Monthly Archives: July 2020

The European Union’s circular economy plan for cleaner production and sustainable consumption of resources

This is an excerpt from my latest paper that was accepted for publication in Wiley’s Sustainable Development (impact factor: 4.082).

The circular economy strategy (EU, 2014)

This is an excerpt from my latest paper that was accepted for publication in Wiley’s Sustainable Development (impact factor: 4.082).

The EU’s (2020) plan is encouraging businesses as well as their consumers to engage in the circular economy’s sustainable production and consumption behaviors, and to use and reuse products, materials and resources. It is urging them to minimize their impact on the natural environment by reducing their waste and emissions.

The transition towards the circular economy can be facilitated if the EU national governments would create a favorable climate for stakeholder engagement. They can provide technical assistance, mobilize financial resources and facilitate positive impact investing in circular economy systems.

For instance, the European Green Deal Investment Plan (EIP) is currently supporting industry sectors relating to the provision of sustainable energy, energy efficiency, sustainable cities and sustainable agricultural practices, among other areas.

Various academic articles confirmed that practitioners will only be intrigued to engage in the circular economy if it adds value to them, in terms of the economic return on investment, process improvements and product benefits. The business case will motivate practitioners, creditors and investors to shift from unsustainable and irresponsible practices to the circular economy’s sustainable production and consumption behaviors.

Business and industry practitioners are perceiving that there are economic and environmental benefits if they adopt cleaner production systems and sustainable supply chains. Notwithstanding, there are various organizations, including non-profit organizations that are actively engaged in repairing, refurbishing, restoring and/or recycling materials.

On the other hand, this paper identified some of the possible challenges that could have an effect on the businesses’ engagement in the circular economy. The advancement toward the circular economic practices may still prove to be difficult and challenging for some industries.

For the time being, there are many practitioners that are opting to remain in their status quo as they still rely on linear economy models. In pragmatic terms, it may not be feasible for businesses in the mining and extraction industries and/or for those that manufacture products and components for textiles, plastics, electrical and electronic items, among others, to avoid using hazardous substances (as there are no sustainable options for them) or to reduce their externalities, including emissions and waste.

These industry sectors are still finding it hard to reuse and recycle materials or to dispose of their waste in a sustainable manner. For example, the construction and demolition industry will incur significant costs to sort, clean, repair and reutilize materials like scrapped steel, metals, tiles, cement, glass, et cetera.

The smaller business enterprises may not have access to adequate and sufficient financial resources to make green investments. They may not perceive the business case for the long term, sustainable investment, or they may not be interested in new technologies that will require them to implement certain behavioral changes.

There may be other challenges that could slow down or prevent the industry practitioners’ engagement in the circular economy strategies. The governments may not introduce hard legislation to trigger the corporations’ sustainable production and consumption behaviors as this could impact on the businesses’ prospects.

For these reasons, businesses may not mitigate their externalities, including their emissions or unwanted waste, as these responsible actions would require changing or upgrading the extant technologies or practices. Alternatively, they may face other contingent issues like weak economic incentives; access to finance; shortage of green technologies; and a lack of appropriate performance standards in their workplace environments, among other issues.

The EU needs to overcome these barriers. To do so, it requires the cooperation of all stakeholders including policy makers (of different member states), industry practitioners, consumers and non-government organizations, among others, to translate its policies into concrete action.

Conclusions and Recommendations

This review indicated that, in many cases, the European policies and strategies have led to a significant reduction in waste and externalities in different EU contexts. However, the Commission ought to accelerate the shift toward the circular economy ~ in the light of the significant changes in our natural environment and biospheres.

Relevant academic research reported that policy makers can possibly provide the right infrastructures, resources and capabilities in terms of logistics, supply, distribution, training, et cetera, to different businesses and industry practitioners. For instance, they can create clusters that would facilitate the circular economy’s closed loop systems. The development of clusters may result in less dispersed value chains, economies of scales and scope, as well as improved operational efficiencies in manufacturing and logistics.

How to Cite: Camilleri, M.A. (2021). European environment policy for the circular economy: Implications for business and industry stakeholders. Sustainable Development, https://doi.org/10.1002/SD.2113

Related papers:

Camilleri, M. A. (2019). The circular economy’s closed loop and product service systems for sustainable development: A review and appraisal. Sustainable Development27(3), 530-536. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/sd.1909

Camilleri, M. A. (2018). Closing the loop for resource efficiency, sustainable consumption and production: a critical review of the circular economy. International Journal of Sustainable Development21(1-4), 1-17. https://www.inderscienceonline.com/doi/abs/10.1504/IJSD.2018.100802

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