The Troubled Economic Context of the Circular Economy

Finally, a breakthrough alternative to growth economics – the doughnut

Instead of growth at all costs, a new economic model allows us to thrive while saving the planet.

So what are we going to do about it? This is the only question worth asking. But the answers appear elusive. Faced with a multifaceted crisis – the capture of governments by billionaires and their lobbyists, extreme inequality, the rise of demagogues, above all the collapse of the living world – those to whom we look for leadership appear stunned, voiceless, clueless. Even if they had the courage to act, they have no idea what to do.

The most they tend to offer is more economic growth: the fairy dust supposed to make all the bad stuff disappear. Never mind that it drives ecological destruction; that it has failed to relieve structural unemployment or soaring inequality; that, in some recent years, almost all the increment in incomes has been harvested by the top 1%. As values, principles and moral purpose are lost, the promise of growth is all that’s left.

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Degrowth, steady state economics and the circular economy

Missing Points in the Development Dialogue

Degrowth, steady state economics and the circular economy: three distinct yet increasingly converging alternative discourses to economic growth for achieving environmental sustainability and social equity

Criticisms of the neoclassical economic framework and perpetual growth in GDP terms are not a new phenomenon, although recent years have seen increasing interest in alternative and ecological discourses including degrowth, steady state and circular economics. Although these may initially appear as distinctly different discourses, they are highly compatible and comparable, sharing similar, often nearly identical principles and policy proposals. A more collaborative, joined-up approach aimed at integrating alternative discourses is required in order to build a coherent, credible, well-supported alternative, as there is more uniting than dividing these critical voices, particularly in the face of mainstream political and economic debates that are shaped by neoclassical economics.



Business leaders and governments alike are acknowledging that continued long-term value creation requires a new economic model that is less dependent on cheap, easily accessible materials and energy, and that is able to restore and regenerate natural capital. In its research to date, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation has demonstrated that the circular economy is a clear value creation opportunity. As many policymakers become interested in this promising model, they envisage the important role they can play in creating the right enabling conditions and, as appropriate, setting direction to unlock it.

   * Full text of Executive Summary from  Ellen MacArthur Foundation

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Sustainable Transport: Declaration of Dependence

Out there in the real world life is a complex interactive system in which things do not exist in isolation but depend heavily on each other.  As Miller and Scott put it: “A complex adaptive system is a system in which a perfect understanding of the individual parts does not automatically convey a perfect understanding of the whole system’s behavior”.  Which means that if our goal is to create a strong and wise policy for sustainable transport in and around our cities we need to change our tools and perspective  as well as our behaviour.  As the Brundtland Report, “Our Common Future” told us already a full generation ago . . .

The following is taken from the peer review  edition of the forthcoming book “BETTER CHOICES: Bringing Sustainable Transport to Your City“. For a copy drop a line to betterchoices@ecoplan,org.

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Circular Economy: Symposium, Master Class and Peer Review

Circular Economy: The Future of Business

Symposium  of 23 June 2017 –
École des Ponts Business School

Closing commentary, Eric Britton.
Professor. Sustainable Development, Economy and Democracy.
Institut Supérieur de Gestion, Paris | Twitter @ericbritton | Skype newmobility

INTRODUCTION: I was invited by the Dean and faculty of the Ecole des Ponts Business School to participate in a full day Symposium on the Circular Economy at their campus on 23 June 2017,. The objective of the event was to introduce  and invite peer comments on  a new program of  graduate seminars and faculty research exploring the boundaries and potential of this relatively new, environmentally sensitive planning and process technique, which takes as its starting point to scrutinize and reorganize productive units to eradicate waste  systematically, throughout the life cycles and uses of products and their components. I was invited to provide a brief  closing summary of what I had observed and heard over the day, with a certain number of recommendations if that should prove useful. My closing remarks are summarized below.  For background on the program click to

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FB SC - Groningen streetThe idea of slowing top speeds on traffic in the city to reduce accidents and achieve other important systemic benefits would seem like a pretty sensible, straightforward and affordable thing to do. For a lot of reasons.  Let’s have a look.

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