Inflating the balloon of Circular Economy as a cultural matter


Circular Economy: accept it! This is not your political momentum.

At European level, efforts made around changing concepts of doing business by a new regulatory framework are failing despite good intentions. A weak political will mark by the traumatic separation of UK and the rise of far-rights groups are transforming circular economy in a secondary issue. We need to look for alternatives of different nature than political initiatives.

If there is a region in the world with more public and individual sensibility around a sustainable commitment is Europe. However, the main pillar to transform this sensibility in action comes from political channels –not even economic or financial- and is it here that the process collapses. In the same way as a bubblegum, the political sector is having serious troubles to be recycled even if its strongly necessary and it become really harmful for moving towards a resilient future. Brexit and an eventual exit from France leaves investors paralyzed and without will to make any changes in the medium term.

In political terms is not the right moment for the introduction of this kind of reforms that involves investment and risk in the framework of a real reform of the system. At European level the resistance to approve these proposals shows that in turbulent times introducing reforms without changing the own system make efforts complete useless. The European Union is going through an institutional and leadership crisis and needs internal reforms to become effective and innovative hence, reliable. Circular economy is dominated by bottom up initiatives that demands a leadership on effort and joint action within strong institutional pillars. Currently, the EU and its member states are focused more in screening performance rather than implementing new initiatives.

Is for this reason that the role of the civil society, business and education sector becomes paramount for the creation of strategies around cultural elements rather than regulatory ones. Is precisely in crisis time that the channels for building awareness through the mobilisation of citizens and institutions have more chances to success.

Now, what represents “cultural elements of a circular economy”? Above all changing the common misconception that circular economy is just about “recycling waste”, which is in fact –and partially- true. Is not possible to move forward if individuals see it separately from a framework of a sustainability strategy and a business culture around environmental sensitiveness.

If we´re not able to convince people that “recycling waste” is not the real answer, we will not achieve tangible results. For instance, if a company have an effective and advanced process of recycling that make them be considered a “green” company but without an energy efficient infrastructure; is it not translated in an organization with a culture on sustainability but a culture of good “green marketing”.

This aspect is key for a careful analysis in which circular economy is part of a wider sustainability strategy and not an isolated part of a green marketing strategy. If so, it is definitely not a sustainable project.

Don’t waste time in recycling waste if there is not an in-depth structural reform of the entire organization. Quite often follow a “green fashion” take us to specific actions that do not make any changes in the system. The change of the cultural role of the business organizations becomes paramount to achieve system reforms.

I want to look at this as an opportunity to really get the circular economy rooted in business, competition and innovation policies, and not solely seen as an environmental issue,” Ida Auken, Danish politician and the country’s former Environment Minister *

 If there were proposals enough innovative that make of circular economy a profitable business more than a responsible environmental factor it would have more impact in convincing actors.

Shifting minds towards a complete change of the system is a matter of Education through individual’s action. So, there is a short-term goal that is the introduction of proposals that make of circular economy part of a cultural pillar of transformation that could be adopted by the business sector and smoothly regulated in all those controversial political aspects.

 In addition, circular economy needs to be “sold” in terms of profits, dispensing of EU regulatory framework working towards a main goal: educate the business sector towards new shapes of production.

A recent report suggests that: “circular economy could allow Europe to grow resource productivity by up to 3% annually, creating a net benefit of €1.8tn (£1.27tn) by 2030. A circular economy would increase the average disposable income for EU households by €3,000 (£2,110)” *

Lessons learned from the birth of CSR mark the turning point of the business sector that need to be applied to circular economy: convincing companies of the profitable investment of being involved in reforms. Not as a reminder of their social responsibility with the society but as a profitable investment. Too much emphasis in a bottom up strategy – EU package- leads to more resistance, hence to failure.

 In the end, the goal- and what really matters- is not to recycle products, but to recycle minds and processes to become sustainable. Inserting circular economy as a cultural pillar. Even if recycling waste is an important part of this process and a great contribution if its not part of a wider framework of awareness and commitment with the environment, it ´d eventually become useless.

Building of circular economy a cultural matter means, “inflating the balloon” of the good intentions and create a solid framework of action by convincing individuals, Business people and the Education sector that is a profitable product that gives a value added to their activities. Going further than top down political initiatives for a regulatory framework.

 1st step for a circular economy: an effective cultural insertion. 2d step: achieving political goals ….GO!






*Bubblegum by Marcus Møller Bitsch




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