In an annual conference held entirely online on 3-4 November, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) voiced its determination to help make the Circular Economy Platform a real hub of the collective effort to build a circular economy in Europe.
Christa Schweng, the EESC's newly elected president, opened the event on 3 November together with Commission executive vice-president Frans Timmermans, looking back on the Circular Economy Stakeholder Platform's first three years as a database of good practices and a discussion forum for practitioners, and then forward to the term now beginning under the EU's new Action Plan for the Circular Economy.
"The past three years have shown that this is the way people want to work together," she said. "The European Circular Economy Stakeholder Platform, your Platform, is a great example of policy and practice working hand in hand.
"So please continue to share lessons learnt and inspiring examples, whether they are consumer products designed for circular behaviour, innovative ideas for decreasing and managing waste, jewellery designed from recycled material, governments' national circular strategies or schools preparing the next generation.
"If you look around, you will see that our joint transition has started, but we will need to do much more for the European Union to truly lead the global transition towards a circular economy."
Ms Schweng stressed that the circular economy will be key for the success of the European Green Deal, the EU's flagship plan for the years to come. She pointed to the circular economy's proven record in job creation (around 4 million new jobs between 2012 and 2018), at a time when job cuts are everyone's concern, and to the need to support business in making the transition while grappling with the impact of COVID-19.
The EESC's newly elected vice-president for communication, Cillian Lohan, one of the platform's initiators and a strong believer in its potential, opened the second day of the conference, stressing that cooperation has been and must be at the heart of the project:
"From the outset this platform has all been about collaboration," said Mr Lohan. "That history – though it's very recent history – is important to remember because the spirit of a collaborative project was set immediately: this was something that we were going to achieve together, rather than in conflict or competition with each other. And the platform has gone on to work in that spirit.
"The circular economy is a transition that is achieved by everyone, in this collaborative manner, with stakeholders at the front of it. Today we are looking to take the circular economy forward with all of you in the driving seat."
Mr Lohan welcomed participants to a series of interactive panels, networking sessions, virtual marketplaces and side-events at the EESC. Discussions tackled the following topics:
- Making textiles and fashion last longer
- Circular procurement
- Circularity in the construction value chain
- Circular approaches to reducing food waste
- Nudging and beyond: consumers towards circular behaviours
- Circular cities and regions
- Roadmapping guidelines
- Economic incentives
The event also featured the launch of an OECD report on the circular economy in cities and regions and a presentation of the German Presidency's circular economy agenda.
The Circular Economy Stakeholder Conference, now in its fourth year, is one of the three pillars of the European Circular Economy Stakeholder Platform – a joint EESC-European Commission initiative which aims to provide a "network of networks" to support a stakeholder-driven transition.
The Platform hosts an interactive website intended to promote and speed up the development of the circular economy with a best practices database, a forum for discussion and a host of useful information for stakeholders engaging in the circular economy.
Information about the conference page is available here.
The outcomes of discussions at the conference will soon be made available on the platform's website.