Towards a circular economy monitor for Flanders: a conceptual basis
Conclusions of stakeholder workshop June 27, 2018
In this document the concept for the circular economy monitor to be developed in the Policy Research Centre Circular Economy is explained in detail. This concept is the result of combining academic expertise, literature insights, feedback from policy officers and developments at the international scene. It has been discussed with and accepted by an audience of policy, sector and societal stakeholders at a workshop held at June 27, 2018.
The circular economy monitor is essentially composed of three levels:
A macro level composed of indicators focusing on society-wide material flows and associated environmental, economic and social impacts connected to the Flemish region, including the effects outside the Flemish borders.
A meso level composed of indicators focusing on the achievement of circular economy in particular systems to fulfill needs.
A micro level featuring a set of specific products and services, meant to establish a representative and broad sample of our daily consumption and that is also relevant considering the circular economy transition.
The central appearance of systems to fulfill needs in the context of circular economy monitoring is relatively new. They do not at all appear in current monitoring frameworks, and are only suggested a few times in literature, especially in the broader context of sustainable consumption. The concrete measurement of such systems has still to be developed. In this sense it is an ambitious choice, but justified by the consulted sources and the opinions of stakeholders. There are a number of clear advantages of this perspective:
As the fulfillment of needs is empowered by products and services, a bridge between the micro and the macro level is provided. This allows policy makers to trace the effects of innovation and policy that start at the micro level already in an early stage, and to see how the economy at a broader level will be affected over time.
Models of production and consumption play a major role in the way products and services are used to fulfill needs. By a focus in the monitor on systems that fulfill needs, a clear position is created for circular business models, an aspect that up to now has received little or no attention in monitoring.
Also, the consumer perspective is put at the forefront, an aspect that up to now has neither received much attention in the context of circular economy monitoring. Moreover, it is expected to reflect well the cross-sectoral nature of the circular economy transition. On the other hand, the production perspective is also present in the products and services that are to be considered more closely.
The feedback obtained via the monitor is more direct compared to scores of existing macro indicators in which circular economy would only become visible from the moment it has grown substantially large, and which are updated infrequently and late. The suggestions for indicators in the exemplary elaboration of monitoring of mobility as a system are largely based on data that are available in the administration on yearly basis, and sooner after the closing of a year. Also, the link with the specific products and services in the monitor allows to detect evolutions at the micro level.
Overall, the idea of circular economy is to keep products and materials in use at the highest application level as long as possible while decreasing environmental impacts. The result of the different manifestations of this will be visible in the monitor, and will be set against developments in the fulfillments of societal needs themselves. In this way the role that circular economy will and can play in staying in the safe zone with respect to planetary and societal boundaries will be monitored.