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2nd June 2021

On June 16th 2021 Dr Carla De Laurentis and Dr Emily Bacon will represent CEIC at the Regions in Recovery Online Conference delivering the paper:

Can a regional circular economy deliver on social innovation?

Dr Carla De LaurentisA, Dr Katie BeverlyA, Dr Emily BaconB, Dr Jennifer RuddB , Kay RenfrewB, Prof Nick CliftonA and Gary WalpoleA
A Cardiff Metropolitan University, Cardiff, Wales & B School of Management, Swansea University, Wales

Abstract for consideration to: SS2. Circular Economy Transitions in Cities and Regions: Exploring Spatial, Social and Governance Tensions (open session); Session organiser(s): Marcin Dabrowski, Karel Van den Berghe, Aksel Ersoy, Ellen Van Bueren, Delft University of Technology, TheNetherlands and Frank van Oort, Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands


In recent years, the circular economy (hereafter, CE) has received growing attention worldwide. Although the CE is most commonly conceptualised as a system in which the use of finite resources is decoupled from economic growth, its adoption has the potential to bring attendant social and environmental benefits (Van Buren et al., 2016). While programmes and policies for a CE are fast becoming key to regional, national and international plans for creating sustainable futures, there are concerns in the way in which broader social implications are attributed to- and can be achieved by- the CE (Hobson and Lynch, 2016; Moreau et al., 2017). CE policies and strategies harness their potential to produce positive social change and are often seen as opportunities to inform emerging critical and normative perspectives that see innovation and economic development policies as instruments to support social change and contribute to the public good (Mazzucato, 2013).  Moreover, as the majority of circular innovations emerge at the scale of cities and regions, a spatial circular approach can tackle many other socio-economic problems affecting cities and regions. Nevertheless, agreeing with(Williams, 2019), a spatial approach to the CE implies a great deal more than creating a CE and circular business models within specific spatial contexts. In an attempt to reconcile these discussions, the paper proposes a revised conceptualisation of a regional circular economy as an expression of place-based innovation and experimentation in the public sector. This brings to fore the opportunities offered by a large-scale transformative framework, at the regional level, that promotes circularity and embraces social and well-being principles. To test these propositions, the paper examines the case study of Wales (one of four devolved territories of the UK) that was the first European country to adopt sustainable development as a statutory duty and the first to embrace social and economic wellbeing in its policy repertoire by establishing a Wellbeing of Future Generations Act (2015). The act is ‘a one of a kind’ legislation that places a statutory obligation on all public bodies in Wales, including the Welsh Government itself, to demonstrate how they are taking action to meet the national wellbeing goals. The paper shows how these legislative environments are shaping the CE agenda and help re-focus the approach to collaborative working with people and communities to prevent persistent problems such as poverty, health inequalities and climate change. This paper will examine the Circular Economy Innovation Communities project to explore how public sector organisations are supported in increasing their engagement with the circular economy and innovation. As these organisations are key stakeholders in driving regional change, the project will provide an empirical context to explore the regional transition towards a more sustainable future for Wales.


References citied:


Hobson K and Lynch N. (2016) Diversifying and de-growing the circular economy: Radical social transformation in a resource-scarce world. Futures 82: 15-25.

Mazzucato M. (2013) The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Public Vs. Private Sector Myths, London: Anthem Press.

Moreau V, Sahakian M, van Griethuysen P, et al. (2017) Coming Full Circle: Why Social and Institutional Dimensions Matter for the Circular Economy. Journal of Industrial Ecology 21: 497-506.

Van Buren N, Demmers M, Van der Heijden R, et al. (2016) Towards a Circular Economy: The Role of Dutch Logistics Industries and Governments. Sustainability 8: 647.

Williams J. (2019) Circular cities. Urban Studies 56: 2746-2762.