The Netherlands is a Circular Hotspot. You might find this surprising, so let me explain. In contrast to our current ‘linear’ economic model, based on take-make-waste-principles, a Circular Economy reuses materials over and over again, creating an infinite loop.

Since the Netherlands doesn’t have many resources of their own (except for our gas supply that might only last another 20 years), a circular economy is very attractive for the Netherlands. Therefore it is quite logical that the government chose the Circular Economy as one of the main focus area’s during their presidency of the EU in the first half of 2016

And it’s not just the government that sees the advantages of a Circular Economy. Over 30 companies also have the ambition to make the Netherlands a pioneering country in this new economic model. Together they started the campaign “Netherlands as Circular Hotspot”, with the goal of positioning the Netherlands as an international example for circular business.

But the question is: how circular are the companies of this circular hotspot really? In order to find out Accenture teamed up with Circle Economy, MVO Nederland and DuurzaamBedrijfsleven. Together we developed the first Circular Economy Index for businesses; an index that provides insight into the degree of circularity of Dutch companies. 

At the end of 2015 we invited the 250 biggest Dutch companies to participate in the first version of this nationwide research program. Fifty of them participated in the self-assessment. In addition, we interviewed five of them to gain insights into their approach, successes and challenges.

Image: The Circular Economy Index of Dutch businesses

Circular Learnings

So what did we learn?

First of all, all 50 respondents turned out to be leaders in the circular economy: almost 90% of them somehow embedded circularity into their strategy. However, only 15% of them have fully analyzed the impact of circular economy on all aspects of their business. It’s clear companies struggle to bridge the gap from strategy to execution.

Why? As it turns out, companies find it hard to create a viable business case, but also a lack of awareness and urgency, as well as vested interest are holding them back.

However, there certainly does seem to be an interest in the Circular Economy, as was shown by the responses of a number of non-respondents. They stated that the Circular Economy Index supported them in their endeavors to put this new economic model on the agenda of their board. A positive sound.

Furthermore, our research showed that there are best practices in the area of procurement, design and operations, with the side note that there is still a world to be won. Waste management, on the other hand, is the area that is most mature. More than half of the companies have clear policies and targets, as well as concrete implementation plans for waste management. When companies in the supply chain really cooperate and unite on a common goal, the best and most progressive results are realized.  

Landal GreenParks and Van Gansewinkel give us a good example of how to make it work. In a place that is comparable to a small town with 13,000 bungalows and with 12 million overnight stays per year, there is a lot of waste. And it’s not always easy to get guests to separate their garbage, according to Tanja Roeleveld, Manager Sustainability at Landal GreenParks. Needless to say, there is great potential to improve circularity here. That’s why Landal GreenParks and Van Gansewinkel are looking into cooperative opportunities to experiment with ways to raise the recycling rate. Think of complex analyses to find the best durable packaging materials for snackbars or setting up a collection system for diapers. That way, together they try to build circular chains.   

A Global Leader?

Above, I’ve only scratched the surface of the insights obtained in the Circular Economy Index. I invite you to dive deeper into the details and have a look at the report "The Circular Economy Index of Dutch businesses", open in PDF.

Can we conclude that The Netherlands is a Circular Hotspot? I believe it’s very early days to say so, but the engagement of the respondents gives me a very positive feeling about the way that Circularity is finding its way into Dutch Businesses. This is also acknowledged on a global level with three Dutch winners in the the world’s premier circular economy award program: the Circulars. Last January, Feike Sijbesma (CEO of DSM), Philips and DeLagelanden were all winners. Three winners, and Dutch social enterprise VanHulley as runner up; a great result for a small country in a global competition.

Let’s ensure we keep the positive momentum by experimenting, cooperating and spreading our experience. With our ecosystem and our way of doing business (direct but fair), I’m sure that we can maintain our leading position in the coming years. So if you have a great circular success-story: share it with us in the comments below and register it for The Circulars of this year. In the meantime, we’ll evaluate and improve the Circular Economy index with our partners, so we can assure progress among Dutch businesses in the future. Because what is not measured, is not managed.