The functional economy focuses on the use of a product rather than its ownership. Specifically, with the functional economy model, a company sells the right to use a product of which it maintains ownership. The famous example is Michelin, which no longer sells tires for fleets of company cars, but supplies "mobility services" consisting of repairing, retreading and in some cases exchanging tires. The economic outcome is that the company has an interest in making its products last as long as possible because the price is based on usage (in this case, the number of kilometres driven) and thus in reducing waste.
Sustainable Development Goals: Implementation in Europe – United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) Opportunities for Engagement of Major Groups and Stakeholders (MGS)
The EESC is drawing up an opinion on the Commission's recent communication dedicated to waste to energy. This public hearing aimed at gathering stakeholders' views on this critical aspect of the waste management and the transition towards a circular economy.
In the context of the UN 2030 Agenda, the European Economic and Social Committee will hold a public debate where we will explore how the EESC has worked towards implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in practice – both with civil society, and within the Committee itself.
The European Commission released in December 2015 the new version of the circular economy package. Its aim is to help the European economy move from linear to circular, more resource-efficient patterns, by ensuring that less resources are extracted from our natural environment and less waste is produced at the end of the product lifecycle. The package focuses on better design of products, improved waste management and recycling performance of EU Member States and the growth and job creation potential of the circular economy. It includes an Action Plan with a specific timeline up until 2017 on production aspects as well as a series of modifications to the waste legislation.
The hallmark of a sustainable circular economy is a society that reduces its burden on nature by ensuring that resources remain in use for as long as possible. Once the maximum value has been extracted, resources can then be recovered and reused, remanufactured, or recycled to create new products.
In the context of the Slovak Presidency to the EU, the Employers' Group of the European Economic and Social Committee is organising a conference entitled "Sustainable Industry in the context of the Circular Economy". The event will take place on 13th September 2016 in Kosice, Slovakia. The participants of the discussion will elaborate on how the circular economy can support sustainable growth and the role of business in the transition to a more circular economy.
How could the Digital Single Market benefit european consumers? This year's theme was a wide-ranging subject covering issues affecting consumers today in a very tangible way. The Committee has recently issued several Opinions and studies covering the digital transformation and how it impacts modes of production and consumption, and its work feeded into the discussions on many relevant topics, such as data sharing, digital inclusion and access to internet for all, artifical intelligence, digital contract rights, unnecessary geo-blocking, digital currencies and fintech, the sharing economy and the Collaborative economy.
Transition to a circular economy is a must if we are to protect our planet, but also if we are to increase the competitiveness of European industry. This is a long-term process that will require numerous initiatives at European, national and regional level. Companies see the circular economy as an opportunity. "Going green" is beneficial not only for the environment, but also for businesses, providing real savings in terms of raw materials, water and energy.