How to create a national circular economy road map

01 October 2020

In 2016, Finland prepared a national road map to a circular economy under the leadership of the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra – the first country in the world to do so. The road map created a platform from which to launch and advance circular economy initiatives throughout the country, while ensuring that Finland’s population possesses a shared understanding and the tools to co-ordinate the transition.

The result was a unique combination of strategy, purpose and an action plan. In the road map, there is a strong emphasis on public-private collaboration and, as Finland is a small country, it is not only intended for policymakers but also for municipalities, companies and citizens.

As an independent think-do-and-connect-tank, having seen and assessed emerging solutions since our inception, Sitra had the impetus to share best practices and inspire organisations to contribute their own solutions and proactively engage in the circular economy. Our work was recognised internationally too as Sitra was selected as the winner of the public-sector category of The Circulars Awards, held in conjunction with the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in 2018.

The road map to a circular economy was made to be updateable. The objectives and the actions required to achieve them would be supplemented before the horizon year 2025, as skills and knowledge on the circular economy accumulate.

Since 2016, other countries have released similar strategies and road maps. To remain a pioneer requires continuous adaptation, which is why in 2019 Sitra launched an update titled “Critical Move – Finland’s Road Map to a Circular Economy 2.0”. Its goal was to chart Finland’s development, raise the level of our ambition, accelerate the change and connect the circular economy to climate change mitigation as a possible solution.

Winning solutions are not simply created using the old way of doing things, but rather by demanding diverse co-operation between the public, private and social sectors and by persevering with effort and commitment. The road map acts as a “wake-up call” and guide for the future-focused thinking of the circular economy’s central interest groups. The road map also acts as encouragement for the actions outlined in the government’s circular economy programme and has already influenced law-making.

The road map and the drawing-up process have attracted a lot of international interest and enquiries. Most of the interest and questions have been about the overall process and particularly how to get started and how to achieve a broad society-level impact with a transformative process. This guide is our answer to those enquiries. In this guide we describe how Finland’s circular economy road map was created and what we learned during the process. We want to share best practices and tips for those devising their own road maps to a circular economy in order to facilitate a global transition to a circular economy.

Creating a path to a circular economy is particularly topical in light of the post-COVID-19 recovery, as the circular economy helps to create new jobs and build more resilience to help avoid future disruptions, while also solving many other ongoing crises, from resource scarcity to biodiversity and climate change.

With this guide, governments, companies and civil society can start down the exciting path towards a society where a good life is no longer achieved by simply producing more goods. We hope the guidebook provides aid and inspiration on the journey towards a circular economy.

Link to the publication.