New report explains how business and government can accelerate the circular built environment

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05 December, 2018




Katowice, Poland, 5 December 2018: Today at COP24 in Poland, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and Circle Economy, in collaboration with Arcadis, released a report describing the changes required for the circular economy to become mainstream in the built environment. The report was developed with ABN AMRO, ArcelorMittal, CRH, DSM, EDGE, Enel, Madaster, Rabobank, Renewi, Saint-Gobain, Bureau SLA, Solvay and Stora Enso.

The “Scaling the Circular Built Environment’’ report explains the way leaders in both business and government can help level the playing field for circular business models, which are currently hindered around the world.

Key recommendations include:

  • Remove key financial, legal, technological and political barriers that prevent companies from adopting circular business models
  • Ensure companies are able to access the market equally and plan for long-term investment and innovation
  • Accelerate the development of relevant regulations and legislations to support new business models under the circular economy
  • For both private and public sector to start collaborating across the value chain and start integrating circular principles in standard purchasing practices.

The circular economy presents a huge potential for global economic growth while accelerating society towards a sustainable future and helping to meet the goals of the Paris agreement to mitigate climate change. 

Within the built environment the opportunities are evident: this sector consumes over 40% of the world’s yearly extracted resources and it is responsible for a vast environmental footprint that contributes 33% of global carbon emissions.

Moving from a linear model of take-make-dispose to a circular model where buildings, facilities and materials enter a longer lifecycle and reuse model, offers enormous economic and environmental advantages.

However, this transition is hampered by significant barriers that are slowing down the shift in changing roles and business models that are necessary for the transition.

This report shows the economic opportunity that circular built environment brings to companies in terms of avoided costs, reduced resource risks, and environmental benefits. Circular materials, products and services must become the new normal in buildings. To achieve this, we need bold leadership from companies and policy-makers who can implement solutions to support and scale the circular economy.

- Maria Mendiluce, Managing Director of Climate, Energy and Circular Economy at WBCSD

Accelerating the circular built environment can make a considerable contribution to carbon reduction, but it requires a shift in mindset and culture. For this to be effective we need new business models, supported by new valuation methods and standardization, along with new forms of collaboration and co-creation that will help to take the circular economy mainstream. However, companies cannot do this alone. Governments will need to favour circular solutions over business as usual, as this now impedes rapid progress.” Besides that, it is important not to wait and try to make your projects as circular as possible. You already can do a lot, we know out of experience.

- Joost Slooten, Director Sustainability for Arcadis

The built environment has an oversized environmental footprint. We urgently need to accelerate the transition to the circular and low carbon built environment. Governments should develop long-term policies that encourage innovations and investments to bring these to scale. Business needs to adopt new valuation methods, new forms of collaboration and digital innovations to improve information transfer along the building value chain.

- Roy Antink, SVP, International Policy Coordination, Sustainability for Stora Enso

The circular economy has been estimated as a USD $4.5 trillion opportunity. The paper describes the opportunities, business models and changes that are necessary to leverage this opportunity in the built environment. It also identifies the barriers that are currently hampering the transition and concludes with recommendations to both the public and private sectors on ways to level the playing field and scale the potential of the circular built environment.