Europe's Circular Economy "network of networks" rises to challenge of circular transition

More than 350 circular economy stakeholders from across Europe shared their success stories and the challenges they face during the second day of the Circular Economy Stakeholder Conference, hosted by the European Economic and Social Committee on 7 March 2019.

EESC member Cillian Lohan called on participants to reflect on a key question for the development of the Circular Economy: Who is going to drive the change? Should it be consumers, business or policy makers: who should go first? 

"I would argue that in making the initial change responsibility should not be put on the consumer," said Lohan, who also stressed: "It is changes in business practices, supported by policy changes and policy infrastructure that will actually create the environment where consumers have the affordable and accessible options that will allow them to make circular, sustainable choices."

Ladeja Godina Košir, chair of the European Circular Economy Stakeholder Platform, called on participants to make the most of the Platform as a support network to help solve the problems they encounter in their Circular Economy project. She had a clear message: "We want to be the network of networks for everyone."

Joanna Drake, deputy director general, DG Environment, stressed the crucial role of stakeholder involvement in the European Commission's Circular Economy initiatives, saying: "Part of their success is a focus on a bottom-up approach calling on support and engagement with stakeholders through cooperation, platforms, exchanges of best practices and voluntary business approaches."

Discussions took place in eight interactive workshops focusing on the following topics:

  • Mapping Circular Strategies in Europe
  • Consumer Insights for the Circular Economy
  • Social dimension of the Circular Economy
  • Circular Cities for Climate Change Mitigation
  • Circular Public Procurement
  • Tools for Measuring the Circular Transition
  • Creative Innovation for a Circular Economy
  • Bio-Circular Villages for rural development

The day closed with the launch of the Kindred Spirits exhibition.

Participants were also inspired by an unconventional speech on suggestions for navigating what's next in the Circular Economy by Rieta Aliredjo, chair of the Stars-are-circular Foundation. Her message? Be curious, aware, generous and playful!

Reports with findings from each workshop are available here. (dm)