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Circular strategy helps Gothenburg achieve tough environmental goals

The City of Gothenburg has set high goals in its new Environmental and Climate Programme. One of the strategies for achieving the goals is driving development towards the circular economy.

Nina Wolff
Nina Wolf, responsible circular economy for the City of Gothenburg

The overall goal for the City of Gothenburg’s new Environmental and Climate Programme is for Gothenburg to be ecologically sustainable. By 2030, Gothenburg shall have better air quality, higher biodiversity and a climate footprint that is close to zero.

The programme contains three environmental goals relating to nature, the climate and people. There are then twelve targets under those goals focusing on the City of Gothenburg’s own operations. A circular strategy will help the city achieve the stated goals and targets.

Lower climate impact from own purchases

One of the targets states that the climate impact from the city’s own purchases shall be reduced. The goal is for the climate impact from new construction and renovation of buildings, and from other purchases (not including food) to be reduced by 90 percent in 2030 compared to 2020. Furthermore, the amount of waste, as per the city’s new waste plan, shall decrease by 30 percent per resident in Gothenburg and by 40 percent per full-time employee for the city’s own administrations and companies. 

– “The goals are very ambitious. What is special about them is that, rather than basing them on what we think is possible to achieve, they have been based on what is actually needed in order to meet the challenges of biodiversity and climate impact,” says Nina Wolf, Strategy Manager for Circular Economy for the City of Gothenburg.

Focus on reuse and less waste

For quite some time, Gothenburg has had high ambitions when it comes to climate, biodiversity and reducing the amount of waste. Already in 2016, the Circular Gothenburg initiative was started up, aimed at driving development towards the circular economy.

– “The new Environmental and Climate Programme addresses the need for shifting the focus higher up in the waste ladder. To lower the climate impact and amount of waste, we need to do more than just recycling. We need to put much more effort into preventing waste from arising in the first place, along with reuse,” says Nina Wolf.

She emphasizes the importance of having simple, attractive conditions in order for a circular economy to be possible. But at the same time, significant changes are needed and all of the organizations must contribute.

– “It’s important that there is a widespread understanding across all of the city’s organizations. For the City of Gothenburg, we have around 55,000 employees who are affected. The effort will involve communication, training, pilot tests and more. I am also collaborating with nine administrations and companies that can significantly influence the development. One of them is the administration responsible for purchasing and procurement,” says Nina Wolf.

– “We are also looking into the possibility of engaging a strategic experts team to assist us and RISE would have a given role there,” she says.

Decision-makers have been incredibly ambitious and there has been a huge level of commitment

Collaboration with RISE on circularity

The City of Gothenburg has collaborated with RISE on the effort to transition to a circular economy on such things as circular furniture flows and the circular customer. The latter concept involves the full lifespan of, for example, furniture (procurement, use and disposal), where purchasing organizations recognize the need to see themselves as part of a circular system. Procurement is thus an important part of that, but so is the entire product lifecycle. Rather than recycling material or reusing parts, focus should be on maintenance and repairs. In other words, we need to lengthen the lifespan of products.

Work with the governance documents for the City of Gothenburg’s Environmental and Climate Programme has been a widespread collaborative effort, where many stakeholders were able to provide input. Once the programme was finalized and adopted in March 2021, political support for it was nearly unanimous. Just one political party withheld its support.

– “Throughout the entire time, the decision-makers have been incredibly ambitious and there has been a huge level of commitment,” says Nina Wolf.

Follow-up is next

The next step will involve creating methods to follow up on the progress so that it can be measured against the goals. It will also involve process monitoring of the strategies and of how well the administrations are incorporating systematic environmental management work into their efforts.

Development towards the circular economy is not just about one’s own organization, but the entire city.

– “We have decided to divide the circular strategy into three sub-strategies and objectives. The first focuses on the city as an organisation and having it become a circular customer by 2030. The second covers everyone in Gothenburg, since we need to have a much higher level of collaboration in order for Gothenburg to become circular by 2030. The last part of the strategy addresses Gothenburg in a national and international context, where we are both a role model and valued partner,” says Nina Wolf.

Published: 2021-12-17
Josefina Sallén

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Josefina Sallén

Fokusområdesledare Cirkulär omställning och coach inom Cirkulär omställning

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