ULTIMATE - D.4.1. Ethical Drivers & Societal Expectations for the Circular Economy A white paper
Innovatie & Valorisatie
“In this white paper, we dive into the moral and ethical drivers and motivations to adopt Circular Economy (CE) practices. What’s more, we characterise the societal expectations and reflect on the level of influence that these societal expectations may have in adopting CE practices. We focus on a specific niche in the CE system – the role of water. Wastewater can be considered a largely untapped resource that can provide a major contribution to tackling challenges of water and resource scarcity, pollution and climate change while creating and maintaining vital services, economic growth and employment. More specifically, we consider the role of wastewater as a reusable resource and as a vector for energy and materials to be extracted, treated, stored and reused within an industrial context. This is ‘Water Smart Industrial Symbiosis’ (WSIS). The original title of the deliverable, as conceived in the grant agreement, “societal expectations and challenges around WSIS, and potential societal impacts of WSIS adoption” has been revised to make it more concise and to align it with the shift in emphasis towards moral and ethical drivers.
In this white paper, we examine two intertwined aspects of the transformation towards a CE:
(i) Moral and ethical drivers and motivations for companies to adopt CE practices (with a particular focus on examples of WSIS);
(ii) Societal expectations regarding the adoption of such CE practices.
Moral and ethical drivers are explored through the concepts of sustainability (within planetary boundaries), Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI). State-of-the-art research is presented concerning environmental and social boundaries, what constitutes a sustainable CE, and ways to interpret and address societal expectations. Due to both environmental and societal challenges, the main takeaway is that a CE is not a synonym for sustainability. A sustainable CE requires an understanding of the interlinkages between global challenges and regional problems. This white paper reflects on ways to increase the sustainability of firms and projects working towards a CE with reference to both regional situations and the broader geographical sphere.”
Rapp Nilsen H, Goodwin D, Poncet M, Smith H, Thorseth M and Koop S (2021) D.4.1. Ethical Drivers & Societal Expectations for the Circular Economy A white paper. ULTIMATE project