Circular Economy and Governance

There were some interesting meetings last week in the Netherlands on circular economy. Since the basics were launched by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation it gains a lot of interest in companies, science, education and government. The new agreement of the two Dutch political parties (VVD & PvdA) that took over the office this week, mentions the circular economy. Not yet accompanied by an idea on the measurements or plans, but it is seen as a perspective for the Dutch economy.

During the discussions on governance I heard some different ideas that I would like to share. In short statements it is about:


The old school ‘decoupling’ of economy and environment/health brought us some laws and regulations that are not favorable for the circular economy. Most of them are in the field of wastemanagement. Oce materials are waste, they will be seen as wast by law and can not be handeled as resources. This needs reconsideration.


This is a big issue at the moment that needs a lot of attention, because of several reasons: it is tricky to use taxes for policy-ambitions, it will bring massive debates and there is no clarity (yet) on how it can be done. The essential element is that taxes should shift from labour to resources/materials. In our discussions we see it as a tax on derived value(s). Creativity is needed to come to a robust systemchange.


One of the issues in the Netherlands is the freedom of the economic markets. That brings a governmental attitude that can be characterized as ‘a step back’, when ever an intervention is needed. Someone said to me: “it is like Dutch football (soccer), we have the worlds best individuals but in the transition to the circular economy we do need a good coach.” That could be provided by governmental support. Then the question is ofcourse what kind of interventions we need. Well, it is not about the change to a regulated (plan-)economy, it is supporting the capacity to grow, to learn and to innovate. These are policy goals that fit in to the Dutch way of looking to the relation between government and the ‘free’ market. By providing some programs on these three issues, the change can be supported and the government might be the right coach to become a champion in the European of Global economy. It is about creating impulses that help to speed up our capacities to work in the circular economy.

Let me try to point out some headlines of these three programs:

  • Program Growth CE: creating insights in new business models, facilities that support new types of handling resources and how to ‘track and trace’ them, experiments on performance based contracting in all public sectors: health, infrastructure, building, offices and other domains;
  • Program Learn CE: working in the circular economy can be supported by knowledge support, research and education. The need of new paradigms, understanding the ‘why and how’, creating new capacities and competencies is obvious. That need attention for implementation, curriculum development as well is basic education as vocational and professional education. Through a programma that provides impulses the need for speed can be supported;
  • Program Innovate CE: since the new circular economy will bring new products and new product/service combinations there is a need for innovations on techniques, processes and even on a systemslevel. That can be done by businesses, but there is a coupling of new resposibilities that needs to be supported by innovation facilities. The example of the UK Innovationchallenge for Designers could be used as a starting point.

Of course I would say that these programmes need to be combined, then a real program management should be facilitated that knows how transtions and their interventions can be planned and executed. Guess who could do this…