The circular economy will help the EU boost its competitiveness and change the world for better.
The EU Green Deal is one of the most ambitious priorities of the new European Commission (EC). This package of measures has far-reaching implications, not only for European consumers and businesses, but also for suppliers and markets globally. If implemented successfully, it will enable Europe to play a leading role in redefining how the world achieves sustainable economic growth in the future.
The Green Deal can help the EU redefine sustainable growth globally by:
- Demonstrating the power of long-term thinking
If the EU can achieve its goal of making Europe a carbon-neutral continent by 2050, it will be able to show the rest of the world what is possible when policy makers take courageous action and put far-reaching legislative measures in place.
- Fuelling the development of new technologies
By investing in disruptive innovation, the EU Member States will be able to develop the clean technologies that will facilitate sustainable manufacturing and consumption of goods. Europe already has a strong reputation in this area – for example, it was instrumental in the development of renewable energy, which is now widely used all over the world.
- Building a new, green economy
The EU is a large and wealthy economy, which is home to around 513 million people and 27 million businesses across the current 28 Member States. If European consumers and businesses use their purchasing power to select greener products, they will be able to influence industries in other continents by effectively demanding that they adopt more sustainable manufacturing processes.
As part of its Green Deal, the EU is aiming to become a world leader in the circular economy and clean technologies. This strategy provides the EU with some major opportunities to help change the world for the better while making Europe more competitive. Let’s not forget that Europe is already on track to achieve its “green” ambitions; according to our Europe Attractiveness Survey 2019 (pdf), CleanTech and Energy & Utilities ranked as the second and third business sectors which will drive Europe’s growth in the coming years.
A new economic model
The use of the word “economy” is essential in discussing the idea behind the circular economy which is to completely reshape the way in which we produce and consume goods. The objective is to constrain material consumption, extraction and loss while simultaneously generating growth. If we fail, we will never be able to achieve a sustainable economy in Europe – or effect change in the rest of the world.
Of course, the circular economy is a long-term project that will only be achieved through sustained efforts. To make it a reality, action must start today. When it comes to driving sustainable use of resources, the EU has rightly set its sights on resource-intensive and high-impact sectors such as construction, electronics, plastics and textiles. There is also focus on microplastics and single-use plastics, which contribute to the mountain of plastic waste that exists today. For a true circular economy to exist, however, sustainable resource use cannot only be seen as a priority for certain sectors. It needs to be enshrined in every industry, and every sector.
Fortunately, new technologies and other innovations are allowing us to the challenge the prevailing “take-make-dispose” model that is so harmful to our environment and detrimental to business competitiveness. The market today has tools and techniques that enable us to recycle materials and repair and refurbish goods. We can also use plant-based packaging as an alternative to fossil-fuel based plastic. Going forward, chemical recycling has the potential to be an environmental game-changer that generates billions of euros in business revenues by processing plastics that are currently difficult to recycle.