On May 14th to 16th the European Cluster Conference was held at the Palace of Parliament in Bucharest in Romania. EREK was invited to host a Breakout Session on the Circular Economy. The session was attended by cluster managers from Romania and the wider EU, as well as regional authorities and other policy makers. Below you can find the key messages and the main discussion points. 

The session started by two presentations. The first, by Luca Donelli, touched upon the complexity of the world that we live in: a world where change is driven partially driven by buzzwords and hashtags. But whether you are talking about the Circular Economy or Resource Efficiency or Industry 4.0, the underlying message remains the same. We need to hurry up to become more sustainable. As our value chains are very much interconnected, a change in one country can also positively affect other countries. It is important to keep in mind that companies can’t change the way they produce in one day, but by taking one step at the time a lot can be achieved. Especially if Circular Economy is not view as a specific group of content but applied wider for example by taking the perspective of environmental cost of production.

Kristiina Jokelainengave the second presentation on how the area of Europe that is located in the Arctic could be sustainably developed. In this northern part of Europe, there is a wealth of resources in the forms of copper, lithium and other minerals that are key components for electronics. Kristiina explained how Finland is trying to develop this industry in a sustainable way. The idea is to develop a zero-loop system: with no waste. This requires every actor from education to SMEs to be involved. 

The presentations were followed by a panel discussion which not only involved Luca Donelli and Kristiina Jokelainen, but also Christiane Egger, Francesc Ribera, Aida Szilagyi and Carlo Cuijpers. Christiane Egger is the deputy manager of the O.Ö. Energiesparverband, the energy agency of Upper Austria, and the manager of the Ökoenergie-Cluster, a network of 150 companies active in renewable energy and energy efficiency; Francesc Ribera is the cluster manager of cthe luster de l’energia eficient de Catalunya; Aida Szilagyi is the president of the Romanian National Center for Sustainable Production and Consumption and Carlo Cuijpers is a sustainability adviser with KPMG. There were several key messages that came out of this discussion. The first message is that clusters can serve as the voice of companies as they are in the unique position where they can learn about the success stories and share these stories to inspire other organisations. And inspiring is important, because this gives organisations a sense of purpose. In extended ecosystems, clusters thus can act as agents of change in favour of the Circular Economy.

More and more, society is calling for a circular economy and for circular economy practices. This will mean that companies will need to embrace it, or sooner or later they will be out of business. The same trend can be seen in the markets. Financial markets, influential companies and original equipment manufacturers are more actively asking for circular practices. Industrial and economic activity are slowly but surely changing. 

Another key message was that governmental organisations should be hesitant in the creation of regulation, since overregulation impedes progress. The only thing needed for companies to get involved is framework conditions. 

Lastly, the problem shouldn’t be overdramatised as this will lead to inaction. It is true that there is work to be done, but there are solutions available. So, if it is approached step by step, it is doable for all companies. The focus should be on the local level, by starting to define what Circular Economy means for locally and by involving the regional ecosystem in the approach.


More information about it event. 

The EREK team