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Business needs long-term support to deliver €324bn circular economy opportunity

14th December 2017

A new report from the Aldersgate Group out today, Beyond the Circular Economy Package, argues that EU institutions should continue to support the shift towards greater resource efficiency beyond the completion of the Circular Economy Package.

By introducing a range of new business case studies drawn from several sectors of the EU economy, the report shows that businesses and public organisations are investing significantly in resource efficiency but that the transition to a more circular and competitive economy will take time and requires long-term policy support.  

This report will be launched at an event in Brussels on 14th December with keynote speaker Jyrki Katainen, European Commission Vice-President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness [1].

The new research [2] published by the Aldersgate Group includes a range of business trials and case studies across several sectors of the economy. Some of these include pilot projects carried out under the REBus project [3], which at the end of 2016 saw 28 resource efficiency business pilot projects deliver €5.62m in financial savings and a reduction of materials consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by 62,619 tonnes and 1,953 tonnes, respectively.

These pilot projects have been carried out across a range of key market sectors (including electrical and electronic products, textiles, construction and ICT) that are worth an estimated €350bn to the EU economy. Research carried out as part of the project found that adopting the resource efficiency business models tested by these business pilots across their respective economic sectors could increase the EU economy’s gross value added by up to €324bn by 2030 [4].

Whilst the resource productivity of the EU economy is improving overall [5], the report shows that businesses often face a number of barriers to taking greater action, ranging from regulatory obstacles and a lack of effective market signals to difficulties in obtaining finance or technical advice to drive innovation. 

Nick Molho, Executive Director, Aldersgate Group said: “The Circular Economy Package is delivering welcomed progress on some of the barriers that are slowing down business action on resource efficiency. However, an economy-wide shift to much greater resource efficiency will take time. To invest in new business models, more resource efficient processes and new supply chains, businesses need the assurance that the resource efficiency agenda will remain a priority for the EU in the long term.”  

Building on the progress that has been made to date by the Circular Economy Package, the report identifies six key areas of long-term policy action for the Commission and its co-legislators, including:

  1. Pursuing work to include resource efficiency design criteria in product standards by delivering on the commitment to publish an updated Ecodesign Working Plan once a year and rapidly broadening the range of products subject to resource efficiency design criteria;

  2. Promote business innovation on resource efficiency, through continued financial support for business trials and broadening the sectors that receive technical support through the Commission’s Innovation Deals;

  3. Expand the use of circular economy criteria in the public procurement of a broadening range of products and encourage their application across EU Member States and EU institutions;

  4. Encourage Member States to develop pricing mechanisms that support material re-use where it is environmentally effective to do so;

  5. Ensure a consistent implementation of the Circular Economy Package in different Member States. This is especially important in terms of the improved definitions of “waste” currently being negotiated by all three EU institutions, which must ensure that materials are no longer classified as “waste” when they can be re-used safely.

European Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, said: “The transformation towards more resource efficient business models is not a matter of choice but a necessity for retaining competitiveness. With the comprehensive Circular Economy Action Plan, the European Commission intended to address the key regulatory and financial challenges to facilitating this transition. But this is just the beginning. The move to a more resource efficient economy calls for an ambitious policy framework beyond the Circular Economy Package, which will require the active engagement of all stakeholders, from policymakers and businesses to consumers.”

Nicolas Beaumont, Senior VP Sustainable development and mobility, Michelin, said: “Resource efficiency is not a nice to have but a necessity. At Michelin, we design tyres with an aim to use resources sparingly. Ensuring they are not replaced before it is necessary, and maximizing their lifespan, in particular through retreading, makes economic, environmental and social sense. This is why we believe resource efficiency needs to remain at the top of the policy agenda and should be systematically taken into account when drafting regulation.”

Caroline Laurie, Head of Sustainability, Kingfisher Plc, said: “We know our customers want to get more from less, re-using and using longer, so the circular economy remains a key priority for Kingfisher but to accelerate activity, businesses require a more enabling policy environment that starts with the EU.” 

Martin Casey, Director of Public Affairs and Communication, UK and EU Public Affairs, CEMEX said: “For CEMEX, using key circular economy principles is core to our business, ensuring that we are materially and energy efficient, whilst ensuring that we serve our customers and protect the environment for this and future generations. Having the right regulatory framework to maximise these opportunities is therefore vital.”

David Symons, UK Director of Sustainability, WSP said: “Europe uses resources at three times the sustainable rate today, so designing more efficient products, infrastructure and business models is critical for long term prosperity and productivity. Moving to a more circular economy needs to remain a priority for EU and national policy makers.”

[1] Beyond the Circular Economy Package: priorities for the EU. This event will be held from 8.30am-10.00am on 14th December, 2017 at Hogan Lovells International, 23 Rue de la Science, 1040 Brussels, Belgium. The event will feature keynote speaker Jyrki Katainen, European Commission Vice-President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness. Chaired by Aldersgate Group Executive Director Nick Molho, panellists include Martin Casey, Director Public Affairs & Communications UK & Public Affairs EU, CEMEX, Caroline Laurie, Head of Sustainability, Kingfisher, Audrey Douspis, EU Affairs Manager, Michelin and Joan Prummel, Strategic Advisor, Circular Procurement, Rijkswaterstaat (Dutch Ministry of Environment). 

[2] The Aldersgate Group published today a new report, Beyond the Circular Economy Package: Maintaining momentum on resource efficiency.

[3] The Aldersgate Group is a partner on the REBus project, an EU LIFE+ funded project that aims to demonstrate how businesses and their supply chains can implement resource efficient business models. The project is led by WRAP and also includes Rijkswaterstaat, the Environmental Sustainability Knowledge Transfer Network, and The University of Northampton. Business trials are taking place in a range of key market sectors (including electrical and electronic products, textiles, construction and ICT) that are worth an estimated €350bn to the EU economy.

[4] Under a transformational scenario with substantial progress in recycling and remanufacturing as well as major development of the reuse, servitisation and biorefining sectors, project partner WRAP estimates that replicating the resource efficiency business models tested by these pilot projects throughout their respective economic sectors would deliver an increase in gross value added to the EU economy of up to €324bn by 2030.

[5] Between 2000 and 2016, the EU-28’s resource productivity went from €1.47/kg to €2.07/kg, an increase of 41%:

Beyond red tape: smart regulations are key to delivering UK industrial and environmental ambitions

7th December 2017

Today the Aldersgate Group launches a report by engineering consultancy BuroHappold, Help or Hindrance? Environmental regulations and competitiveness, which looks at the impacts of ambitious environmental standards on business competitiveness, skills and innovation.

The report, which is based on interviews in the waste, construction and car industries, concludes that well-designed environmental regulations can deliver positive economic outcomes in the form of increased business investment in innovation and skills, better quality products and infrastructure, greater business competitiveness and job creation. 

This report will be launched at an event in Parliament today, 7th December with keynote speaker Claire Perry MP, Minister of Climate Change and Industry [1].
The report, commissioned by the Aldersgate Group and written by BuroHappold, is based on business interviews studying the impacts of three key environmental regulations in the buildings (London Plan), waste (Landfill Tax) and car (EU Regulations on passenger cars) industries. It concludes that the compliance cost attached to each regulation has been more than offset by the economic benefits they have triggered. These include increased business investment in innovation and skills, better quality and performing products and infrastructure, greater business competitiveness and net job creation.

Examples include:

  • The low carbon infrastructure (heat networks and renewables) development required under the London Plan for building planning applications in 2015 is estimated to have created around 4,000 full-time equivalent jobs in the design, consultancy, construction and manufacturing parts of the supply chain;
  • The Landfill Tax helped trigger significant investment by the waste industry in new infrastructure and services (such as investment in waste recovery, sorting and recycling facilities), while also cutting the amount of waste sent to landfill by 72% in 20 years;
  • The EU passenger car and light vehicles CO2 regulation has provided a consistent and clear legal framework. Car manufacturers and suppliers have responded by developing an innovative, competitive and highly collaborative industry, with automotive companies now ranking third in R&D investments globally.

However, the report also highlights flaws in each of these regulations (from poor regulatory enforcement to a lack of focus on supply chain skills), which hold valuable lessons for designing the policies needed to deliver the Government’s objectives under the recently published Industrial and Clean Growth Strategies. To maximise environmental and economic benefits and avoid unintended impacts, well-designed regulations need to:   

  • Be pitched at the right geographic scale;
  • Provide a clear, stable sense of direction;
  • Be coherent with existing policies;
  • Be implemented in a way that works with business timescales;
  • Be accompanied by complementary policies (such as on skills and regulatory enforcement). 

Nick Molho, Executive Director, Aldersgate Group, said: “With clean growth positioned as one of the four Grand Challenges of the Industrial Strategy [2] and the recent Clean Growth Strategy promising to drive growth of the UK’s low carbon industries, the report comes at a crucial time to show how environmental regulations can act as a help rather than a hindrance to innovation and growth, whilst also delivering positive environmental outcomes.

The government recognised in the Industrial Strategy White Paper that regulations shouldn’t just be seen as red tape; on the contrary, they can also act as an important tool to support business innovation and competitiveness. The challenge ahead will be to ensure that regulations to deliver the UK’s environmental and industrial objectives are sufficiently ambitious, stable, practical and compatible with other policy objectives.”
Duncan Price, Director of Sustainability, BuroHappold and author of the report, said: “There is no inherent conflict between well-crafted policy and economic gains. When well designed and complemented by effective economic and industrial policies, smart regulations can deliver positive environmental and economic outcomes. Insights derived through this work hold valuable lessons for the government as it works to deliver its Industrial and Clean Growth Strategies.”
Sarah Cary, Head of Sustainable Places, British Land, said: “British Land is supportive of Government regulation to drive carbon efficiency in real estate and construction, helping the UK to lead the world in developing low carbon systems and services. A clear medium-term vision for future energy and carbon policy will drive millions into construction product innovation investment and upskilling for hundreds of thousands of workers. And, in challenging the industry to innovate, Government creates an opportunity for UK architects and manufacturers to become global leaders in energy efficient building design.”
Dr. Adam Read, External Affairs Director, SUEZ, said:
“Regulation has been at the heart of the positive evolution of the UK waste and resources sector, driving quality, delivering recycling and reducing our reliance on landfill, and landfill tax has been critical to this journey. We now have the opportunity to look to the future with an Industrial Strategy and a new Waste and Resource Strategy due where policy, regulation, and market incentives can come to the fore to help shape the Britain of tomorrow.”
Andy Walker, Technology Director, Johnson Matthey, said: “Regulating emissions at source is not only beneficial to the environment and human health, but also strongly drives innovation. Well considered regulations taking account of local and global considerations, signalled far enough in advance, provide scope for companies throughout the supply chain to innovate and plan for commercialisation, thereby maximising the economic benefits that can accrue from reducing the environmental impact of the vehicle fleet.”

[1] Help or Hindrance? The role of environmental regulations in the Industrial Strategy. This event will be held from 9.00am-11.00am on 7th December, 2017 in the Macmillan Room, Portcullis House, Westminster. The event, hosted by Peter Aldous MP, will feature a keynote speech from Claire Perry MP, Minister of State for Climate Change and Industry and Duncan Price, Director of Sustainability at BuroHappold. Panellists include Emma Howard Boyd, Chair, Environment Agency, Sarah Cary, Head of Sustainable Places, British Land, Dr. Adam Read, External Affairs Director, SUEZ, and Graham Willson, Chief Executive, British Tyre Manufacturers' Association Ltd. 
[2] Industrial Strategy: building a Britain fit for the future, HM Government, November 2017