As the world grapples with climate change and resource scarcity, cities are increasingly turning to circular economy plans to provide sustainable solutions. The core concept of a circular economy is to minimize waste in the resource cycle, maximize resource efficiency, and promote the regeneration of natural systems.

While the circular economy sounds promising, like any change, it does not come without challenges. In this blog post, we will explore stakeholder engagement and consumer behavior issues that cities face when implementing circular economy plans and provide some possible solutions.

The crucial role of stakeholder collaboration

Successful implementation of circular economy plans relies on the participation and collaboration of multiple stakeholders, including citizens, businesses, waste management companies, and policymakers. Engaging these diverse stakeholders, each with their own interests and priorities, can be a complex task.

Cities need to invest in robust communication and engagement strategies to build awareness, foster buy-in, and ensure a shared understanding of the benefits and goals of circularity. Collaboration platforms, public consultations, and partnerships with local organizations can help create a supportive ecosystem for circular initiatives.

With a public dashboard platform such as Kausal Watch, circular economy actions are transparent to everyone. This enables information flow to multiple stakeholders in real time, which is usually an issue when dealing with external organizations and citizen collaboration. Circular economy actions are useless if the users, citizens, do not use services such as sustainable transportation.

Read more about the Circular Economy plan of the City of Helsinki.


Consumer behaviour is already changing

Shifting towards a circular economy necessitates a change in consumer behavior and preferences. Encouraging citizens to adopt sustainable consumption patterns, such as reuse, repair, and sharing, requires awareness campaigns, education programs, and accessible alternatives.

City governments can promote the use of circular products and services by partnering with local businesses, providing incentives for sustainable practices, and creating convenient infrastructure for recycling and reusing materials. Collaboration with community organizations and educational institutions can also help instill a sense of responsibility and empower citizens to participate in the circular economy.

Companies that use circular economy methods are going to provide cheaper services and products in the long run when compared to linear companies, not to mention being more ecological. However, how could consumers change their behavior?

Incentivising change

Financial incentive is usually a strong factor to consumers when making a purchasing decision, but consumers cannot make the more environmentally friendly decision if they do not know there are other options available.

Many consumers are not familiar with the concept of a circular economy and its benefits. They may lack knowledge about sustainable practices, recycling, and the importance of reducing waste by purchasing more sustainable options. Without awareness and understanding, consumers may not actively participate in circular economy initiatives.

If a consumer has to ask a question "Why?" multiple times it means that consumers have not understood the meaning behind circular economy and why it is a better option: Compared to their linear counterparts, circular businesses often provide cost-effective and eco-friendly alternatives.


The influence of social norms and status on sustainability choices

Social norms and status are examples of psychological factors that influence consumer behavior. Purchasing new shiny products often carries symbolic value and can be seen as means of expressing one's identity or fitting in with societal trends. These social factors usually work against the principles of a circular economy, which encourage longevity and sustainable use of products rather than buying new products for the sake of buying something new.

Normalizing reusing, selling and buying used products is one way to shape current wasteful norms which by no means is an easy task but it has to start somewhere. Cities could inform consumers about circular economy companies and practices to start the trend of sustainable consumption. If sustainability is adopted as the norm and being more sustainable brings status consuming behaviors could transition to sustainable living. It is important to remember that consuming something always uses resources no matter how sustainable it is.

The 'Green Gap,' where consumers express interest in sustainable solutions but don't adopt them due to lacking social status, underscores the need for reshaping norms. This phenomenon arises from the absence of discussions and status associated with green purchases within social circles. It is suspected that the gap occurs because consuming with green values does not give you social status and there is no discussion with other people in social circles after buying green products.

Used products are often bought when no one else is seeing the purchasing situation except the seller which lessens the social pressure to buy new. This theory has one gap, which is that it was tested when people were buying used products as gifts. Therefore the receiver will know it was used. However young age is a significant factor among green consumers which is somewhat promising for the future.

If you are interested in learning how Kausal can provide solutions implementing Circular economy plans, contact our team to book a meeting and we will be happy to help you.

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