Circular Economy

Image Source: WorldsteelUNCTAD’s work on the circular economy started in 2015 with a collaboration with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation on resource-circularity potentials in large economies like India and China. This work gains from UNCTAD’s long track record in trade-related aspects of resource-intensive sectors, such as biofuels, biodiversity and fisheries.

Since the dawn of the industrial revolution, countries have struggled pursuing economic development that is environmentally sound.  That has been compounded in recent decades, as a growing middle class pushed global patterns of material and energy consumption to new heights. The Circular Economy practices offers lasting benefits in the form of material savings, new forms of employment and reduced price volatility.

ditc-ted-circular-economy-Quote-190.jpgTraditional models of growth are becoming increasingly constrained. At the same time the international community has committed to change measured by the SDGs, especially in the industrial and innovation aspects of SDG 9, as well as sustainable consumption and production embodied in SDG 12. Large social gains can be realized from improving resource circularity in multiple sectors, such as in recycling and reutilization of materials, energy efficiency, value-chain optimization, and in collaborative economy models such as in fast-growing space and vehicle sharing.

ditc-ted-circular-economy-Dustbin-1-450.jpgCircularity is already part of many lines of work within UNCTAD, such as activities on tackling fossil fuel and fisheries subsidies. Resource circularity cannot be promoted in international value chains just by promoting and enacting national rules. While companies have made strides in improving their social and environmental footprints, privatizing public policy through voluntary sustainability standards and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) falls short from this task. In a world where most trade happens in parts and components in highly globalized value chains, promoting global resource circularity goes through international rules and cooperation, as well as individuals and consumers empowered with education.

UNCTAD works on the circular economy by encouraging discussions and activities seeking to bring value out of waste streams, by encouraging discussions around collaborative economy sectors, by the examination of innovate business models and encouragement of consumer awareness and behavioural shifts. In partnership with other international organizations, UNCTAD’s work on the circular economy at the national and multilateral level brings this important theme to the service of the international community.

 

 

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05 December 2016The Circular Economy in International Trade


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