EU Environment Commissioner calls for a resource ‘revolution’

Global pressures on materials demand and the environmental impact of material use call for a revolution in "our mind-sets and behaviour" towards a resource efficient circular economy, says the EU Commissioner for Environment.

Addressing delegates at WRAP’s annual conference today via teleconference, the Commissioner Janez Potocnik said that it is “pretty obvious” that the private sector must be at the centre of any transition to a resource efficient and circular economy.

“It is companies creativity and innovation that determine what technologies and systems we will use tomorrow; companies product design choices that determine the features of products,” said Potocnik.

Adding to the Commissioners comments, Unilever’s UK and Ireland chairman Amanda Sourry said that businesses needed to “embrace” the issue rather than quarrel over the difficulties of bringing these actions to fruition.

“This is actually a very exciting opportunity and I would say it is ‘the’ opportunity of our time. Particularly, it’s an opportunity for businesses to create new innovative solutions to help regenerate our current way of thinking,” said Sourry.

However, Potocnik said that although businesses must take the lead much of the journey towards a circular economy depends on policymakers.

He said the right policy framework conditions must be created, as well as confidence to drive investment in the right direction.

“We must make sustainability profitable and reward the front-runners in the marketplace,” he added.

Echoing Potocnik, Defra’s newly appointed water, forestry, rural affairs and resource management minister Dan Rogerson, in his first speech since his new appointment, told delegates that although austerity measures carried out across Government have forced it to “withdraw to focus only on the things it must”, businesses will carry on driving action in resource efficiency.

“I have such confidence in the drive and skill of British business, along with the guiding insight of our NGOs. Even in these challenging times I have faith that WRAP will continue to lead the way to an ever more resource efficient future,” he added.

Looking to inspire delegates, Potocnik closed his speech by saying that “one question remains”. “How can we incentivise product design to take into account future re-use, repair and recyclability? Is legislation alone sufficient?”

Earlier today, WRAP released a report which suggested that with wide-scale adoption of a resource efficient circular economy EU business could save £330bn and 500 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent.

Check out our own Resource Revolution campaign here – organised by edie and Sustainable Business 

Leigh Stringer

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