How circular economy practices help to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals

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Introduction to a new report by Holland Circular Hotspot and The Netherlands Enterprise Agency.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are the world’s best plan to build a better world for people and our planet by 2030. Adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, the SDGs are a call to action by all countries – poor, rich and middle-income – to promote prosperity while protecting the environment.

The circular economy, an inspiring concept that is gaining tremendous traction worldwide, is concerned with the effective scaling of sustainable economic models within planetary boundaries. The principle of extending the lifecycle for materials – to keep the value of products and materials in the loop as high as possible for as long as possible – is central to this vision, as is the transition to renewable energy, respect for biodiversity, societal balance and social inclusion.

Working on the circular economy means working on the majority of SDGs, not as a cost item but as a business model.

In some areas of the world, action takes place under the framework of the SDGs; in other countries, climate issues are the dominant driver for action. Some focus on measures that are creating sustainable and economically viable cities, while there are also regions such as ours which set out on the transition towards a circular economy.

We want to show how the circular economy helps to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. In our view, the myriad ways that people and businesses interact are rife with opportunity. The circular economy can start small and deliver results ‘close to home’, creating new pathways for collaboration to preserve and create value. Examples such as revitalised building, meaningful jobs or improved mobility can become powerful drivers for innovation. Inspiration strikes. Demand grows. Good ideas can jump from neighbourhood to neighbourhood, each in their own context and with their own local hero.

Circular examples from various market segments that are closely linked with SDGs such as agri-food, manufacturing and the built environment are included in the report next to cross-sectoral topics such as consumer goods or plastics.

We do not aim to be complete or comprehensive, only to inspire you to find ideas that can be adapted to your reality.

Technology is an important theme, but other challenges lie in the realm of social innovation, design and coalition-building. The transition to the circular economy requires systemic change and asks for collaboration. A local government can set the ambition (urgency), define boundary conditions and nurture experimentation. Researchers and knowledge institutes can develop new insights and tools, validate ideas and boost awareness. Local entrepreneurs have the guts and imagination to take risks, accelerate change and deliver scale. Meaningful participation by citizens and residents is also crucial, as is educating the leaders, employees and consumers of the future.

The Netherlands is at the forefront of many of these processes. The Dutch inhabit challenging terrain, a delta, where successive generations have worked hard to create a vibrant society in a densely populated and early industrialised country. This environment has made us innovative and collaborative: a living lab to pioneer solutions for global challenges. Over 150 years, we have learned which government interventions work and which do not. Often, we have learned the hard way – from experience.

By joining forces, Holland Circular Hotspot and the Netherlands Enterprise Agency have shared insights, networks and resources. We hope that this brochure can help you to kickstart circular developments that will boost the SDGs in your region. Please do not hesitate to contact us for further information.

The full report can be downloaded here:

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