Links between Circular Economy and GESI Series #1
This series discusses the links that Circular Economy and GESI have, the benefits of utilising a circular method to ensure GESI components are incorporated, and case studies that have demonstrated these benefits.
Foundation – How Circular Economy ensures GESI is a core benefit
Circular Economy has become a popular term for organisations both small and large to utilise in ensuring their models and practices are more sustainable. And while the Circular Economy provides much opportunity for organisations to remain compliant in ESGs, utilise sustainable practices throughout the organisation, and prevent greenwashing while remaining transparent, the Circular Economy also holds much opportunity for Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI) within organisations (through internal stakeholders) and across supply chains (with external stakeholders). According to Shroder, Lemille and Desmond there are similarities within the human development approach and circular economy approach (Shroder et al., 2020). They also point, that while the Circular Economy does not always clearly incorporate the social component, there does appear to be a social component that is brought in when a circular model is incorporated (Shroder et al., 2020).
While literature around Circular Economy and the social dimension remains quite limited, Mies and Gold believe social aspects offer leverage points for bringing the Circular Economy methods into both political and managerial spheres (Mies and Gold, 2021). While the ‘How’ for achieving the social component varies, due to various points of entry and differential needs of each organisation, there remains clear links when it comes to close cooperation amongst different actors required to incorporate a circular method (Mies and Gold, 2021). Some of the various paths can include offering new employment opportunities for vulnerable and marginalised people, raising awareness and interest with communities who can benefit from utilising the circular methods (Mies and Gold, 2021), placing people and the planet at the centre of the discussions, working towards compliance with ESG and CSRD regulations, or even as simple as remaining in alignment with organisational core values (Circular Clarity, 2022).
Methods in Practice – Case Studies at a glance
Even though literature remains grey, case studies show examples of just how impactful circular methods have been for communities, organisations, and people as a whole. One such example of where Circular Economy and GESI has been seen as a success is in a case-study from Vietnam, whereby a manufacturing company employs vulnerable populations, while also utilising textile by-product (Clube 2021). Such cases as these demonstrates both methods of incorporating a social aspect into business models, while also ensuring the ‘end’ product is circular in nature.
From the extensive collection of case studies by the African Circular Economy Network and Footprints Africa, there are several examples of just how impactful a circular method can be in creating social inclusion and ensuring a social development aspect is incorporated (African Circular Economy Network, 2022). These cases demonstrate the opportunities for job creation, formalise previously informal work, and ensuring safe working environments for both the people and planet. Some types of employment range from e-waste recycling/reselling to community-scale technologies that capture biogas from compost to be used for cooking. Several of the cases have also placed an emphasis on including women, disabled and other marganlised people into the workforce (Warner et al.).
Even when literature remains limited on the connection between social inclusion and circular economy, there exists examples where social components have become an outcome from implementing circular methods. As well as there remain important discussions that not only does the circular economy provide opportunities for social inclusions (intentional or unintentional) but that there remains a need to further explore this untapped benefit to the circular economy.
African Circular Economy Network. (2022) African Circular Economy Case Studies. Available at: https://www.acen.africa/case-studies (Accessed: 17 Aug. 2022).
Circular Clarity. (2020) Home. Available at: https://circularclarity.org/ (Accessed: 17 Aug. 2022).
Clube, Rebecca. (2021) Social Inclusion and the Circular Economy: The Case of a Fashion textile manufacturer in Vietnam. Available at: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/bsd2.179. (Accessed: 11 Aug. 2022)
Mies, Annika and Gold, Sefan. (2021) Mapping the Social Dimension of the Circular Economy. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0959652621031528 (Accessed: 17 Aug. 2022).
Shroder, Patrick and Lemille, Alexandre and Desmond, Peter. (2020) Making the circular economy work for human development. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0921344920300082 (Accessed: 11 Aug. 2022)
Warner, Hugo and Bingham, Joanna and Ohui Nartey, Deborah. The Circular Economy: Our Journey in Africa so Far. Available at: source (Accessed: 11 Aug. 2022)
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