While many reports discuss the large business and growth opportunities related to the Circular economy, the vision of a Circular Economy cannot be realized without policy interventions. In fact, there are many companies who develop more circular, sustainable solutions but find it very difficult to compete with traditional, ‘linear’ businesses on the market.

Project 4 in Mistra-Rees deals with policy interventions, and more specifically: how can government policies induce changes in product/service design and business models among existing corporations, and support new, sustainable business models.

Researching policies for REES is complex, for several reasons. Firstly, there are relevant policies adopted at the European, national, regional, and local level respectively. This means that there are a lot of relevant policies, which tend to interact with each other in different ways. Secondly, policies that are necessary to support more circular business models may be different in different sectors, as the context is quite different. So how have project 4 researched policies? So far, the main approaches have been:

  • The mapping of policies and drivers for REES;
  • Mapping existing policies and their performance, and whether the policies are consistent or in conflict with each other;
  • Identified areas where is a need for stronger policy drivers;
  • In-depth analysis of specific policy interventions, such as laws to incentivize longer product lifetime;
  • Made ‘bottom-up’ studies – through interviews and case studies – with companies to explore their perceived need for policy interventions. This has included studies on the potential to support remanufacturers of IT products and furniture.

The research has been done by the researchers in REES, but also through thesis work by students in different master programs.

Among the areas where there is a need for more policy interventions and new policy approaches we find:

  • Eco-design considerations and aspects related to consumers for increasing durability and reparability of products;
  • Infrastructure for collection and take-back of products in relation to reuse, repair and remanufacturing;
  • Setting up competitive secondary materials markets.

The policy intervention most commonly mentioned by the ‘circular’ companies is the consistent use of public procurement to allow for new, sustainable solutions.

Future activities in project 4 include a survey with Swedish industry, and an interview study with policymakers.