Lead Organisation: UNIDO, in partnership with Chatham House, Circle Economy, European Investment Bank
Funded by: the European Union and the Government of Finland
Description: The SWITCH programme aims to support MSME (micro-, small-, and medium-sized) suppliers in developing countries in the value chains of large EU manufacturers and buyers to jointly identify, adopt and excel in circular economy practices.
The transition towards a circular economy is imperative to achieve economic, environmental and societal benefits which can significantly reduce poverty. SWITCH supports and facilitates effective and replicable pilot projects that involve all relevant actors across selected value chains and enable enterprises to meet their circularity goals.
Countries: Morocco, Bangladesh, Egypt
Lead organisation: United Nations
The Partnership for Action on Green Economy (PAGE) has grown into a prominent alliance of five UN agencies, 8 funding partners, and 22 partner countries that work together to transform economies into drivers of sustainability by supporting nations and regions in reframing economic policies and practices around sustainability. PAGE is increasingly recognized as a model to deliver coordinated support of UN to countries for achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and targets of the Paris Agreement.
Countries: PAGE operates across 20 countries.
Lead Organisation: GIZ
Description: The objective of the Go Circular global programme is to support the transition to a circular economy at the global level and in three partner countries: Colombia, Ghana and Vietnam. The global programme works in the following priority areas:
Promoting innovation: The programme advises public institutions, business associations and companies on innovative technologies and business models – for example, to increase the use of recycled material or to replace single-use packaging with reusable packaging in the hospitality sector. It holds innovation competitions to promote new approaches and ideas, with a particular focus on process innovation, for instance in the use of digital tools to track material flows. The priority area also works on innovative financing models such as circular impact bonds.
Scaling up solutions: Working with public and private actors, the global programme disseminates tried-and-tested solutions and adapts them to local contexts. Examples include systems for extended producer responsibility (EPR) and business models for recycling batteries, processing organic waste and avoiding packaging. The programme also provides advice on suitable promotion and financing concepts, carries out training measures and advises on adapting solutions.
Countries: Colombia, Ghana and Vietnam
Circularity Platform (with electronics as one of the key sectors)
Lead Organisation: UNEP
Description: This platform provides an understanding of the circularity concept, its scope and how it contributes to promoting sustainable consumption and production patterns.
Countries of focus: global
Lead organisation: BMZ
Description: Initiated under the patronage of the German Development Minister Gerd Müller, the PREVENT Waste Alliance was launched in May 2019. It serves as a platform for exchange and international cooperation. Organisations from the private sector, academia, civil society and public institutions jointly engage for a circular economy.
The PREVENT Waste Alliance wants to contribute to minimising waste, eliminating pollutants and maximising the reuse of resources in the economy worldwide. Members of the platform work together for waste prevention, collection and recycling as well as the increased uptake of secondary resources in low- and middle-income countries.
The platform focuses on waste from plastic packaging and single use products as well as waste electrical and electronic equipment.
Description: The Global Alliance on Circular Economy and Resource Efficiency (GACERE) is an alliance of governments willing to work together on and advocate for a global just circular economy transition and more sustainable management of natural resources at the political level and in multilateral fora. GACERE was launched in February 2021, in the margins of the first segment of the fifth United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-5.1).
Bringing together governments and relevant networks and organisations, GACERE aims to provide the global impetus for initiatives related to the circular economy transition, resource efficiency and sustainable consumption and production, building on efforts being deployed internationally.
Lead Organisations: UNECE & ITC
Description: UNECE and UN/CEFACT work with key industry stakeholders in the garment and footwear industry. They tackle challenges and risks and have launched a project for an international framework initiative to enhance transparency and traceability for sustainable value chains.
Over the period 2019-2022 the project aims at setting up a multi-stakeholder policy platform, developing policy recommendation, traceability standards and implementation guidelines, and build capacity and conduct pilots on the project deliverables.
As part of that work, UNECE has launched “The Sustainability Pledge” inviting governments, garment and footwear manufacturers and industry stakeholders to pledge to apply their toolkit of measures and take a positive step towards improving the environmental and ethical credentials of the sector.
Lead organisation: Responsible Business Alliance
Description: The Global Battery Alliance (GBA) 2030 Vision is to foster a circular, responsible and just battery value chain, and is detailed in a foundational analytical report conducted by the GBA, the World Economic Forum, McKinsey & Co. and SYSTEMIQ. The GBA brings together leading international organisations, NGOs, industry actors, academics and multiple governments to align collectively in a pre-competitive approach to drive systemic change along the entire value chain. Incubated by the World Economic Forum in 2017 until its independence in 2021, members of the Alliance collaborate to achieve the goals set out in the GBA 2030 Vision and agree to the Ten GBA Guiding Principles. The GBA’s multi-stakeholder governance structure aims to ensure inclusivity in decision-making and strategic focus. Action Partnerships provide a collaborative platform for members to pool their expertise to achieve the shared goals of circularity, environmental protection and sustainable development.
Lead organisation: WBCSD
Description: The Circular Electronics Partnership (CEP) will unite leaders in tech, consumer goods and waste management to identify how to do things better. We aim to reimagine the value of electrical products and materials using a lifecycle approach, reducing waste from the design stage through to product use and recycling. Our vision includes all types of electronic and electrical equipment from six product categories: temperature exchange equipment, screens and monitors, lamps, large equipment and small IT items.
Lead Organisation: WTO, supported by the Forum on Trade, Environment & the SDGs (TESS)
Description: The Trade and Environmental Sustainability Structured Discussions (TESSD) are intended to complement the work of the Committee on Trade and Environment and other relevant WTO bodies and to support the objectives of the Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the WTO, which envisages a global trading system that protects and preserves the environment in accordance with sustainable development. TESSD hosts several informal working groups including the group for circular economy which explores how trade can support the circular transition.
Lead organisations: UNCTAD & FCDO
Description: The programme activities aim to generate cutting edge scientific evidence that can improve existing knowledge of the environmental health and socio-economic impacts of selected trade-exposed manufacturing sectors across target countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. The programme will also identify suitable technology-based solutions to address the most pressing environmental health issues associated with manufacturing in the target countries, and invest in developing business processes and systems that will result in the uptake of pollution control solutions. In addition, the programme will address the issue of plastic pollution, focusing on identifying and supporting the development of solutions towards material substitution and enhanced biodegradation options.
Members (currently): Rwanda, South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Benin, Burkina Faso, and Sudan
Description: Conceived at the World Economic Forum on Africa in Kigali in 2016 and launched at COP 23 in Bonn, the African Circular Economy Alliance was founded by Rwanda, Nigeria and South Africa along with UN Environment and the World Economic Forum. The 17th Ordinary Session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN), which took place in Durban in November 2019, called for the widespread adoption of the circular economy on the continent. AMCEN is committed to replicate, scale-up and use circular approaches as part of Africa’s transformation efforts, in line with African Union “Agenda 2063”, and to support the work of the Alliance.
The Alliance is open to membership from national institutions and public sector entities, international organisations, funding institutions and research centres. Current member countries include Rwanda, South Africa and Nigeria, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Benin, Burkina Faso, and Sudan. Current strategic partners include the African Development Bank, Africa Circular Economy Network, Global Environment Facility, Finland, PACE, UN Environment, UN Development Programme and World Economic Forum. Private sector membership will not be sought in the initial phase, although the Alliance will work closely with the private sector by way of consultation and collaboration on specific projects or activities.
Lead organisation: African Development Bank
Description: The ACEF is the newest climate change initiative. It’s the result of extensive negotiations between the Bank, the Government of Finland, the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra and the Nordic Development Fund that were initiated at the World Circular Economy Forum 2019 in Helsinki, Finland.
This strategic partnership will enable the creation of a €4 million Multi-Donor Trust Fund at the Bank to support a five-year continental programme (2021-2025) dedicated to creating a fertile ground for the diffusion of circular practices in regional member countries. The ACEF will operate at both the continental and national levels, and will focus on three intervention areas to build the case for the circular economy through: 1) institutional capacity building for the creation of enabling environments necessary for whole-of-society transformation to enable the uptake of circular innovations and practices, 2) private sector support through a differentiated business skills development programme for start-ups and SMEs in the circular economy, and 3) promotion of country ownership by strengthening the African Circular Economy Alliance (ACEA).
Organisations: UNEP, National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency of Nigeria (NESREA)
Description: The $15-million project brings together players along the electronics value chain (from government, the private sector and civil society) to kickstart a financially self-sustaining circular economy approach for electronics in Nigeria, protecting the environment while creating safe employment for thousands of Nigerians. It also connects with stakeholders along the global electronics value chain to bring forward recommendations on product design for circularity. The initiative is designed to transform the challenge of dealing with growing electronics waste and aims to promote a circular economy for electronics in Nigeria in which the electronics sector recovers and reintroduces usable materials into the value chain and disposes of hazardous waste streams in an environmentally sound manner.
Description: The Coalition will support access to financing by governments and the private sector, with special emphasis on small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), in order to promote resource mobilisation for innovation and the implementation of specific projects in the region.
Coordinated by UNEP, the Coalition will be led by a steering committee composed of four high-level government representatives on a rotating basis, starting with Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and Perú for the 2021-2022 period.
Lead Organisation: ASEAN Secretariat
Description: The Framework for Circular Economy for the ASEAN Economic Community provides a structured pathway for stakeholders to progressively adopt the circular economy model in achieving the sustainable economic development objective under the AEC Blueprint 2025. The Framework is ASEAN’s first strategic move towards promoting circularity for long-term resilience. It sets out an ambitious long-term vision of the circular economy, building on the strengths of existing ASEAN initiatives, and identifies priority focus areas for action along with enablers, to accelerate the realisation of circularity in ASEAN.
Lead organisations: Implemented by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Economy Division, and MedWaves, the United Nations Environment Programme Mediterranean Action Plan (UNEP/MAP) regional activity centre for Sustainable Consumption and Production (formerly known as SCP/RAC).
Description: Through policy development, demonstration activities and networking opportunities, SwitchMed supports and connects stakeholders to scale-up eco and social innovations. The programme supports policy makers, eco-innovative small- and medium-sized enterprises, industries, start-ups and entrepreneurs in the Southern Mediterranean countries, which have identified job creation and natural resource protection as priority issues that also contribute to their economic stability.
Countries: Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon Morocco, Palestine and Tunisia.
Description: Launched in 2007, its SWITCH-Asia programme has achieved more than a decade of progress on SCP in 24 countries in the region. To support the transition of Asian Countries to a low-carbon, resource-efficient and circular economy while promoting sustainable production and consumption patterns within Asia and greener supply chains between Asia and Europe. Nearly €300 million invested towards promoting sustainable consumption and production (SCP) in Asia and Central Asia. 143 projects funded in the region over a period of 15 years of which 16 new ones active as of 2022.
Lead organisation: UNEP
Description: SWITCH Africa Green is a programme developed in 2013 to support countries in Africa in achieving sustainable development by transitioning to an SCP-based inclusive green economy. It provides opportunities for the private sector to move to more resource-efficient, environmentally sound business practices that also increase profitability, create green jobs and reduce poverty.
List of Publications
Authors: Chatham House, IEEP, ACEA, Circular Economy Coalition for Latin America and Caribbean, UNIDO
Description: Circular trade is a key enabler of a global circular economy, but inequities in power relations, digital trade capabilities, trade infrastructure, access to finance and industrial and innovation capabilities mean that countries in the Global North are better positioned to reap the benefits than are those in the Global South. If an explicit goal to reduce inequality is not built into the global circular economy transition, the gains to be made from circular trade are likely to be highly unevenly distributed between developed and least developed countries.
This paper sets out a framework for inclusive circular trade, intended to enable a pathway in which circular trade helps to promote fair, inclusive and circular societies. The framework was developed through the work of an alliance of organisations spanning Africa, Southeast Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Europe.
Author: Chatham House
Description: The transition to a circular economy is essential to address the triple threat of pollution, climate change and biodiversity loss. International trade will play a key role in delivering this transition, as no single country can achieve a circular economy alone. Currently, the distribution of value from circular trade is highly uneven, with the Global North accruing most of the economic gains while the Global South bears most of the environmental and human costs. Greater collaboration at the global level is therefore necessary to prevent the development of a circular trade divide.
Despite the importance of the circular economy in achieving global environmental and human development goals, there remains limited awareness or understanding among trade actors. To address this knowledge gap, this research paper presents a working definition of circular trade and outlines the main types of circular trade flow in goods, services, materials and intellectual property. The paper then explores the main benefits and challenges of each flow, before proposing a pathway to collective action to ensure that global trade enables fair, inclusive and circular societies.
Towards a Circular Economy for the Electronics Sector in Africa: Overview, Actions and Recommendations
Author: United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
Description: This report provides an overview of the current state of circularity in the electronics value chain in Africa, identifies key areas of concern, provides appropriate recommendations and proposes priority actions to improve circularity in the sector. The recommendations focus on the individual life cycle stages of the electronics value chain, as well as on aspects that cut across the value chain. The transition towards a more circular electronics sector in Africa would require a holistic, coordinated approach bridging six key knowledge areas covering policy and governance, innovation, technology and infrastructure, capacity development, and financing. The report also proposes a list of priority actions to be taken by a variety of key stakeholders, including policymakers, businesses, civil society groups, researchers, etc. While an attempt has been made to identify the most relevant actions and tailor them to the African region, the list is not exhaustive and proposed actions may also be applicable elsewhere.
Authors: Circle Economy and PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency
Description: During 2019, Circle Economy conducted a study commissioned by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency on the Global environmental and socio-economic effects of pursuing a circular economy in the Netherlands and the EU. The scope of the study is exploring impacts in low-income countries. The study provides a deep dive into two exemplary products (denim jeans and mobile phones) with globalised value chains (both upstream and downstream) and significant potential for circular economy initiatives. From resource extraction to end-of-life, the study visualises and highlights the most important countries involved in these value chains. It also describes the potential impacts of Dutch and EU circular economy policies on countries outside the EU by looking at indicators such as land use, pollution of water and soil, work and income, CO2 emissions, and health and safety.
Authors: Sitra and IISD
Description: This joint report by IISD and the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra reviews the role that services play in supporting circular economy business models and draws on new empirical research in the form of a survey and set of interviews to identify how firms buy and sell services to support their circular economy activities and the extent to which they buy and sell these services internationally. In addition, it reviews the impact of digitalisation on services and services trade and how this relates to the transition to a more circular economy.
Description: This report explores how to make circular economy policies and trade policies mutually supportive by mapping out potential misalignments and identifying opportunities to align and strengthen both policy areas. The report highlights the various interlinkages between international trade and circular economy, and examines the interactions between trade and circular economy at the policy level, focussing on the multilateral trade regime and regional trade agreements, as well as specific policies to promote the circular economy, such as extended producer responsibility and product stewardship schemes, taxes and subsidies, green public procurement, environmental labelling schemes and standards.
Description: The report examines the foreseen impacts of implementing circular economy measures in the EU on international trade and – through trade – on third countries. A number of policy recommendations are provided, calling for improved policy coherence between circular economy measures and trade policies.
Description: This paper reviews work at the WTO related to the circular economy. It shows how WTO members have addressed issues related to the circular economy through policy dialogue, peer review, negotiations and more recently, Aid for Trade. Experience in these four areas provides valuable insights into how WTO members can expand the positive contribution of trade to a circular economy, not least by: 1) improving their collective understanding of how trade interacts with the circular economy; 2) building trust and confidence to engage in mutually beneficial activities related to the circular economy; 3) opening and facilitating trade in key areas of the circular economy; and 4) supporting efforts in developing countries to seize the potential environmental, economic and social benefits of a circular economy through enhanced trade.
Author: TULIP Consulting, 2020
Description: This paper aims to obtain a clearer understanding of the linkages between the circular economy, trade and development, and the various tools available to developing economies to leverage opportunities and mitigate any negative spillovers.
Circular Innovation and Ecodesign in the textiles sector: Towards a sustainable and inclusive transition
Author: Sitra & TULIP Consulting
Description: This report provides analysis and vision for how trade arrangements with the EU could be leveraged to support the transition, offering producer countries targeted technical support and investment while minimising the risk of new trade barriers. Producer-country governments, as well as the private sector, will also play key roles.
Author: Chatham House
Description: This paper first introduces the relevance of the circular economy in the international development and SDG context. It then sets out the just transition approach, and its relevance in climate change and energy transition debates. The paper then explores how the just transition approach can be successfully applied in the circular economy context. Three examples from the priority sectors and value chains of metals, mining and electronics; the textile and fashion sector; and waste management and plastic recycling highlight the potential negative transition impacts and opportunities for just transition approaches. The roles of policy, finance and international trade are outlined as means of steering the transition from linear to circular in an inclusive manner. In conclusion, the paper offers recommendations for policymakers, business leaders, academics and social entrepreneurs on how to advance a just circular economy transition at the national and international levels.
Description: This report explores ways in which trade policy can further support a transition to a more circular economy using regional trade agreements (RTAs) as a vehicle. In doing so, it suggests possible options to incorporate circular economy-related provisions in future RTAs, building on precedents with similar objectives in agreements currently in force or under negotiation.
Author: UNEP IRP
Description: The purpose of this discussion paper is to enhance understanding among trade and environment policymakers regarding trade flows of material resources – including their environmental impacts – and regarding trade’s potential to contribute to the transition to a greener, more circular economy. The paper summarises the IRP’s analysis on so-called upstream requirements of trade flows, drawing on the IRP reports International Trade in Resources (2015), Global Material Flows and Resource Productivity (2016), Sustainable Natural Resource Use (2017) and Global Resources Outlook (2019). The paper builds on the work of UNEP’s Environment and Trade Hub to offer policy implications focusing on the role of trade in moving production and consumption away from linear to more circular models.
The Consequences of a more resource efficient and circular economy for international trade patterns: a modelling assessment
Description: This report investigates the effects of a resource efficiency and circular economy transition on international trade flows, using the OECD’s ENV-Linkages model. A global policy package will cause secondary materials to become cheaper, while primary materials become more expensive to produce. By 2040, primary non-ferrous metals are projected to decline by 35-50%, primary iron & steel by 15% and primary non-metallic minerals by around 10%. Regional shifts in production and trade-related effects (shifts in the regional sourcing of the primary materials by the materials processing sectors) account for roughly one-third of the total reduction in materials use. The other two thirds of materials use reduction come from scale effects (reduced economic activity) and efficiency effects (reduced materials use per unit of output of the processed commodities).
Potential effects of Dutch circular economy strategies on low- and middle-income countries: the case of electrical and electronic equipment
Author: PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency
Description: The Netherlands has the ambition to achieve a fully circular economy by 2050. This report analyses what such a transition could mean for low- and middle-income countries that are connected to the Netherlands through international value chains, focusing on transboundary trade in discarded electrical and electronic equipment. It identifies conditions for positive impact and discuss opportunities, risks and dilemmas. This study is part of a broader project that analyses transboundary effects of the circular economy transition in the Netherlands.
Description: Global demand for materials has been growing over the past century, driven by steady economic growth in OECD countries, the industrialisation of emerging economies and a growing world population. At the global level, materials use more than doubled between 1990 and 2017, and it is projected to double again by 2060. Due to the growing amounts of materials use, environmental pressures such as land degradation, greenhouse gas emissions and the dispersion of toxic substances in the environment are projected to more than double in the decades to come. In this context, improving resource efficiency and stimulating the transition towards a more circular economy has become crucial. In recent years an increasing number of governments have started implementing policies and strategies to meet this objective, but stronger efforts are needed to significantly improve the sustainability of materials management and the circularity of economies across the world.
Author: World Economic Forum
Description: This briefing note draws on the expertise of trade and environment experts from across the plastics value chain to identify the key cross-border challenges to scaling a more circular economy for plastics. It also provides basic trade and investment solutions for tackling these challenges and opens the door for further multistakeholder collaboration to build a sustainable circular plastics economy.
Authors: Lange D de, Walsh P, Sheeran P
Description: Through a literature review focusing on academic journal articles, this report investigates existing trade theory and trade agreements regarding circular economy principles to inform the design and implementation of future trade agreements between Canada and the UK, post-Brexit. This report identifies gaps in that knowledge base and recommends future research that may facilitate Canada-UK circular economy trade.
International Trade and the Transition to a More Resource Efficient and Circular Economy – Concept Paper
Description: The transition towards a more resource efficient and circular economy has broad linkages with international trade through the emergence of global value chains as well as trade in second-hand goods, end-of-life products, secondary materials and waste. Despite the potential linkages between trade and the circular economy, to date the existing research on this issue is limited. For this reason, this paper highlights the potential interaction of international trade and the circular economy in order to map out potential issues to address and to guide further research areas to explore on this topic. The paper briefly introduces the circular economy concept and how trade can come into play, highlights the various ways in which trade and the circular economy can potentially interact with one another, and briefly concludes with potential ways forward and next steps.
Author: Ellen MacArthur Foundation
Description: The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has set out five universal circular economy policy goals that provide a framework for national governments, cities and businesses to create a transition that fosters innovation and decouples growth from finite resource consumption and environmental degradation. These goals are to: stimulate circular design; manage resources to preserve value; make the economics work; invest in innovation, infrastructure and skills; and collaborate for systems change.
Author: International Chamber of Commerce
Description: As a contribution to this emerging field of research, this report reviews the main findings of existing literature and supplements it with qualitative insights from interviews with trade policy makers, researchers in non-government organisations, private sector firms operating in different segments of circular economy value chains, and international organisations focused on different aspects of the circular economy. It starts with a short description of the circular economy as a concept, before reviewing the role of international trade in facilitating a transition to a more circular economy. In doing so it explores in particular the role of multilateral institutions and trade policy frameworks, such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), and provides specific recommendations for action.
The EU’s circular economy transition for plastics and textiles: opportunities and challenges for trade partners in emerging markets
Author: Chatham House
Description: As the circular economy agenda moves forward, through policies and industry initiatives in consumer countries, there is a risk that it will create trade barriers for developing country producers. At the same time, there is a huge opportunity for producers who adopt circular strategies to become favoured suppliers in certain high value market segments. Developing country producers that implement a circular production strategy can both manage their environmental impacts and stay competitive in greening export markets. This paper assesses how EU policy is accelerating the circular economy transition, what implications this will have for global value chains, and how developing country producers may navigate changing markets.
The publication is prepared under the Switch to Circular Economy Value Chains, project co-funded by the EU and Government of Finland, and led by UNIDO in partnership with Chatham House, Circle Economy and European Investment Bank.