CHRONCLE: The Swedish government has recently presented a strategy for a circular economy. In one respect, it is great that we have come this far! From almost no one knowing what the concept meant some five or six years ago, to being a country with a strategy in place. It seems like a straight line from the government appointing a committee in 2017, through the appointment of a delegation in 2018, to the recently presented national strategy. This is pretty good progress in just a few years.
However, what happens now? The fact of the matter is that in the time that it took to move from committee to strategy, it has become increasingly apparent just how pressing this all is. Graphs of Earth's average temperature continue to point upwards, and the window of opportunity we have to reverse the trend is now no longer five to ten years, but rather we need to see a steep downturn starting already this coming year. The link between society's material metabolism – its resource and material flows – and greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impacts, such as on biodiversity, has also been made clear during this time and the facts are now indisputable. In other words, the implementation of a circular strategy is both necessary and urgent!
The strategy states that action plans will be established for certain priority areas. These action plans will mainly cover the need for amendments to regulations and policies, and as such concern politics and, to some extent, the public sector. At the same time, the strategy points out that its implementation is reliant on the mobilisation and cooperation of many different stakeholders. These include the political system, the public sector, trade and industry, individuals and civil society. Here, I think we have sources with great potential that ought to be leveraged, but which are left a little on the side lines in the strategy.
Trade and industry do, of course, play a central role. Nudging the movers and shakers of industry and their business models in a circular direction comprises the core of the research conducted by my research team, Sustainable Business, and getting these key stakeholders moving in the right direction will enable us to harness enormous potential in the shape of entrepreneurship and financial muscle. This is especially true if we can also get the financial markets and the financial kingpins on board! We also have an important role here at RISE, in being able to drive this forward. As an innovation partner to trade and industry, our job is to drive development that makes our companies' competitiveness sustainable moving forwards. This is an extremely important, fun and circular challenge that many of us work with on a daily basis.
Each individual also has a responsibility. For a long time, there has been too much faith in the idea that consumers' purchasing power and behavioural patterns are sufficient to drive development in a sustainable direction. We now know that this has not been the case, and the circular strategy also underlines the need for all stakeholders to shoulder responsibility and get involved to drive change. Nevertheless, the individual remains central. Individuals do not only make choices in their capacity as consumers and users, they also make important decisions in their work roles, in electing politicians and as politicians and government officials.
So, let us view this strategy as an extraordinarily good foundation, and let us embrace the need for the mobilisation and cooperation of all stakeholders in society! If we all act on this basis – in all our different roles – we are in with a chance of ensuring that Sweden's circular strategy is actually implemented and that its vision is realised as quickly as possible!
/Ann-Charlotte Mellqvist, senior scientist within Sustainable Business