This short paper – primarily for development policy-makers and practitioners – highlights a significant opportunity to accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.
Case studies from Brazil, Ghana, Kenya and India demonstrate how supporting (and removing obstacles to) circular economy business models can provide a triple win:
- increasing productivity and economic growth
- improving the quality and quantity of employment
- saving lives, by reducing environmental impacts such as water pollution, air pollution and climate change (approximately 9 million people die of diseases linked to mismanagement of waste and pollutants each year).
The concept of the circular economy is currently almost entirely absent from the development discourse at present. And yet, the circular economy holds out the promise of an alternative growth model that reduces the tension between lifting people out of poverty and protecting the planet, dramatically increasing the scope for meeting the SDGs.
Drawing on the case studies and other research, we make recommendations for a greater focus on the circular economy in low and middle-income countries. These recommendations are relevant to donor governments, developing country governments, business, academia and the third sector.