04 Oct 2021

Barriers and enablers for implementing circular economy business models

Evidence from the electrical and electronic equipment and agri-food value chains

Vasileios Rizos / Julie Bryhn / Monica Alessi / Edoardo Righetti / Noriko Fujiwara / Cristian Stroia

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The circular economy is a key element of the European Green Deal as a concept that can support the transition towards a more sustainable growth model. While in recent years there has been a growth of circular economy industrial applications, evidence suggests that the uptake of circular approaches in many sectors is still limited. This report provides evidence on barriers and enablers to the implementation of circular economy business models in two value chains that exhibit high levels of waste generation: the electrical and electronic equipment and agri-food value chains. Data and information were collected through in-depth interviews with 41 case study companies that were involved in the EU-funded CIRC4Life project, as well as from additional cases of firms putting such models into practice. The results show that companies implementing circularity approaches face a variety of barriers originating from existing policies, economic factors, supply chains, technology, consumer preferences and internal company organisation. Several facilitating factors within these categories (i.e. enablers) are also identified. This report furthermore provides insights on how the Covid-19 crisis has affected the companies’ circularity activities. To help overcome existing barriers and support the circular transition in these two value chains, the authors have the following recommendations: increase the use of different forms of financial support; better align requirements stemming from different pieces of legislation; improve consumers’ understanding of circular solutions; and support transparency and traceability across supply chains.

This paper was prepared in the context of the CIRC4Life project, which has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 776503.