Just half of businesses understand the Circular Economy – Ibec survey

Just one in two businesses (51%) understand what is meant by the Circular Economy, with only 39% aware of EU initiatives to drive sustainable change, according to a survey conducted by Ibec in association with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). More encouragingly, half the respondents (49%) acknowledged that moving to a more circular economy presents a business opportunity in the long-term. However, only one in ten companies had a specific budget in place to support circular economy initiatives, while 39% said funding availability would be a major challenge.


The Circular Economy starts at the design phase of a product’s life with the aim of keeping resources in use for a long as possible, extracting the maximum value from them while in use, and finally recovering or regenerating products and materials at the end of each service life.


Ibec Head of Infrastructure, Energy and Environment, Dr. Neil Walker, said: “There is an emerging consensus globally across business and society of the need to ensure that how we do business and live our lives is more sustainable. Our survey highlights the necessity for an education drive across business, policymakers and wider society of the merits and potential benefits of the Circular Economy. We need to promote a greater understanding of what the concept means, its importance and the opportunity for businesses that make a successful transition to the Circular Economy.


“The Circular Economy and the implementation of legislation is expected to have an impact on business in Ireland with new requirements such as improved waste management, reduced use of hazardous substances and improved design and re-usability of goods and services.”


Mary Frances Rochford, Programme Manager with the Environmental Protection Agency said: “The circular economy is the next industrial revolution and defines the future of commercial activity in Ireland and across the world. It is a conscious realignment of business models to maximise the value and use of resources – driven by the need to maintain our standard of living in the context of immediate pressures such as climate impacts and resource availability.

“Many world-class Irish companies already recognise this new reality and have adapted their operating models. These companies have reduced costs by cutting wastage and emissions; and have also generated new revenue streams by re-examining how materials move through their business and market. Those who fail to adapt are not only missing new growth opportunities but will also find that legislative developments will put pressure on current wasteful practices.

“This survey highlights a need for Irish business leaders to learn about the opportunities and challenges presented by this new economic approach and to revise their business models to operate without running down finite resources and without harming the environment and human health. The government also has a role in this change, and through the National Waste Prevention Programme, the EPA looks forward to supporting progressive and future-focused companies to ensure we are at the forefront of this new economic reality.”


  • The EU’s Circular Economy Package (CEP) was launched in 2015 to contribute to its continuing efforts to develop a sustainable, low carbon, resource efficient and competitive economy. It also seeks to boost the region’s competitiveness by protecting businesses against scarcity of resources and volatile prices. The full implementation of the CEP could create 178,000 direct new jobs in the EU by 2030. The CEP has developed specific strategies for plastics and waste which will result in new legislation coming into force in the coming years.


  • The survey was distributed to senior managers in both high- and low-tech manufacturing, service sector industries and distribution companies. A total of 217 organisations, collectively employing 81,534 staff in Ireland, responded. One third were engaged in manufacturing activities whereas three-fifths were in the services sector. Distribution, whether retail or wholesale, accounted for the remainder.


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