Making the circular economy work for human development
Date of publication 29 June 2020
Authors Schröder, Patrick; Lemille, Alexandre; Desmond, Peter.
Sources Resources, Conservation and Recycling : 156, 104686.
This paper aims to re-conceptualise and advance the existing frameworks and practical applications of the circular economy (CE) towards a broader approach to development in general and, more particularly, to combine it with the approach for Human Development (HD). The CE is an alternative to the current “take, make, waste” extractive industrial model and offers a practical solution to address global and local environmental challenges, such as resource depletion, marine plastic pollution, and for staying within planetary system boundaries. Although the CE and related concepts such as cradle to cradle provide a most promising alternative to the traditional linear economy model and its impacts on the planets eco-systems, some of the CE key elements have raised debate both in the academic community and among policy makers. One of the debates concerns the missing social or human dimensions of the CE. Likewise, the HD approach lacks considerations of environmental sustainability. Drawing on both academic and grey literature and the authorso research observations and professional experiences in the fields of promoting the CE and international development cooperation for HD, we attempt to develop an integrative conceptual framework of the CE and HD. This framework includes social-economic elements of the transformation from linear to circular economic models, combined with HD from the social sciences and development studies. We thereby complement the technological-material focused CE model that is primarily based on principles of industrial ecology and engineering. We utilize the existing ‘circular humansphereo concept to articulate the incorporation of HD into the discussion of CE. By bringing in explicit links with HD, we pursue a double aim: First, to raise awareness and understanding among the CE research community of the missing human dimension in current CE discourse, and second, to familiarise the international development community with the approaches of CE. This will advance the options for adopting CE practices in international development programmes and for the process of implementing the social SDGs concerning HD such as SDG 1, 3, 4, 5, and 10. Finally, we hope that this CE and HD framework can contribute to the resolution of environmental and developmental issues.