People in a circular economy

Ensuring wellbeing for all


As the economy shifts from linear to circular, we are presented with an opportunity. If implemented with the planet and people in mind, the circular economy can help us create a safe and just space for all—addressing not only environmental challenges but also social ones.

Yet while environmental considerations are at the core of the circular economy, social aspects have largely been underexplored. That's because the circular economy is a resource-based framework primarily seeking to prevent further environmental degradation.

Since our current system is deeply rooted in the exploitation of both the planet and people—with some of us experiencing its negative impacts more than others—, any attempt to bring about change must match environmental goals with social ambitions.


If a safe and just space for all is the goal, how can we seize the opportunities the circular economy presents?

At Circle Economy, we want to better understand how circular principles can drive positive social change. Considering social injustices in the current economic system, we research social blindspots of circular strategies and explore how the circular economy can create inclusive and decent work. We work closely with businesses, cities, nations and civil societies to help them implement circular business models that put human wellbeing at the centre.

We believe we must adopt a more holistic lens to the circular economy so that all humans can thrive on a healthy planet.
This is an opportunity we cannot fail to take.
The circular transition needs to be positive for all of us. For this we need foresight, awareness and education. The circular economy brings an opportunity to promote decent jobs, secure livelihoods and inclusive labour markets. But to make these opportunities a reality, the social impact of the circular economy needs to be understood and prioritised.

– Esther Goodwin Brown, Circular Jobs Initiative Lead at Circle Economy
We need a new economic system that allows both people and the planet to thrive, one that is based on a shared understanding of our interconnectedness. We are all part of one system, interdependent on each other, and dependent upon nature. To bring this mindset shift to life, we must design circular economic models that are deeply transformative, embracing a holistic way of thinking and new forms of collaboration.

- Ilektra Kouloumpi, Senior Cities Strategist - Thriving Cities Lead

Avoiding blindspots: Promoting circular and fair business models

This report provides recommendations for addressing the social, governance, market and environmental blindspots of circular business models.
Relevant for:
Policy makers
Civil society based in the European Union
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The social economy: a means for inclusive & decent work in the circular economy?

Combining the social and the circular economy agendas can facilitate an inclusive, just and safe labour market.
Relevant for:
Local and national policymakers
Civil society
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Resilience and the circular economy: Opportunities and risks

Which circular economy strategies enhance socio-ecological resilience? How can we avoid potential trade-offs?
Relevant for:
Local and national governments
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Creating City Portraits - A methodological guide from the Thriving Cities Initiative

A methodology to assess city strategies in a holistic way, integrating environmental and social, local and global considerations.
Relevant for:
local policymakers
urban changemakers
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A circular economy fit for the 21st century

Coming soon, a whitepaper on the circular economy's potential to create both social, ecological and economic prosperity. Subscribe to our newsletter to be notified when it launches.
stay tuned
see more reports
Over the past decade, sustained investment in technological and material innovation has accelerated the transition to a circular economy. But to further scale its positive impact, we now need to embrace social innovations that make the circular economy relevant to our daily lives, jobs and education. Only if technological and social innovations go hand in hand, can we drive real change.

– Birgitta Kramer, Programme Manager Circular Economy at Goldschmeding Foundation

work in the circular economy

As we transition to a circular economy, the world of work changes. To ensure a positive transition to circularity for all workers, our Circular Jobs Initiative conducts research on the relationship between labour markets and the circular economy.
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Can circular cities boost biodiversity?

Aside from preserving the last remaining natural places, we need to create new ones — especially in cities

July 14, 2021
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Why your circular business may not be as sustainable as you think

New research suggests we need more nuance in discerning what is circular and what is sustainable

July 9, 2021
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With the circular economy, we can avoid climate catastrophe

July 8, 2021
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Putting circular textiles to work: How can we bridge the skills gap for the Dutch clothing value chain?

June 24, 2021
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How the new sustainability dogma is changing the way we do business—for the better

Collaboration is essential for accelerating the transition to a circular economy, but it's not without its challenges

June 11, 2021
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Fashion fit for the future: The skills needed to drive clothing's circular transition

How the rise of reuse and repair models will change the landscape of the Dutch clothing industry

June 3, 2021
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