Circular economy fever continues to sweep through the European Union, with smaller countries north and south recognizing the advantages of setting new standards for business as usual.
According to Jyrki Katainen (NCP), VP for Jobs, Growth and Competitiveness at the European Commission, Finland’s future is looking bright. At a lunch event organized by the Association of Finnish Political Journalists on Monday, Katainen stated that the country should step up to the plate and into the current power vacuum in Europe, distinguishing itself as a leader at a time when countries such as Italy, Germany and France become more and more preoccupied with defense cooperation.
“It’d currently be possible to advance the circular economy and, in a way, take on the role of the number-one circular economy expert […] It could allow Finland to position itself in a positive light,” Katainen said.
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He recommends that the Finnish Government and the Finnish Innovation Fund (Sitra), a leading expert in the circular economy, increase their cooperation with various industries to encourage the development of circular economic business models.
“If Sitra, the central administration and industries devised a strategy to establish Finland as the number one circular economy expert in the world, or at least, in Europe, it’d be a way to gain greater influence in the EU’s decision-making bodies and it’d offer major benefits to our industries,” he argued.
Katainen isn’t the only one subscribing to this way of thinking. In a recent report, the Ellen MacCarthur Foundation and the United Nations Conference for Trade Development (UNCTAD) posit that adopting a circular economy framework could put India on a path to regenerative and value-creating development with annual benefits of $624 billion. And in London, the London Waste and Recycling Board (LWARB) recently launched a program called Advanced London to support SMEs make the shift to circular business models.
Meanwhile, the circular economy was also a hot topic at the Sustainability Summit for Southeast Europe and the Mediterranean, hosted by The Economist in Athens, Greece last week.
Centered around the theme ‘Adapt or Die?’ the conference gave participants the opportunity to discuss the world’s prospects for ending poverty, protecting the planet and achieving prosperity for all through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Addressing the conference, UN Environment Program (UNEP) Deputy Executive Director Ibrahim Thiaw argued that transition to a circular economy combined with government action, private sector investment and innovative technology can help to achieve the SDGs and the Paris Agreement targets.
He stressed that, “for growth to be sustainable we must decouple it from the growth in carbon emissions and the runaway depletion of natural resources.” He also shared findings from a McKinsey report that finds that to achieve the targets of the Paris Agreement on climate change and maintain economic growth above three percent, there must be a “tenfold increase in the amount of GDP produced for each unit of carbon emissions.”
Other topics discussed include: progress towards the SDGs and the Paris Agreement goals; opportunities for the private sector to contribute to achieving the SDGs; the role of business, financial institutions and investors in sustainable development; democratization of fata and the role of real-time models; and the debt crisis and sustainability.
It was pointed out that in regards to the private sector, there exists recognition that businesses have major potential to deliver both incremental improvements and disruptive changes that offer potential for transformation. In addition to his McKinsey report findings, Thiaw shared examples of how businesses have been investing in innovation, used resources efficiently and cut waste while increasing their sales, revenue and profit, underscoring the potential of good business opportunities to deliver good environmental benefits.