Participation of all stakeholders key to effective mainstreaming of circular economy adoption  

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The effective mainstreaming of the adoption of the circular economy (CE), which is emerging in the Philippines as one of the key measures in promoting sustainable principles and practices across various economic sectors, requires the active support and participation of all stakeholders, including consumers and enterprises.

Foreign Service Institute of the Philippines-Center for International Relations and Strategic Studies former Chief Research Officer Jovito Jose Katigbak in a webinar presented the result of “Assessing the Adoption of Circular Economy among Women-Led MSMEs in Metro Manila: A Pilot Study”, also authored by Senior Foreign Affairs Research Specialist Jemimah Joanne Villaruel.

The study by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) found that there is a low level of awareness regarding CE principles among women-led micro, small and medium enterprises (WMSMEs) in Metro Manila despite the increasing prominence of CE as a strategy for achieving sustainable development.

“It then translates to a low level of circularity which was ascertained through strategy and vision, business model, post-sales services, resource recovery, waste management, resource consumption, and ecodesign,” it said.

WMSMEs also tend to work in isolation and shun collaboration and partnerships with external parties, co-enterprises, or customers in the advancement of CE, it added.

“The majority of our respondents had never heard of circular economy principles before,” Katigbak said during his presentation. Out of their 58 respondents, over 65.5 percent were completely unaware of government-led programs, while another 32.8 percent had only limited knowledge about specific projects. This, despite the existence of several local-level programs. 

To mainstream effectively the CE adoption among stakeholders, the study pushed for the implementation of a multilevel system of governance by categorizing programs, projects, and activities into micro (consumers and enterprises), meso (economic agents in eco-industrial parks/industrial symbiosis), and macro (city/regional/national) levels.

At the micro level, the study said the DTI and Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) can focus on education campaigns and advocacies to raise the current level of awareness about CE principles.

It may build on extant programs such as the National Ecolabelling Programme – Green Choice Philippines, Kalikasan Green Productivity, Green Purchasing Towards Green Philippines, Philippine Green Pages, and the Sustainable Diner Project and may link with the Mother Earth Foundation to expand CE-related trainings for WMSMEs across various sectors.

The Philippine Trade Training Center, in collaboration with the academe and expert practitioners, may develop course/s and/or modules on CE intended for WMSMEs. This aims to familiarize firms with the basics of CE so that they can effectively streamline it to their strategies, business models, and waste management.

In addition, the government may provide incentives and business support schemes to WMSMEs to address the latter’s limited financial resources, concern regarding low cost savings, and the traditional mindset withholding them from CE uptake, it added.

Emma Asusano, director of the Department of Trade and Industry’s (DTI) Bureau of Small and Medium Enterprise Development, said the country already has several laws related to CE adoption.

“And to fulfill the objectives of the laws, even the Philippine Development Plan, our MSME (micro, small and medium enterprises) Development Plan and the National Climate Change Action Plan, along with various initiatives, policies that were outlined in the research emphasize a whole-of-society approach to facilitate transition to a low carbon economy because that is what we wanted to happen –adopting to circular economy rather than using a linear type of business model,” said Asusano, a discussant during the webinar organized by the PIDS.

For DTI, she said, the DTI National Capital Regional Office oversees the implementation ng Green Economic Development Program which integrates sustainable practices for local enterprises.

Asusano said DTI’s Consumer Policy and Advocacy Bureau also regularly organizes public webinars on CE and zero waste which cater to both MSMEs and consumers.

On the macro level, Asusano cited the facilitation of green transition for ASEAN SMEs, which is also considered a strategic approach to enhance economic competitiveness.

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