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Circular Economy and Employment

figure displaying employment effects of eco-innovation
Prof. Dr. Jens Horbach, Klaus Rennings, Katrin Sommerfeld
Publication Date: 
September, 2015

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Jens Horbach

Circular Economy and Employment first summarizes the main definitions and conceptualisations of a circular economy, then clarifies the relationship to related concepts such as green growth and eco-innovation. This report is the outcome of a project estimating the employment effects of a circular economy.

The Circular Economy mainly focuses on savings on the shares of material, labour, energy, and capital embedded in the product. In finite systems it is intended to “design out waste”. An important difference is made between consumables (one or few time usage) and durables (years of usage) products. Material savings can be achieved by already established recycling and remanufacturing activities finally aiming at a “zero waste economy”. More recently, the contribution of green ICT leading to less material inputs (“digital revolution”, e.g. photos are no longer printed but distributed by e-mail or social media), a general greater importance of services, the evolution of the sharing economy (e. g. car sharing) or a higher utilisation rate for products for the circular economy are discussed.

Detailed concepts of green growth from OECD, UNEP, EEA and the Global Green Growth Institute are also considered. Green growth means fostering economic growth and development while ensuring that natural assets continue to provide the resources and environmental services on which our well-being relies. Investment and (eco-) innovation activities shall give rise to new, more sustainable sources of growth and development. Moving towards a circular economy may be understood as a tool to achieve a green economy, a circular economy is one of the main elements helping to achieve the greening of an economy.