Contrary to current sustainability efforts, circular economy does not aim to improve existing systems or correct faulty points, but to change the system as a whole. This transformation, which should be kept separate from sustainability, requires a complete change in social and economic structures starting from the smallest scale. Although the transition to circular economy requires an innovative perspective that has no boundaries and is not restricted by certain frameworks, it must of course be measured and monitored correctly. A holistic approach is still too innovative for our current mindsets, so it is critical that a holistic process of transformation of systems is properly tracked, and the stakeholders are properly guided.
A complete systematic transformation will bring many challenges that are currently unforeseen. Governments and legislative bodies have the greatest responsibility to ensure that the transformation process is carried out in the right way.
Starting from this point, in this week's article, we discuss the critical action steps for governments to manage and follow the process correctly in the transition to circular economy. We will use the Circular Indicators for Governments report published in 2021 for our discussion.
1- General measurable metrics
We have already mentioned that the circular economy is an umbrella concept with no clear roadmap. However, this creates an uncertain situation where most stakeholders, especially the private sector, do not know what to do. Therefore, the first step is to prepare circular economy tracking metrics that all systems and sectors can benefit from, starting from the smallest scale systems (sectors, institutions, education system, etc.). In this way, each sector can have a framework that they can refer to while carrying out the change within themselves.
2- Information exchange
All stakeholders that make up the social and economic structures of circular economy need to carry out their own processes in cooperation with other stakeholders. This cooperation should not be limited to committing to projects together. The learning process should be accelerated by sharing the information that is learned from different processes with all stakeholders, and a holistic approach should be taken thanks to this exchange of information while transforming small systems. It is also important that governments coordinate the necessary sharing platforms in this context.
3- Expanding the scope
In almost all of our articles to date, we have criticized that the circular economy is misunderstood and treated only as a waste management process. In order to correct this misconception, it is a critical step for governments to introduce the circular economy as a broader system of doing business and thinking rather than just waste management. This broadening of scope, which will prevent stakeholders from having a limited perspective due to existing linear processes, will allow circular economy to be understood correctly and reach its true potential.
🔎 Circular Economy 101's take: A more inclusive general definition of circular economy is also critical for scope expansion. While it is unlikely that there will be a single definition of circular economy in the near future - which is open to debate as a single definition would limit the circular economy in every way - at least the outputs of the studies can be considered from a broader perspective. In this way, it may be possible to address not only waste management but also many different aspects from production to supply, logistics to product and service use processes and to analyze the circular economy holistically within the value chain.
4- Identifying economic impacts
Because the circular economy is not just a waste management strategy, it changes systems and addresses environmental and social issues. In this way, it also focuses on economic growth, which is often overlooked but is much more inclusive than sustainability. From this point of view, the economic benefits and drawbacks of the circular economy should also be addressed within a certain framework and it should be ensured that all stakeholders involved in the process adopt circular economy with its economic factors. A system transformation that is measured by economic metrics similar to, but not limited to, the current Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) standards will increase the potential of circular economy.
5- Setting the right targets
Governments and companies have sustainability goals that are very much on the global agenda. These goals are especially shaped within the framework of the Paris Agreement and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The sustainability journey, which is tried to be carried out with the main goals of 2030, 2040 and 2050, has unfortunately not adopted the circular economy sufficiently today. Therefore, in order to accelerate the transition to circular economy and to prevent only the improvement of faulty areas, circular economy strategies and targets need to be set in a way that is truly meaningful, measurable and unleashes the potential of circular economy.
Although the above-mentioned action plans are considered as action plans that governments should implement, they are actually critical processes that all stakeholders should be involved in. Of course, it is very important for states to manage this process as a governance structure and to assign duties and responsibilities to all stakeholders in order for the process to be carried out in the right way.
Still, there is no need for a single stakeholder to start the transition to a circular economy. As we always mention, consumers, producers, NGOs, academia and all other stakeholders that make up the society should know their duties and responsibilities in the process of transition to circular economy, understand circular economy correctly and adopt it in every moment of their lives and mindsets.
To this end, we need to do more research, be skeptical of any information that does not have a scientific basis, and question the authenticity of every piece of information we receive. Only in this way can we change the fate of the concept of sustainability, which has lost its meaning, and achieve a circular economy.