The Policy Lab 2.0 has been launched in the month of June with an ambitious goal: to provide solutions to the challenges the European Regions face while implementing Circular Economy (CE) programs. Circular Economy is an abstract term with many different definitions, which causes different types of analysis depending on the institution involved. Thus, the way we understand circularity will change how the projects are designed and implemented. Achieving a common set of criteria will facilitate collaboration across cross-regional projects. Therefore our main question for the coming three-months period is:

How to define common criteria to assess Circular Economy projects for the new programming period?

These month’s sub-questions have focused on exploring the current challenges Regions face in order to understand which are the priority areas in which we should focus on the future webinars:

What are the problems encountered by the Regions while introducing Circular Economy projects in the programming period?

Are the current systems efficient enough for monitoring Circular Economy?

Each month two different webinars take place, one for Regional Officers and other for stakeholders. This way, we ensure the topic is approached from a multidisciplinary point of view.

In the following sections, the main topics discussed will be presented and their implications will be outlined.

Lack of a common set of circularity criteria

The diversity of the European Regions have hindered the creation of a common set of circularity criteria, since the assessment process has to adapt to the regional circumstances. Nonetheless, this poses several problems:

  1. It hinders cross-regional cooperation since the projects are assessed differently between partners;
  2. It multiplies the effort, research and resources needed to create a set of criteria;
  3. Regions who are currently starting to include Circular Economy as part their S3 strategy plan would benefit from using an already efficient established set of criteria.

The regions which are currently drafting their call to proposals also doubt on the number of grids to have: one complete grid which also includes circularity criteria or either two separate grids, one for general criteria and an additional one for circularity. Other Regions also wondered whether to make the circularity criteria part of their normal evaluation scheme or whether to include them as additional bonus points which could allow the overall score to increase.

A common set of circularity criteria could ease the evaluation of projects while allowing at the same time regional adaptations to match the specific needs. Further research and collaboration are needed to specify the broad areas that need to be included in every assessment and an analysis of the indicators that best capture the information needed for each area. The three principles identified that must be reflected in the metrics are: efficient use of resource, efficient functioning of the system and the preservation of natural capital

Different competences 

The multi-level administration of the European Union divides tasks between different bodies. There is a need for collaboration among the different levels in order to correctly tackle the problems. Moreover, regulation promoting circular business models and eco-design have to be registered as a top-down approach.

One of the main problems we find stemming from the lack of a common set of circularity criteria is the need for experts on Circular Economy in each Region. However, the Regions have stated that the person may lack the skills to organize conduct a good evaluation, thus more specific-formation is needed. Furthermore, some Regions use a mixture of quantitative and qualitative criteria, which require an even more in-depth assessment and thus requires capacity-building.

Unsupportive corporate culture

Companies need clear financial incentives before deciding whether to include circularity as part of their firm’s strategy. Their past investments create a path dependency for their industrial process that is costly to change, thus they might not see benefits in the short-term from adapting their business to the Circular Economy. There is also a different response from small than big enterprises since for small enterprises it can be a not viable solution for their current stage of development

Furthermore, many companies do not wish to reveal their material streams due to fear of competitors. They say that “knowing our waste means to know our process”. This lack of high-level commitment limits the planning and assessment carried out by Regions.

The lack of demand for circular products constitutes a further challenge in the transition. In this case, public procurement could lead to the start of this new market until awareness around the issue is raised.

Advice and support regarding regulatory and financial aspects, as well as on accounting for natural capital and resources should be provided to companies. These include information on direct subsidies, provision of capital, financial guarantees, circular procurement, product and design regulations and extended warranties.

An issue to be further discussed is how to adapt the business environment to be more reactive and what institutional support and incentives are needed in order to encourage the Circular Economy among companies. The real business benefits and the scalability of circular business models should be clearly outlined and more pilot projects and best practices should be showcased.

Next Steps!

The second digital workshop for regions will be on date: 3rd of July, 10:30 AM CET and will address next sub-questions:

Is the suggested table of criteria comprehensive for the assessment of circular economy projects? What should be changed?

Veltha will propose a table that merges different sets of criteria that have been identified.

How to make the business environment more reactive? What institutional support and incentives are needed to encourage the Circular Economy among companies?

The next digital workshop for stakeholders will be on date: 9th of July, 10:30 AM CET.

Join the Policy lab now! -> https://screen-policy-lab.mn.co/