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WCEF 2017: SMEs have good opportunities in the Circular Economy to grow and strive but support is needed for the sector to grow faster

Sharing best practices and ideas in closing the loop was the main focus of the World Circular Economy Forum in Helsinki. The discussions highlighted the many opportunities for SMEs to grow by applying circular business models, however, many challenges remain. It will take combined efforts from the business community and governments, as well as a strong focus on education to successfully apply this model.
Published on Jul 18, 2017

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Creating more employment and growth, while at the same time ensuring the demand for materials and energy cannot be maintained within the limits of a finite planet. However, the vicious circle of a ‘take, make and dispose’ model could be counterbalanced with the concept that promotes reusing and recycling of resources, fosters innovative ideas and solutions that overall strengthen business performance, adding value, and concurrently stimulating a sustainable development and economic growth. This model has to some scale proven to work in economies such as Finland, but what about the rest of the world?

On the 5-6 of June the World Circular Economy Forum 2017, gathered 1500 leaders, experts and entrepreneurs from 90 countries in Helsinki to take on the issue how we can create more value and less waste out of the resources we use. Events like this play a key role in raising awareness on Circular Economy and its future potential to tackle the global challenge of diminishing resources and climate mitigation. In addition, the occasion to discuss and connect with stakeholders from developing countries broadens the scope in finding solutions to remaining barriers and challenges for businesses to become more circular.

At the event, the EU funded SwitchMed programme presented its project portfolio and the contribution of the several projects that are currently taking place in the Southern Mediterranean with an own stand, engaging and sharing best practices with other initiatives and innovators on how to move towards more circular consumption and production patterns. Moreover, Afrique Cables from Morocco and the Tunisian New Amico, two participating industries from the SwitchMed MED TEST II component, presented together with other innovative businesses their circular approach in the session “17 circular SMEs Meet the 17 SDGs”, to display how their businesses models can contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. 

Highlighting the significant role of SMEs as incubators for circular business models was at the center at the session “Supporting Growth of Circular SMEs”. The Director of UNIDOs Department of Environment, Mr. Stephan Sicars, together with representatives from the European Commission – Executive Agency for SMEs (EASME), The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Corporate Citizenship Center, and the Zero Waste Scotland, discussed the challenges and opportunities for SMEs that operate with innovative business models and how their success could be shared in the most efficient way. An engaged discussion concluded that SMEs have good opportunities to grow and strive in the Circular Economy, but technical and structural support from business and governments are still needed for the sector to grow faster. 

Click here to read some of the takeaways from the WCEF2017