Security priorities in circular economy: A conceptual review

Summary

In this journal article, Eugène Petelin from Lund University explores the role of circular economy in addressing resource security concerns and the impact of various security perspectives on circular policy design. The study maps circular solutions for food, material, energy, and water security and examines how interlinks between these security domains raise the issue of prioritization between resources in circular policies. The author demonstrates potential implications of circular solutions for national, international, human, and ecological security and argues that these security perspectives should be in balance for an inclusive and resilient circular transformation.  

The article is published in Sustainable Production and Consumption

An image of the earth with arrows signifying circular economy
Image by Annette from Pixabay

The circular economy transformation

Political interest in the circular economy concept is increasing globally, with a desire to create the conditions for a transformation towards a more circular society.  The transformative change implied by this concept means altering linear modes of production and consumption into a regenerative system that minimizes resource inputs and waste, emissions, and energy leakages through innovative practices, technologies, and business models based on the principles of slowing, closing, and narrowing loops. This transformative change is envisioned to contribute to achieving multiple UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with a primary focus on SDG 12, Responsible Consumption and Production. As promising as the circular economy is, its policy design can be shaped by resource security concerns which can prioritise some solutions and neglect others, affecting the directionality of the circular transformation. This study explores the connection of the circular economy to security and the effects that security concerns might have on prioritization between circular policies.

Key Messages

  • Circular economy solutions can address broader resource security challenges than previously assumed, including resource scarcity, access restrictions, rising economic costs, disruption of ecosystems, health and safety risks, and equity and justice. 
  • The integration of four resource security domains, namely food, material, energy, and water security, with circular principles offers a diverse range of solutions to resource security challenges. However, increasing concerns about these challenges can affect circular policies, prioritising some solutions over others.  
  • Applying a constructivist approach to security studies helps distinguish four security discourses in the circular economy and explains the motivation behind prioritising circular solutions. These discourses include National Security, International Security, Human Security, and Ecological Security and imply different objectives for circular transformation. 
  • Understanding the circular economy’s geopolitical, intragenerational, social, and environmental effects can inform political debates, evaluate circular policies, and support marginalised solutions to ensure the circular transformation is inclusive and resilient. 

Conclusions

These results highlight how different perspectives on security can affect the vision of circular economy‘s role and significance, which, in turn, can affect the directionality of the circular transformation. Illuminating different security perspectives of the circular economy supports a more informed dialogue in the policy process. 

Citation

Petelin, E. (2024). Security priorities in circular economy: A conceptual review, Sustainable Production and Consumption 47 (2024) 655-669, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.spc.2024.05.004 

 

 

Authors of this publication

Eugène Petelin ,