Circular City Governance

A first guide for policy makers

Circular Economy is a hot topic for local policy makers. But frontrunners confirm: from first interest to the implementation of a circular strategy is a huge step. The current cases and studies mostly focus on facts and results, but what is usually missing is the governance aspect. How can cities support circular models within their current governance? This web page acts as a first guide for policy makers who want to explore circular city governance.


Cities and urban areas are important as transition catalysts and key ecosystems for green and circular solutions. The governance of the city is a key holder of resource management and can apply new business models and many circular solutions through the services they provide.

Being the government level closest to citizens, cities can have a huge impact and can be the “trend setters” with profound impact on consumption and other behavioural habits. As such, cities have many opportunities for developing circular models and also transforming it as a systemic change into the operation of their governance.

Overview: how to build a circular city governance?

The roll-out of a circular economy requires a total systemic change and a new form of governance. A new method of collaborating – both between the city’s various departments and its inhabitants and companies – is required in order to establish an effective circular strategy.

The overview below focusses on the various roles of the city. For example, circular economy initiatives can bring benefit at the same time from both a poverty prevention perspective and a job creation viewpoint. It also demonstrates specific actions a city can take regarding its own administration or how it can stimulate and support its residents or businesses.

The overview and infographic are designed based on interviews with European frontrunners.

Reorganise your local authority

Create a circular strategy if possible, but, it can also be equally effective to integrate circular principles and actions in an existing long-term climate strategy, or in a LT plan to reach the Sustainable Development Goals. Several examples of a circular vision can be found at #CEStakeholderEU.
A new method of collaborating – both between the city's various departments and its inhabitants and companies – is required to effectively implement a circular strategy. Through the infographic you can see how different functions in a city can lead to circular breakthroughs, e.g. sharing initiatives have a positive impact, both from a poverty prevention perspective and from an environmental department.
In their exemplary role, cities can have a huge impact on the implementation of a circular strategy. By using their purchasing power, they are able to grow the market for circular suppliers as well as lead by example. You can find some examples and context through The Urban Agenda on Public Procurement and the European ProCirc project with focuse on circular procurement. The Urban Agenda Circular Economy Partnership and onLand Use Partnership created a handbook together on the reuse of buildings and spaces.
The lack of data and indicators for CE transition on a city level is an important barrier. Therefore, the Urban Agenda has listed 30 indicators to help cities with their strategy and in their use of data of resources for policy improvements. Collected data often end up in a drawer, but could be used as an input for circular actions.

Stimulate citizen initiatives

A city can support sharing initiatives originated by citizens by providing a space or people to help in the organization, but they can also share their own assets as cars, tools, or buildings. In close partnership with ESPON, the partnership for Circualr economy has created a Collaborative Economy Knowledge Pack for cities.
Cities who invest in awareness-raising and training of citizens, see an increase of bottom-up initiatives and a wider acceptance of necessary actions. The Urban Resource Centres described in the Urban Agenda are testbeds for circular solutions and influence the behaviour of citizens.(link to pdf?) Examples of collaboration with schools and Higher Education can also be found on the #CEstakeholderEU.
When citizens organise events, repair cafes, and circular challenges, a city can help with the communication, promotion and with the exchange of knowledge and experiences. But, as a city you can also offer support with financial incentives. More information in the Circular City Funding Guide.

Stimulate entrepreneurs & innovation

Cities play a crucial role in local symbioses because they have the overview of resources and stakeholders in their region. The Circular Resource Management Roadmap created within the Urban Agenda Circular Economy Partnership helps cities to create a step by step resource efficiency plan.
Cities can support businesses by simplifying legislation, or adjusting the city tax system in favoure of circular business models. Examples on financial support can be found in the Circular City Funding Guide.
Startups or companies who invest in circular business models need extra marketing support to inform potential clients. Cities have a lot of communication tools to give those companies extra exposure, while a city also benefits from this publicity. Success stories can be posted and found on the #CEstakeholderEU.

Bring clarity in complexity: make your own sheets

The overview sheet can be downloaded freely. You can use it as a tool to show the city governance model behind a certain circular case: who took the initiative, which new partnerships were forged, and what results did this lead to?

In that way, the cases transcend the facts & figures, telling the story behind the project. Give it a try, and don’t hesitate to share your experiences.

Governance sheets from European cities

Check out our other inspiring infographics

Interesting networks and platforms for circular cities