The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015 as a blueprint for international cooperation to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. The text of this UN Resolution recalled the main challenges humanity is facing today:
“We are meeting at a time of immense challenges to sustainable development. Billions of our citizens continue to live in poverty and are denied a life of dignity. There are rising inequalities within and among countries. There are enormous disparities of opportunity, wealth and power. Gender inequality remains a key challenge. Unemployment, particularly youth unemployment, is a major concern. Global health threats, more frequent and intense natural disasters, spiralling conflict, violent extremism, terrorism and related humanitarian crises and forced displacement of people threaten to reverse much of the development progress made in recent decades. Natural resource depletion and adverse impacts of environmental degradation, including desertification, drought, land degradation, freshwater scarcity and loss of biodiversity, add to and exacerbate the list of challenges which humanity faces. Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time and its adverse impacts undermine the ability of all countries to achieve sustainable development. Increases in global temperature, sea level rise, ocean acidification and other climate change impacts are seriously affecting coastal areas and low-lying coastal countries, including many least developed countries and small island developing States. The survival of many societies, and of the biological support systems of the planet, is at risk."
But the opportunities, too:
“It is also, however, a time of immense opportunity. Significant progress has been made in meeting many development challenges. Within the past generation, hundreds of millions of people have emerged from extreme poverty. Access to education has greatly increased for both boys and girls. The spread of information and communications technology and global interconnectedness has great potential to accelerate human progress, to bridge the digital divide and to develop knowledge societies, as does scientific and technological innovation across areas as diverse as medicine and energy.”
At the heart of this 2030 Agenda lies a global roadmap to a better world composed of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) These ambitious goals are to be achieved around the world, and by all UN member states, by 2030.
At the European Union level, the SDGs have inspired the policymaking on internal and external action across all sectors, and different transformative policies, such as the European Green Deal, build on this important international work.
In this context, an economic concept that is gaining prominence worldwide as a tool to design solutions to some of the world’s most pressing sustainability challenges holds particular promise for achieving multiple SDGs: the concept of "the circular economy". Why? Because by proposing an economy in which waste and pollution do not exist by design, products and materials are kept in use, and natural systems are regenerated, the concept of circular economy addresses root causes.
The linkages between these two agendas may not seem immediately obvious – the term ‘circular economy’ does not even appear in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – but in fact both aim at achieving social and economic prosperity within the natural capacity of our planet. While the SDGs are listed by categories, the circular economy is transversal to all sectors of the economy (examples of its successful implementation exist in many countries and sectors, such as the automobile, food, textile and chemical industries, among others). A closer look at the concept of circular economy suffices to conclude that circular economy practices and strategies can be leveraged to strongly and directly benefit, and thus help achieve the SDGs: in other words, working on the circular economy means working on the SDGs.
The growing interest in the concept of circular economy is taking numerous actors, such as governments, cities and many large multinational companies, but also medium and small-sized companies and citizens, to actively explore ways to shift to circular economy practices (such as circular design to implement product reuse and recycling). Conscious that businesses have a key role to play in the sustainability transition, EDP for instance, has already started to implement this vision in all its business units by, for example, reusing and recycling wind turbines, replacing mineral oils with vegetable oils and building batteries from used car modules.
The transition from the linear economy in which we live to a circular economy that empowers the achievement of the SDGs requires the joint action and effort from all actors, including public authorities, civil society, the private sector, academia and all citizens.
Placing our societies on the sustainability path is a shared responsibility of all.
Are you curious about the ways in which we can act today to achieve a more sustainable tomorrow? Join the EDP Business Summit ’21.