The European Union (EU)’s non-financial reporting directive (NFRD) law requires that large undertakings including corporations, listed businesses and government entities, among others, to disclose information on the way they operate and manage social and environmental challenges. This helps investors, civil society organisations, consumers, policy makers and other stakeholders to be in a better position to evaluate their non-financial performance (Camilleri, 2015; Camilleri, 2018; EU, 2014).
Recently, the EU (2021) put forward its proposal for a Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), which would amend the existing reporting requirements of the NFRD. In sum, the proposal extends the audit requirement to large companies and listed businesses in regulated markets (except listed micro-enterprises). They will be expected to introduce more detailed reporting requirements, according to mandatory EU sustainability reporting standards. At the time of writing this contribution, it is envisaged that the first set of standards would be adopted by October 2022 (EU, 2021).
This is an excerpt from my latest paper that was accepted for publication in Wiley’s Sustainable Development (impact factor: 4.082).
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.
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.
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
The University of Malta’s promising academic, Dr Mark Anthony CAMILLERI lectures in an international masters programme run by the University of Malta in collaboration with King’s College, University of London. Mark specialises in strategic management, marketing, research and evaluation. He successfully finalised his PhD (Management) in three years time at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland – where he was also nominated for his “Excellence in Teaching”. During the past years, Mark taught business subjects at under-graduate, vocational and post-graduate levels in Hong Kong, Malta and the UK.
Dr Camilleri has published his research in reputable peer-reviewed journals. He is a member on the editorial board of Springer’s International Journal of Corporate Social Responsibility and Inderscience’s International Journal of Responsible Management in Emerging Economies. He is a frequent speaker and reviewer at the American Marketing Association’s (AMA) Marketing & Public Policy conference, in the Academy of International Business (AIB) and in the Academy of Management’s (AoM) annual gatherings. Mark is also a member of the academic advisory committee in the Global Corporate Governance Institute (USA).
Mark’s professional experience spans from project management, strategic management, business planning (including market research), management information systems (MIS), customer relationship and database marketing to public relations, marketing communications, branding and reputation management (using both conventional tools and digital marketing).
Although there has been substantial research on enterprises; information on their financing needs is quite limited. Small business entities are often viewed by financial institutions as relatively risky. In this light, the European Union (EU) continues to reaffirm its support for the small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). As a matter of fact, the EU has drafted the ‘Small Business Act’ in 2008 and has refined it again in 2011. Another example of the EU’s commitment in this regard is conspicuous as it frequently calls for research and training schemes in the subject area of ‘SMEs’, where grants are issued under ‘Marie Curie’ and ‘Cordis FP7’ programmes.
Very often, small firms tend to find themselves in an equity gap, where it may prove quite hard to acquire capital. Although commercial banks are key providers of finance for many enterprises through the provision of loans; unsecured debt finance without collateral is very limited. Therefore, SMEs’ growth into viable investment opportunities may be severely restricted. Throughout the years, the EU has dedicated several funds to help these small (and micro) enterprises. Recently, the EU’s Enterprise and Industry Division has reiterated the importance of improving access to finance for SMEs. This interesting development has led to numerous funding schemes and to a new generation of financial instruments that support SMEs’ financing needs. Evidently, the EU has committed itself to boost its support for SMEs through various financing programmes, as illustrated in Table 1.
Table 1: EU measures that support SMEs
Source: EU (2015).
Europe is responding to the contentious issues facing SMEs by providing a mix of flexible, financial instruments under programmes, such as; the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP), Progress Microfinance, the Risk Sharing Instrument (FP7), EIB loans and Structural Funds. For instance, the EU (in 2013) allocated a budget of €2.3bn specifically to bolster the “Competitiveness of Enterprises and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises” (COSME) during the period between 2014 to 2020. This initiative has been designed to support European SMEs in four key areas:
Helping SMEs access finance;
Supporting SMEs who wish to internationalise their business, and
Reducing the legislative and regulatory burden on SMEs.
Almost 220,000 SMEs profited from the Commission’s Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP) programme (EU, 2013). CIP has proved to be a very successful programme over the past few years. Since 2007, there were many SMEs that had benefited from CIP Funding . In fact, CIP was able to stimulate more than €15 billion of financing for SMEs, so far (EU, 2013). With a budget of €1.1 billion (CIP) has helped to mobilise over €13 billion of loans and €2.3 billion of venture capital for SMEs across Europe. Under its SME guarantee facility, CIP has helped nearly 220,000 SMEs to access loans.
These loan guarantees are required by individual entrepreneurs or small enterprises that do not possess sufficient collateral. Every euro that is dedicated to guarantees will in turn stimulate 30 euros in bank loans (EU, 2013).
On the 17th June, the European Commission has launched the European Hospitality Skills Passport. This skills passport was developed to bridge the gap between job-seekers and employers in the European hospitality and tourism sector. This incentive promotes mobility of European workers, especially young people, in a sector that still has high growth potential. Interestingly, this tool compares hospitality workers’ skills in order to facilitate their recruitment in tourism and hospitality. It is hoped that this passport will shortly be extended to other sectors in the future.
The Skills Passport is hosted on the European Job Mobility Portal EURES, and is available in all EU official languages. It is an initiative of the European Commission in collaboration with HOTREC the umbrella association representing hotels, restaurants, cafés and similar establishments in Europe; and EFFAT, the European Federation of Trade Unions in the Food, Agriculture and Tourism sectors.
The European Commission has developed a European Tourism Indicators System (ETIS) for Sustainable Management at Destination Level, which is a comprehensive system, simple to use, flexible and suitable for all tourism destinations.
The system is designed to be used by tourism destinations to monitor, manage, measure and enhance their sustainability performances, without the need of any specific training. Motivations for tourism destination monitoring include:
•Improved information for decision making
•Effective risk management
•Prioritization of action projects
•Improved community buy-in and support for tourism stakeholders
•Enhanced visitor experience
•Increased bottom-line / cost savings
•Increased value per visitor
The European Commission has recently published its draft proposals for further transparency and comparability of financial services, as it aims to simplify the process for the switching of accounts among its EU member states. It also wants to enhance accessibility to basic bank accounts – for the benefit of European citizens. The proposed directive posits that all banking service providers should provide their consumers with information document(s) listing their services and they are being obliged to disclose their costs.
The EU Commission maintained that all the financial documentation may be drafted using standardised terminology and formats in order to facilitate comparison across different jurisdictions. In addition, this EU proposal requires that every European member state should have at least one independent price comparison web site which gathers and disseminates all the relevant information (including fees and charges) which may be incurred by customers.
The Commission advocated that its proposal will facilitate the process for customers who may wish to switch their bank accounts. This directive suggests that the financial service providers themselves will have to deal with all the steps involved in the switch. It stipulates that the payment service providers must complete this procedure within 15 days (30 days if customer change their accounts in different EU countries). Interestingly, this service must be provided free of charge.
The EU Commission came up with “legally binding measures on payment accounts”. Arguably, with such a directive, the Commission will strengthen its single market. At the same time, the European consumer will be presented with competitive offers and lower costs for their banking services. It is anticipated that the EU bloc’s financial services industry will benefit from increased mobility of clients (including cross-border), with reduced barriers to entry.
No longer are smaller businesses considered as reactive and peripheral forces in terms of innovation, employment and productivity.SMEs prevail in their contribution to the GDP of the world economies. The countries with a high percentage of SMEs tend to exhibit a relatively equal distribution of income. Therefore, SMEs may cause higher social stability in their local environmental setting. There are more than ninety-nine per cent of all businesses worldwide which are SMEs with less than 250 members of staff. Within the European Union there are more than 19 million SMEs, which provide employment for more than 74 million citizens. In aggregate, they are providing two out of three of the private sector jobs of the EU labour market. What might possibly be even more intriguing is that nine out of ten SMEs are actually micro-enterprises with less than 10 employees.
It may be argued that SMEs are the true back-bone of the European economy, as they are responsible for wealth and economic growth, along with their key role in innovation, research and development. The perceived importance of SMEs in Europe is reiterated at the political level as well. For instance, in a recent communication, the European Union’s Enterprise and Industry Division has reiterated the importance of improving access to finance for SMEs. It is hoped that the small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) will drive the recovery in Europe. On the 2nd May the European Commission / European Investment Bank (EIB) joint report maintained that their support for SMEs has reached €13 billion in 2012. In addition, the Commission-funded guarantees have helped to mobilise loans worth more than €13 billion, boosting nearly 220,000 small businesses across Europe. This latest report covers the results of the current funding schemes as well as the new generation of financial instruments for SMEs. It transpired that the financial resources for SMEs were significantly enhanced through the €10 billion increase in the EIB’s capital.
During a meeting of the SME Finance Forum, on the eve of an Informal Competitiveness Council on the 2nd and 3rd of May in Dublin, the European Commission launched a new single online portal on all EU financial instruments (for SMEs) and an information guide to promote SMEs’ stock listings. The Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship held that access to finance of SMEs remains difficult and it is still one of the main reasons for the current economic downturn. Therefore, EU authorities will boost loan guarantees to SMEs under the new COSME programme (as from 2014). Every euro dedicated to guarantees will possibly have the power to stimulate 30 euros in bank loans. Almost 220,000 SMEs profited from the Commission’s Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP) programme. CIP was able to stimulate more than €15 billion of financing for SMEs, so far. With a budget of €1.1 billion (CIP) has helped to mobilise over €13 billion of loans and €2.3 billion of venture capital for SMEs across Europe. Under its SME guarantee facility, CIP has helped nearly 220,000 SMEs to access loans. These loan guarantees are used where the individual entrepreneur or the small enterprises do not have sufficient collateral. In many cases, banks will not provide them with a loan (debt financing).
More than 90% of the beneficiaries of loan guarantees are micro-enterprises, with less than 10 employees. Such enterprises struggle to raise their capital. They find themselves in an equity gap, where it is very difficult to acquire finance to operate efficiently. Although banks are key providers of finance for most small firms through the provision of loans, unsecured bank finance is very limited. Therefore, the SMEs’s growth into viable investment opportunities may be severely restricted. Cashflow-based lending is relatively rare and growing businesses rarely have unused security available. Despite the changing debt market, one of the main reasons why small businesses fail to get the debt finance they need; is their inability to provide adequate collateral. Even small businesses with high growth potential can experience difficulty in raising relatively modest amounts of risk capital, which is inevitably required to fund their ambitions for growth. Moreover, the external forces and potential threats in the business environment may impact harder on the small businesses than on the larger corporations. For instance, changes in government regulations, tax laws, labour legislation and interest rates may usually affect a greater percentage of expenses for the smaller businesses than they do for their larger counterparts.
Europe is responding to the contentious issues facing SMEs by providing a mix of flexible financial instruments under programmes such as the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP), Progress Microfinance, the Risk Sharing Instrument (FP7), EIB loans and Structural Funds.