Innovative action on circular economy wins WEF award


The European Commission has won the World Economic Forum’s Circular Economy prize for its innovative action plan. The award is recognition of the Commission’s work to accelerate the transition towards a sustainable circular economy that will benefit the environment, business and society.

The European Commission was awarded the 2019 Circular Economy prize, The Circulars, at the World Economic Forum in Davos earlier this year, in recognition of its work to push the transition towards a sustainable circular economy.

I would like to share this prize with the European circular economy community, including businesses, public authorities and civil society engaged in the circular transition, and with 500 million Europeans.

The Commission won the public sector category for its innovative Circular Economy Action Plan (CEAP), adopted in 2015. It sets out 54 actions to close the loop of product and material life cycles through better eco-design, more recycling and greater reuse of materials. All 54 actions have now been delivered or are being implemented.

Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, a key player in the EU’s work on the circular economy, said: ‘I would like to share this prize with the European circular economy community, including businesses, public authorities and civil society engaged in the circular transition, and with 500 million Europeans. We need their active involvement to push forward the transformation that has already started.’

Time for a new model

The old linear model of economic growth – take-make-dispose – is no longer suited for today’s needs. In the circular economy, waste and resource use are minimised and resources are kept within the economy when a product reaches the end of its life, to be used again and again.

In addressing this challenge, the CEAP is an example of smart policymaking for international partners engaging in the transition to a circular economy, as well as for Member States which are already introducing national action plans.

Among CEAP actions are the revised legislation on waste, with the most ambitious recycling targets ever adopted; the first European strategy for plastics in the circular economy and its follow-up actions on single-use plastics; and a revised fertilisers regulation focusing on waste-based and organic fertilising products.

A series of new documents provide guidance on industrial emissions, water management, recycling of construction waste and green public procurements, while the Circular Economy Stakeholder Platform offers a space for stakeholders to meet and exchange best practices on the circular economy.

New opportunities

According to the Commission’s implementation report, the CEAP has accelerated the transition towards a circular economy, putting the EU on a path to job creation. In 2016, sectors related to the circular economy employed more than 4 million people, up 6 % from 2012. Circularity has also opened up new business opportunities and business models and developed new markets, within and outside the EU.

The circular economy will boost the EU’s competitiveness, helping to create innovative, more efficient ways of producing and consuming. At the same time, it helps to avoid the irreversible damage caused by unsustainable use of natural resources.

The Circulars, an initiative of the World Economic Forum and the Forum of Young Global Leaders, recognises individuals and organisations making notable contributions to the circular economy in both the private and public sector and in society.

Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen said: ‘This prize is an acknowledgement of the work done in the past years and of the fact that the circular economy can indeed boost businesses’ competitiveness, open up new markets for green products and services and create jobs in Europe. And it also encourages us to do more.’

‘We started with a very ambitious and comprehensive plan how to change our economy,’ added EU Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella, who received the award on behalf of the Commission with Katainen. ‘This award recognises that our choice of “redesign, reuse, recycle” is the right one for the environment and industry alike. Such recognition puts even more responsibility on us to continue in the spirit of circularity.’

Economics, strategy and information