Advancing the Circular Economy: Exploring landscape and developments for circular public procurement in Sweden and Scotland

University essay from Lunds universitet/Internationella miljöinstitutet

Abstract: Public procurement and the purchasing of goods, services and works comprises about 14% of the European gross domestic product (GDP). Procurement initiatives, guidance and tools therefore can have significant influence to leverage demands for more sustainable and circular products and services. This study explores the current circular public procurement (CPP) landscape, looking at barriers and opportunities for increasing engagement in CPP in Scotland and Sweden. An additional purpose is looking into what are the priority product- and service group areas in CPP and where uptake is most likely in the near future. Finally, this study also looks into what role the CPP plays in transitioning to a circular economy (CE) with consideration to other supply-side and demand side policy instruments. The study employs an exploratory comparative case study design due to the relatively limited amount of research conducted in the area of CPP, and thus means to lay the groundwork for future research. The study draws on qualitative data in the form of semi-structured interviews and on desk research. Three research questions are formulated in this thesis paper: 1. What role can circular public procurement play in realising a transition to a circular economy? 2. How is the landscape for circular public procurement developing in Scotland and Sweden, and what barriers and drivers can be identified? 3. In what categories of products and services do we find a potential to scale up CPP activities? The thesis finds that CPP plays an important complementary role as a policy instrument in the transition towards a CE, alongside a broader policy mix in the EU and at Member State level. CPP can help kick-start emerging circular markets and promote circular business models (CBMs) by creating a degree of market certainty and it also has the potential to reduce market fragmentation. The landscape for CPP has been identified to hold a large number of barriers and opportunities. CPP is arguably currently being underutilized, although this is also coupled with the fact that many CBMs are still in the experimental and growing phase, and that public procurers are not yet very experienced with circular procurement, and in many cases are hesitant to procure more circularly due to risks associated with cost and legal uncertainties. In addition there are considerable regulatory and market factors that serve as barriers, but that also hold opportunities for future CPP uptake. Finally, the product group and services with the greatest likelihood to see an uptake and scaling up in CPP in the near future in both Sweden and Scotland are (office/domestic) furniture and ICT equipment, as they are proven concepts to work as CBMs and these groups have seen the greatest progress on procurement guidance through framework contracts and established sustainability criteria.

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