Europe's circular economy looks to secure the future for eco-innovation

by Search Gate staff. Published Tue 06 Jan 2016 12:39, Last updated: 2016-01-06
Europe looks to make the case for green business
Europe looks to make the case for green business

Boosting the circular economy in Europe will improve business competitiveness and build on creating millions of green jobs, an eco-innovation summit has been told.

The conference in Lyon, where green business case studies across a wide range of sectors were presented, explored and discussed, heard that over the last decade between 3 and 4.2 million jobs have been created in European eco-industries.

However, delegates were warned that there is a labour market shortage of employees with green skills, such as skilled engineers to optimise the environmental performance of buildings or the environmental impact of mining.

Specialisations in electronic equipment management processes, eco-design for energy and resource savings in the construction sector, substitutions of hazardous chemicals, and innovative recycling concepts, among others, were also mentioned in Lyon as providing employment opportunities.

The European fora on eco-innovation aim at developing recommendations for policy makers. In Lyon, four key messages emerged. Education was highlighted as crucial. Learning from successful examples and better connection of vocational and educational training providers with businesses shall improve the match between offer and demand of skills.

The second key message experts highlighted is the urgency in developing communication strategies with clear win-win messaging; not only to motivate consumers to demand eco-products but especially to accompany businesses to exploit the added value of resource-efficient models in the long term and subsequently generate employment.

A shift towards zero-waste product design needs to become mainstream. The circular economy model will generate jobs only if we redefine the way we think, produce and consume to create a positive environmental footprint with our activities.

Last but certainly not least, experts highlighted the need for policy action and appropriate legislation and reform to drive change. Results-oriented policy making that transforms product manufacturing through binding legislation accompanied by tax reform was widely perceived by participants as conducive to circular economy-based models that will create employment.

Karmenu Vella, EU Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, told the forum: “Rather than just balanced, the three pillars of sustainability — economic, environmental and societal — need to be integrated with each other.”

Commissioner Vella highlighted that the EU still imports 60% of its raw materials, and added: “New economic and business models built around resource-efficiency, eco-design and recycling are the way to go.

“Therefore we ought to praise the good examples while also accompany the transition for the businesses that are still following a linear model.”

More than 150 experts attended the 17th European Forum on Eco-innovation last month in Lyon, France. The next Eco-innovation forum will take in Barcelona in May 2016.

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