European Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik has said that businesses and consumer must look to reduce the importance of ownership in order for a circular economy to be developed.
Speaking at the 5th Innovation Forum in Brussels, he acknowledged that switching from a linear economy to a circular one would be a “difficult” process that requires co-operation from governments, businesses, researchers and citizens.
He added: “Instead of viewing our environment either as a limitless source of materials, or as an external challenge to be dealt with separately, we must learn to work with it. Otherwise, we will increasingly find that the soft laws of economics are increasingly hitting against the hard laws of physics, as we hit supply constraints and tipping points.
“Companies need to change how they create, deliver and capture value. This requires strong collaboration across the supply chain for example, to substitute primary with secondary resources, or to introduce new more resource efficient production processes.
“The producer-customer relationship could also change from selling products to selling the utility derived from the product. For this to happen, we need to reduce the importance of ownership.
“Citizens have a major responsibility. Car-sharing, eco-friendly tourism and co-housing are examples of innovations which enable citizens to satisfy their needs with lower environmental impact.
“Awareness alone will not be enough to drive social and structural change, or to move niche success stories into the mainstream.
“We need policies at all levels of governance to provide the structural conditions required to let people make more sustainable choices…
“ …As policy makers, we are leaders and partners in the transition to a green economy. We need to set the framework conditions to encourage innovation, and for stakeholders to subscribe to it. By engaging stakeholders in the development of long-term visions we can pave the way for businesses and citizens to welcome new policies and make changes.”