOFOFA and the Ministry of Environment.

What's the challenge in realising a circular economy?

Currently only 9% of extracted materials are reused and 62% of global greenhouse gasses are emitted during extraction, processing and production of goods. There is a significant strain on the planet’s resources, which needs to be reduced.

Global use of materials has, however, more than tripled in the past 50 years and is set to double again by 2050, unless new approaches are adopted. In 2019 alone, we extracted over 92 billion tonnes of materials to meet the functional needs of society, the highest amount yet.

In the current context of spiraling prices and unmatched volatility it is increasingly important that value is created by adopting circular economy business models.


This partnership aims to trigger a worldwide movement for radical change by identifying new technologies and business solutions that break our dependency on natural resource extraction while marrying targets for protecting the environment with ones for boosting economies.

Dominic Waughray, Head of the Centre for Global Public Goods, World Economic Forum

Our approach to growing the circular economy.

Through collaborations with government, business, civil society and entrepreneurs worldwide, Scale360° aims to grow circular innovation ecosystems to accelerate adoption of 4IR solutions for the circular economy in the sectors of electronics, fashion, food, and plastics.

To this end, the initiative’s partner-led programs will surface, support, and connect 4IR technology innovations with private and public sector stakeholders nationally, regionally, and globally to address barriers to scaling solutions that help transition away from take-make-waste models.

Scale360° works along three dimensions:

  • Identifying value chain challenges for circular electronics, fashion, food, and plastics where 4IR technology can help
  • Shaping enabling ecosystems to scale solutions through public-private innovation partnerships
  • Connecting dispersed circular opportunities and 4IR solution providers through local, regional, and global communities

2020 will see the full establishment of Scale360° programme delivery with the launch of a global community and through a series of national partnerships. In November 2019, the first national chapter was established in the United Arab Emirates in collaboration with Ministries of Artificial Intelligence and Environment and Climate Change; in 2020, a second national partnership will launch in Chile in collaboration with SOFOFA and the Ministry of Environment. Global partners actively involved in the initial design of Scale360° include Google, IDEO, Philips, and Bill McDonough Associates, among others.

A circular economy is a regenerative approach to production and consumption, in which products and materials are redesigned, recovered, and reused to reduce environmental impacts. Research shows that the transition to a circular economy could generate $4.5 trillion in additional economic output by 2030.

How can you get involved?

This initiative is part of our Centre for Nature and Climate. We are inviting businesses to be part of this multistakeholder initiative, bringing their unique value and insights to Scale360° in order to find new solutions based on their own experiences with circular issues.

Other partners such as incubators, accelerators, investment funds or related networks can help drive circular innovations emerging around the world, through collaboration with existing global innovation and circular economy communities. Being part of Scale360° means supporting innovators to scale – all the way from policy, capital, and accelerating the connection with global players.

Scale360° also connects innovators to a global network through the Forum’s new, emerging UpLink digital platform.

Through initiatives like Scale360°, businesses can join the Forum to make tangible impact on circular economy solutions globally, improving the state of the world.

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Related topics:
Sustainable DevelopmentCircular EconomyEmerging Technologies
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