Change Drivers for the Circular Economy

Victor Lanckriet
5 min readDec 21, 2020

Hi everyone and welcome to the sixth blog post of a Circular Victory! Last week we looked at the system of “Pfand” or bottle deposit schemes. This is a system that some countries have where you pay a deposit for certain drink vessels when you buy them and then you get that money back when you return the bottle. This incentivises users to return their empty bottles so that they can be reused and recycled. It’s an interesting use case to learn more about take back management, so if you haven’t read it yet, I would encourage you to go read it!

For this week, we are looking at change drivers. This subject is a bit more abstract than previous ones we have looked at, but when we understand what drives the change to a Circular Economy, we are better positioned to help drive that change.

When we understand what drives change, we are better positioned to help drive it ourselves.

External versus Internal Drivers

The first division to make is between internal and external drivers. Today, we are going to look at those divisions as things that we can immediately impact (internal) versus things that we cannot immediately impact (external).

External Change Drivers
The external event that is driving our desire for change is Climate Change and the events that brings with it. We have experienced increased forest fires, droughts, storms and so on in recent years. We are also seeing manufacturing companies increasingly struggle to find the raw materials that they need to produce their products. Seeing these things happen around the globe makes us want to alter behaviours and change society to help prevent these events. However, we cannot immediately change the negative effects of Climate Change. Even if we were to take immediate, society-wide action today, it would still take a while to start seeing the effects. That’s why I call it the external change driver. This external change driver is what encourages us to alter our behaviour as a person and as a society.

Internal Change Drivers
The internal change drivers are things that we, as individuals, can actually have an impact on. In my experience, there are three such drivers: individual choices, company efforts and governmental laws and regulations. Let’s go through these three options, so I can explain them further.

Individual Choices
The first one is “individual choices”. This is the easiest change driver to impact as an individual. We can change the world around us through the choices we make. These choices come in several different ways.

Firstly, we can change our behaviours. We can choose to have more vegetarian and vegan meals. We can choose to go by bike or public transport instead of by car. We can make hundreds of different choices to make our lives more sustainable. And when we choose to act more sustainable, we are not only impacting ourselves. People around us will see the actions we are taking and it will make them think about what they can do in their lives. In that sense, every little decision we make can start a ripple effect and have a much larger impact than we might think!

The second part of “individual choices” is something that I like to call “voting with your wallet”. This essentially means that with your buying decisions, you are helping to establish trends in the market. Companies will see and pick up on these trends and change their products accordingly. So when you go out of your way to buy a sustainable product instead of a more polluting one, you are helping to set a trend. This neatly ties in with the next change driver: company efforts.

Company efforts
Company efforts can stem from two different approaches. The first one is because of consumer trends. When companies see an increased interest in sustainable products, they will make a bigger effort to give consumers what they are demanding. This could be seen as an external change driver for these companies.

The second approach can be seen as an internal change driver and is a bit more interesting to me. We see companies that have a culture that drives them towards sustainable business. This will usually be driven by individual choices as well. For example, someone in a high-ranking position will actively drive the company to work more sustainably. This is where the Circular Economy can offer help. Sustainable efforts can often be costly, without providing the company many financial returns. As previously discussed though, evolving to a Circular Economy can actually be positive for the bottom line when executed correctly.

Governmental laws and regulations
The last change driver is at a larger scale than the previous two: governmental laws and regulations. In this change driver, we see governments implementing rules and incentives that will help to drive the society at large to be more sustainable. We already see examples of that all around us. Many countries will have dedicated recycling garbage cans for example and more and more countries are also taxing CO2 emissions. Sometimes it can feel like governments are not doing enough, but it is also important to notice and appreciate the positive changes that are already there!

As an individual, we can impact governmental change drivers by voting. Voting is a hugely powerful tool that we have in democracies that can help to put the right decision-makers in the right places.

A huge driver for a change towards a Circular Economy in Europe is the new European Green Deal as well. The European Green Deal is the EU's commitment to be the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. They have set out several action plans within this commitment to help reach that goal. One of those action plans also dictates how the European Commission intends to switch to a Circular Economy. Getting such high-level support for the switch to a sustainable economy will be a huge change driver over the next years.

Weekly challenge

Now that we have seen a few examples of change drivers, I would love to hear your opinion! Firstly about external change drivers. Which specific events drive you to be more sustainable? Secondly, I would also love to hear about your internal change drivers. Which efforts do you make to become more sustainable? Which of your behaviours do you think are contributing to a more Circular society? And what efforts do you see from companies and governments to help drive this change in your country?

Send me your thoughts and opinions to acircularvictory@gmail.com or to my LinkedIn at Victor Lanckriet!

Next post: European Green Deal

In this post, we highlighted several different change drivers. The last change driver was governmental laws and regulations, where we specifically highlighted the European Green Deal and its focus on the Circular Economy. I don’t want to make these blog posts too long, so I didn’t dive into that too deeply, but I do think that this Green Deal will play a huge role in the further development of the Circular Economy in Europe. That’s why next week’s post will be dedicated to explaining the European Green Deal and how it comes together with the Circular Economy.

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Victor Lanckriet

I did my masters thesis on the Circular Economy and am passionate about helping it become the accepted model of consumption in the future!