Towards mass adoption

For the circular economy to reach critical mass, we must all work towards shared goals, using shared language, based on shared metrics.

As the concept calls for the overhaul of complex supply chains that have largely remained unchecked since the industrial revolution, any progress we make also needs to be anchored in openness and collaboration.

We are developing the tools, frameworks, and metrics to enable just that.

open sourcing the circular economy

the issue

People around the world strive to participate in the transition to a circular economy, but are often faced with the same challenges. These include limited access to expertise, structured information, examples, and knowledge on the concept of a circular economy, as well as to knowledge on how to measure and implement circular strategies.

the response

Circle Lab, launched in 2018, is an online platform for cities, businesses, and citizens to explore, brainstorm, implement and share circular business models and strategies. By digitalising knowledge, opening up access, and encouraging co-creation, the platform aims to break down information silos and fuel cross-industry collaboration and innovation.

our role

Circle Economy was responsible for the design, development, and rollout of the platform, including its various tools. In the period of July 2019 to July 2020. This included adding to a growing knowledge base of case studies, launching a tool for urban changemakers that helps them identify circular opportunities in their cities, and launching an online monitor for employment in the circular economy. We also take an active role in activating an expert community to provide more content on the platform.


Online tools to date

      • The Knowledge Hub: An open-source, online circular economy knowledge hub with over 3,000 resources and case studies on the subject.
      • The challenge platform: A collaborative online platform where organisations, cities, and individuals interested in the co-creation of circular solutions can sponsor challenges and crowdsource ideas and insights from other interested parties.
      • Circle Assessment: A guided circularity assessment tool for businesses to understand the different operational and organisational aspects of the circular economy.  

      New tools this year

      • Circle City Scan Tool: an online tool for urban changemakers to identify circular opportunities in their cities through data and examples.
      • The Circular Jobs Monitor: An online monitor for policy makers and labour organisations that gathers, displays, and keeps track of the number and range of jobs that are part of the circular economy. 
      case studies
      and thousands more in the pipeline
      from over 60 different countries
      and hundreds of comments and  feedback given
      sponsored by leading organisations and cities on Circle Lab
      Data Points
      points of economic, emissions and materials data for hundreds of cities on the Circle City Scan Tool
      in 3 countries with detailed reports on circular jobs on the Circular Jobs Monitor

      what’s next?

      We are currently extending the platform functionality to welcome knowledge and data contribution and curation by a wider community in order to further break down knowledge silos. We are actively onboarding consultants and partner organisations onto our City Scan Tool to enable them to support their cities in their circular transition using our tool. In doing so, we are also discovering how to make the tool even more useful for them. We are also expanding the coverage of the Circular Jobs Monitor to more countries and regions. 

      The development of these different tools has been and is made possible thanks to the support of different foundations, including the eBay Foundation, MAVA Foundation, King Baudouin Foundation, and the Dutch Postcode Lottery.

      Visit Circle Lab

      Putting circular jobs on the map

      the issue

      The circular economy’s potential to create jobs is often used for its promotion. However, there is a lot of unclarity about which jobs exactly relate to the circular economy. To tap into its full potential for the labour market and raise its profile amongst local stakeholders, we first need to clarify what circular jobs are and determine the magnitude of their potential.

      the response

      We developed an online tool which gathers, displays, and keeps track of the number and range of jobs that are part of the circular economy. The Circular Jobs Monitor is based on replicable methodology and can thus be used for any given country. To date, we have monitored circular jobs in the Netherlands (in 2017), Belgium, its three regions and the cities of Antwerp and Liege (in 2019), and Cornwall (in 2020)

      our role

      Circle Economy developed the methodology for the Circular Jobs Monitor with the support of the Goldschmeding Foundation. We conducted the research and drafted each subsequent country report on behalf of our project partners. We also lead on the development of the online tool.


      Informing national and local circular economy strategies

      The results displayed on the Jobs Monitor have been presented to and used by policymakers in both Brussels and Amsterdam to inform national and local circular economy strategies. The results for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly were presented to the county Council to inform local circular job creation strategies.

      Moreover, the monitor has gained traction amongst Belgian media, with features in L’Echo, Le Vif, and RTBF, introducing it to the mainstream public debate.

      what’s next?

      Belgium was the first country to be displayed on the monitor. After adding the Netherlands and Cornwall, we are now working to fill the map by monitoring circular jobs in Scotland, New York and other regions. To get in touch with us, contact us through the Circular Jobs Initiative contact page.

      if you can’t measure it, you can’t change it

      the issue

      A key challenge in incorporating circular principles into government policy and business strategy is the lack of a consistent framework for measurement. It is crucial to be able to track changes over time and measure progress, put main trends into context, engage in uniform goal-setting, and guide future action in the most impactful way.

      the response

      The world's first Global Circularity Metric, introduced in Circle Economy's  Circularity Gap Report in 2018, provides a framework and fact base to measure the world's state of circularity and to monitor annual progress in bridging the gap. The results? The world was only 9% circular in 2019, and 8.6% circular in 2020.

      our role

      Circle Economy developed the Global Circularity Metric. In 2017, driven by the wish to understand how circular our world currently is, we analysed our global resource metabolism to uncover how materials flow through and are used by the economy. Since then, we also brought together a global coalition of experts to discuss and continuously verify our ideas and methodology.


      Creating an evidence-driven debate

      The Global Circularity Metric shows the amount of cycled materials as part of the economy's total annual material inputs. It was first launched in 2018, during the World Economic Forum in Davos.

      Even though the metric simplifies the complexities of global material flows and cannot capture the full spectrum of a Circular Economy's intricacies, the metric and accompanying report have facilitated a debate that is anchored in a better understanding of where we currently stand in our progress towards circularity.

      A powerful consortium

      The Circularity Gap Consortium consists of key industry leaders, academics and peers including Janiz Pototschnik, Anders Wijkman, Willi Haas, and Ken Webster. The consortium also includes representatives from organisations such as the World Wildlife Fund, World Economic Forum and the World Resource Institute. Together, these organisations and individuals have provided invaluable input and support in reviewing the metrics and methodologies presented in the report, ensuring the knowledge and language we are shaping is adopted and endorsed by thought leaders across the globe. 

      A reality check: we're not progressing fast enough

      The second and third edition of the circularity gap report found that even though there is a lot of talk about the circular economy, action does not follow sufficiently. Efforts to recover materials fail to match the increase in resource extraction. Along with its consortium partners, Circle Economy used the findings of the report to call out the lack of scaling and action by global decision makers. The metric substantiated this argument and therefore lent more credibility and urgency to the argument.

      Worldwide endorsements

      The first two editions of the Gap report have received endorsements from leading representatives from governments, cities, think tanks and businesses. Both launched in Davos, they have also received the attention of world leaders like Sigrid Kaag, Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation; Carolina Schmidt, Chilena Minister of the Environment; Frans van Houten, Philips CEO, and Jyrki Katainen, Vice-President European Commission. The keen public interest in the reports is reflected in 113K unique visitors to our website. 

      A global debate

      The transition to the circular economy is a global transition and this should be reflected in its discourse. The third edition of the Circularity Gap Report made it a priority to highlight non-Eurocentric perspectives on the circular economy. It established a level playing across perspectives: in order to transition to a circular economy and to achieve an environmentally safe and socially just economic model, all countries have a way to go still. This way differs per country, depending on a wide range of local circumstances. This consideration of different national contexts has opened up the debate on the circular economy for a wider set of solutions and has invited proponents of different approaches to participate in, and therefore enrich the debate.

      The last edition of the Circularity Gap Report invites country representatives around the world to lead the circular transition in their countries. An increase in demand for our national circularity gap studies reflects this new sense of ownership.

      press mentions since 2018, including The Guardian, Forbes, La Tribune, The Economist, and BBC world
      Academic references
      since 2018
      unique visitors
      to the Circularity Gap Reporting Initiative website

      Steering the conversation

      The media and academia were already taking notice in 2019, but the 2020 edition of CGR really captured the public’s attention, with 260 additional press mentions after January this year alone (a 150% increase), and an additional 133 citations on Google Scholar (a 280% increase!).

      what’s next?

      In addition to the 2021 global edition of the Circularity Gap Report, we are working on a number of country reports, with Norway and Québec set to be published later this year and early in 2021. The Circularity Gap Reporting Initiative also continues to engage with leading academics to improve its methodology with every report published.

      Practical Frameworks

      the issue

      Many definitions of the circular economy exist. These can widely vary, depending on the context they apply to, making it difficult for organisations to truly understand the concept and apply its tools and strategies.

      the response

      Shared frameworks that boil down the complexity of the circular economy are crucial to onboard people. They also help them uncover actionable strategies that they can pursue, thereby leading to more effective collaboration.  

      our role

      Circle Economy researches and builds on the work of academics and practitioners alike to develop exactly these frameworks. We share them through our tools and communication channels.


      A practical guide for all

      The 7 key elements framework provides a high-level overview of circular principles businesses can incorporate into their operational models (for example, ‘preserve and extend what’s already made’).It further breaks them down into groups and sub-groups of practical and specific strategies that businesses can adopt (for example,  ‘providing DIY repair kits or spare part programmes for enabling self-repair’).

      A framework to define and identify circular economy jobs follows the same 7 Key Elements. As such, all jobs in our economy are structured according to core (managing material flows), enabling (supporting core activities) and indirectly (making use of circular products or services) circular jobs. 

      A practical guide for policymakers

      The policy instruments framework provides a similar overview of the different types of policy instruments available to local, regional and national policy makers to encourage circularity. From regulatory and legislative instruments to economic and softer policy instruments, the framework further breaks them down into specific actions policymakers can take, such as running information campaigns or establishing matchmaking platforms. Examples of existing cases of policy in action to support circularity are listed on the Knowledge Hub. 

      A practical guide on collaborations for businesses

      A circular economy cannot be achieved by individual actors alone: collaboration is inevitable. But how can businesses identify and establish successful collaborations in a circular economy?

      To support businesses in setting up collaborations for circular value chains, this practical guide introduces nine steps businesses can follow to establish collaborations in a circular economy, four collaboration types, nine partner characteristics and 14 roles.

      That's it!

      Come back next year for another update, or follow us on social media for ongoing updates on our work!