KNOWLEDGE MAP Back to overview

Circular Economy

… relating to consumers and society?

The adoption of circular practices and products by consumers and society at large is not a given. Lack of knowledge, awareness and enthusiasm are presented as formidable barriers.

Societal barriers

  • Lack of awareness: Het ontbreekt aan bewustzijn dat een transitie noodzakelijk is. Besef van de meerwaarde van een circulaire economie vormt de basis voor het ontwikkelen van handelingsperspectieven van consumenten, ondernemers en werknemers;
  • Appreciation for ownership: Ownership is often closely entwined with status and current tastes. Functionality may be subordinate to complete availability of a product. A new product may have preference above a second hand product.

Sociaal-economische Raad (SER), 2016 p27; Raad voor de Leefomgeving en Infrastructuur. 2015, p75;


Consumers will need to understand and value what the concept represents. To reach the mass market, a product certification or labelling system may be needed. Key barriers include the lack of standardization of methodologies applied in different countries, the cost of assessing resource consumption for individual firms, and the absence of a widely recognized, independent organization to award certification on resource efficiency or a circular economy.

Preston, 2012, p15.

Demand for freedom of choice

A washing machine is an example of a product that could be leased numerous times over a 20 year lifespan to reduce environmental impact, increase profits and still provide cost savings and other benefits to customers. But do customers want to lease a machine that is five, ten or fifteen years old? Freedom of choice is a powerful force that must be reckoned, and changing consumer behavior is a tall order.

Agrawal, Atasu, and Van Wassenhove. 2016