Circular economy

The circular economy is believed to be a part of the solution against climate change, overconsumption of virgin raw materials and biodiversity loss. In order to solve these problems, a major systemic change should take place, moving from the conventional linear economic model to the circular economy in all sectors of society. The goal is to achieve not only economic but also social and ecological benefits. The circular economy aims to retain the value of goods and materials in circulation for as long as possible, as a result of which less waste is generated and fewer natural resources are needed for the production of new products.

There is no single, all-encompassing definition for the circular economy. One of the best known is the definition by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, according to which the circular economy is a systems solution framework that tackles global challenges like climate change, biodiversity loss, waste and pollution. It is based on three principles, driven by design: eliminate waste and pollution, circulate products and materials, and regenerate nature.

Circular economy is a new foundation for the economy

In Finland, the circular economy has been included in the world's first roadmap for the circular economy published by the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra in 2016. The Sitra concept of the circular economy emphasises the role of individuals and enterprises, new kinds of partnerships, changes in attitudes and procedures, and development of the operating environment.

Promoting the circular economy has also been considered in Finland's Government Programme, which aims to promote Finland's position as a leading country in the field of the circular economy. According to the strategic programme of the circular economy, the object is to create a new foundation for the economy by the year 2035. The programme sets concrete objectives and indicators for promoting the circular economy and for achieving systemic change. 

By implementing the circular economy programme Finland is the first in the world to set a quantitative target for the use of natural resources. According to the circular economy programme, total domestic consumption of primary raw materials will not exceed the 2015 level in 2035; resource productivity will double from the 2015 situation by 2035; and the circular material use rate will double by 2035. The progress of the circular economy is measured with indicators, some of which belong to the indicators for the circular economy produced by Statistics Finland.

Indicators for the circular economy

Statistics Finland produced the indicators describing the circular economy for the first time in 2020. The aim of the report was to produce indicators describing the extent and development of the business activity of the Finnish circular economy. The indicators are mainly based on statistical data collected for other purposes and they can be updated annually.

Defining the circular economy in terms of statistics was one of the key aims of the report, because the circular economy is new as a statistical topic and prior to this report it had not been examined thoroughly from the perspective of regular statistics production. Measuring and monitoring indicators is essential for understanding the circular economy and for developing solutions. 

The indicators were updated in December 2022 and the updates will continue until 2023. The updating of the indicators is based on supplementing the data for the latest statistical reference years, but some of the indicators have also been developed during the updating process.

Circular economy indicators pointing the direction

On 15 December 2022, Statistics Finland and the Finnish Environment Institute arranged a seminar Where are we going, Finland? Circular economy indicators pointing the direction (in Finnish) where the topics comprised a situation overview on the measurement and the progress of the circular economy and cross-sectoral cooperation between organisations. The seminar materials are available (in Finnish).

The original report was made as part of the extensive Circwaste project managed by the Finnish Environment Institute, which aims at mainstreaming the circular economy and sustainable waste management. The project is carried out jointly by a group of research institutes and universities, enterprises and joint municipal authorities, as well as municipalities and regions. At the beginning of the report and during its writing, stakeholder events were organised, in which both participants in the Circwaste project and other organisations presented a number of good views on measuring the business activity of the circular economy. 

In 2020, Statistics Finland and the Finnish Environment Institute organised a two-part webinar presenting indicators for the circular economy produced by both organisations. The materials of the webinar (in Finnish) have been published on the webinar website.