Circular Economy and Material Value Chains

The Circular Economy Challenge

Business, governments and citizens around the world increasingly recognize the challenges caused by our “take-make-dispose” approach to production and consumption. In 2019, over 92 billion tonnes of materials were extracted and processed, contributing to about half of global CO2 emissions. The resulting waste – including plastics, textiles, food, electronics and more – is taking its toll on the environment and human health.

The circular economy, which promotes the elimination of waste and the continual safe use of natural resources, offers an alternative that can yield up to $4.5 trillion in economic benefits to 2030.

Achieving this transition requires unprecedented collaboration given that today, only 8.6% of the world is circular. We have a long way to go. To this end, the World Economic Forum’s Circular Economy Initiative brings together private, public, civil society and expert stakeholders to accelerate the circular economy transition by advancing three key pillars or work:

Advancing leadership commitment​

The Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy (PACE) was launched in 2017 by the Forum as a platform for public and private sector leaders to take commitments and accelerate collective action towards the Circular Economy​.

The PACE community consists of 80 public, private, international and civil society executive leaders and over 200 members championing 18 projects across the globe. Since early 2019, the PACE Secretariat has been hosted by the World Resources Institute in The Hague with continued leadership and collaboration of the Forum.

Transforming Material Value Chains​

The Forum hosts a series of major value chain action partnerships that work with partners along global material value chains to advance circular models – from plastics, electronics, batteries, cars, to fashion/ textiles:

·       Global Plastic Action Partnership

GPAP is a public-private collaboration platform launched in 2018 to help translate commitment to move to a circular economy for plastics into tangible strategies and investible action plans.​

·       Circular Electronics Action Partnership 

The partnership operates across the value chain – from manufacturing, reverse logistics, material recovery, to e-waste management, to unlock the circular economy potential for electronics. ​

·       Global Battery Alliance

A public-private collaboration platform with ~60 members seeking to establish a sustainable battery value chain​

·       Trade & Circular Economy

A collaboration between the trade and Circular Economy initiative to assess the role and function of trade in facilitating a positive circular economy transition. ​

Scaling Innovation and the 4IR

Scale360° is an emerging initiative which aims to mobilize action among innovators, governments, civil society, and private sector stakeholders to grow the ecosystem for circular 4IR technology innovation— with a focus on plastics, electronics, food and fashion/textiles. This work builds on the related report launched in 2019 to explore the potential of the 4IR to fast-track the circular economy.

The Circular Economy for Net-Zero Industry Transition

The initiative is designed to raise the decarbonization ambition for harder-to-abate materials (steel, cement, chemicals, and aluminum) and help those industries realize a 1.5° pathway by catalyzing scalable circular economy solutions. To find out more go to

The initiative convenes key stakeholders from the material supply side and key demand-side industries around dedicated Action Tracks, with the aim to facilitate industry collaborations along value chains on concrete circular economy solutions. These efforts will be guided by three main pillars:

  • Research and analysis: Building on existing macro evidence, undertake analysis to identify transformative circular economy partnerships

  • Mobilizing partnerships and industry champions: Mobilize champion companies around a common vision and drive coalitions for impact, including signing up to an industry pledge

  • Building political momentum: In close collaboration with government partners, convene political and business leaders to put climate and circular economy on the agenda at COP and beyond


For more information, contact Antonia Gawel, Head, Circular Economy Initiative ( Explore the Transformation Map and Center overview deck.


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