Circularity in action


Scaling up circularity and sustainable consumption and production (SCP) is essential to address the three planetary crises we are facing: the climate crisis, the biodiversity and nature crisis, and pollution and waste crisis.

Inger Andersen – Executive Director, UN Environment Programme


Sustainable Consumption and Production policy packages

Coherent or circular SCP policy packages/product policies, implemented by policy makers, in collaboration with all value chain actors

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Sustainable design of products and services

Sustainable design of products and services to minimize harmful environmental impacts of products over their lifecycle. Businesses play a key role while cooperating with all value chain actors

on the uptake of more sustainable design practices of products and the implementation of coherent product policies

Latin America

Asia

Africa

Opportunities for more impact

Impactful SCP policy packages require

Adopt a value chain or sectoral approach

Inclusive approach

Robust governance, clear transition plan, success indicators

High level political leadership

As well as these other opportunities: Stimulus packages in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, build on the adoption of multilateral environment agreements Sustainable procurement, combined with reliable consumer information.

Sustainable design of products and services should build upon:

Economic and fiscal incentives, in particular for SMEs

Move from profit-led to purpose-led innovation

Digital solutions

As well as these other opportunities: The role of financial institutions in stimulating economic growth by investing in SCP


Recommendation

Global Alliance on circularity

Background: Mandate and methodology

Recommendations

Inclusive and value chain approaches are indispensable for coherent and impactful policy packages, conducive to the adoption of more sustainable practices – including through design, which is the most impactful trigger as it has impact throughout the lifecycle of products

Jump to:

Areas requiring further attention and research: Financial instruments and policies on trade
  • Financial institutions play a critical role in stimulating economic growth by investing in sustainable consumption and production. Banks, insurers, investors, and public and private financial institutions can support restorative and regenerative business models in a sustainable manner over the long term by reorienting investments towards more sustainable technologies and businesses. This requires developing internal capacity and applying circularity and resource efficiency principles when evaluating products, projects and companies, in order to invest in sustainable solutions and finance the transition to sustainable consumption and production. SMEs also need specific attention to be paid to access to finance.

 

  • A focus on the trade dimension of product policies is required. The development of product policies such as eco-design, reusability and recyclability standards can be impeded when products are part of global value chains and are subject to different regulations and standards.

Impactful SCP policy packages require:

Adopt a value chain or sectoral approach

Most current policy efforts focus on providing downstream regulation. Greater coherence between waste policies, cleaner production policies and life-cycle-based approaches allows a transition towards a development model that not strives to minimize waste but also incorporates upstream and midstream solutions to increase impact. Considering the global nature of supply chains, product policies need to promote a value chain or sectoral approach. Policies related to material efficiency and chemicals and waste can have a positive impact on product design and reduce pollution at all stages of the value chain if they are developed and implemented in a coordinated manner. 

Adopting a value chain approach in product/service design is critical for avoiding siloed interventions. Creating a pre-competitive space where industry, academia and consumers engage can help overcome technological barriers and create innovative cross-sectoral synergies.

Inclusive approach

An inclusive consultation process is also required during the formulation, implementation and monitoring of product policy frameworks in order to foster interministerial cooperation, synergies among policies, public-private partnerships (including with financial and research institutions) and broader acceptability.  

Robust governance, clear transition plan, success indicators

The uptake of product policy packages also requires a robust governance process, including a clear transition plan, measurable progress indicators and agile decision processes. A balance between regulatory, voluntary and information-based policy instruments can support a profound, sustainable transformation. The framework should be regularly reviewed to adjust policy responses to the progress made, and changes in international regulations and technology. Recognizing the importance and role of the informal sector in advancing product policy efforts is also critical.

High level political leadership

High level political leadership is essential to ensure that product policy frameworks become a priority on national political agendas and sufficient resources are allocated accordingly.

Learn how France adopted a top down driven approach and how the president of Costa Rica did a nice thing 

…as well as these other opportunities:

Stimulus packages in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic 

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the interconnectedness of countries and the fragility of global value chains. Many global leaders have announced stimulus packages. Countries have a unique opportunity to incentivize the shift towards more sustainable consumption and production through coherent product policies that foster innovative product/service design and encourage sustainable consumption behaviours. 

Build on the adoption of multilateral environment agreements 

Replicating good practices of product policies that build on the national adoption of multilateral environmental agreements, such as the Minamata Convention on Mercury, which led to national legislation on mercury in products, can further support and amplify coordination and alignment at the national level. 

Sustainable procurement, combined with reliable consumer information 

Leveraging public and private purchasing power through buying more sustainable goods and services can help create a market and drive down the cost of sustainable alternatives.1 Clear, reliable information on products, materials and companies themselves and enhanced transparency in supply chains can strengthen the competitiveness of sustainable products and services by empowering consumers to make informed choices. 

Sustainable design of products and services should build upon:

High level political leadership

High level political leadership is essential to ensure that product policy frameworks become a priority on national political agendas and sufficient resources are allocated accordingly.

Learn how France adopted a top down driven approach and how the president of Costa Rica did a nice thing 

Inclusive approach

An inclusive consultation process is also required during the formulation, implementation and monitoring of product policy frameworks in order to foster interministerial cooperation, synergies among policies, public-private partnerships (including with financial and research institutions) and broader acceptability.  

Robust governance, clear transition plan, success indicators

The uptake of product policy packages also requires a robust governance process, including a clear transition plan, measurable progress indicators and agile decision processes. A balance between regulatory, voluntary and information-based policy instruments can support a profound, sustainable transformation. The framework should be regularly reviewed to adjust policy responses to the progress made, and changes in international regulations and technology. Recognizing the importance and role of the informal sector in advancing product policy efforts is also critical.

Adopt a value chain or sectoral approach

Most current policy efforts focus on providing downstream regulation. Greater coherence between waste policies, cleaner production policies and life-cycle-based approaches allows a transition towards a development model that not strives to minimize waste but also incorporates upstream and midstream solutions to increase impact. Considering the global nature of supply chains, product policies need to promote a value chain or sectoral approach. Policies related to material efficiency and chemicals and waste can have a positive impact on product design and reduce pollution at all stages of the value chain if they are developed and implemented in a coordinated manner. 

Adopting a value chain approach in product/service design is critical for avoiding siloed interventions. Creating a pre-competitive space where industry, academia and consumers engage can help overcome technological barriers and create innovative cross-sectoral synergies.

Lifecycle thinking

Uptake of methodologies for the life-cycle assessment of products and access to open life-cycle data, including regional and country-specific data, are pivotal for policymakers and businesses, including SMEs, to create enabling product policy frameworks and guide the design of products and services that minimize harmful environmental impacts.

Leverage consumers’ role

Transforming societies by raising “sustainability awareness” and emphasizing the critical role of consumption decisions is fundamental to profoundly changing consumption and production patterns. Empowering citizens through enhanced consumer information about environmental footprints allows them to take informed decisions. As consumer awareness of the issue of sustainability increases, businesses have more leeway to offer sustainable alternatives and build a relationship of trust with consumers, which in turn facilitates access to finance (e.g., through crowdfunding). Direct and trustful relationships with customers can also facilitate the uptake of innovative business models such as product-service systems and sharing platforms.

…and other opportunities such as:

Stimulus packages in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic 

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the interconnectedness of countries and the fragility of global value chains. Many global leaders have announced stimulus packages. Countries have a unique opportunity to incentivize the shift towards more sustainable consumption and production through coherent product policies that foster innovative product/service design and encourage sustainable consumption behaviours. 

Build on the adoption of multilateral environment agreements 

Replicating good practices of product policies that build on the national adoption of multilateral environmental agreements, such as the Minamata Convention on Mercury, which led to national legislation on mercury in products, can further support and amplify coordination and alignment at the national level. 

Sustainable procurement, combined with reliable consumer information 

Leveraging public and private purchasing power through buying more sustainable goods and services can help create a market and drive down the cost of sustainable alternatives.1 Clear, reliable information on products, materials and companies themselves and enhanced transparency in supply chains can strengthen the competitiveness of sustainable products and services by empowering consumers to make informed choices. 

Africa

Asia and The Pacific

Latin America and the Caribbean

North America

West Asia