Circular economy has become a wide-scale approach towards doing business nowadays. More consumers than ever are attracted to companies that are environmentally-friendly, offer reusable products, flourish on recycled materials and use more renewable resources in general. Also, it stimulates application of high-valued innovations and technological solutions, which contribute to generating economic growth. Yet up until now, circular economy in Lithuania has been lacking wider appreciation among policy makers and traditional business sectors.
Lithuanian innovation centre as a promoter of innovation culture in Lithuania has gathered representatives from Ministry of Economy and Innovation, Ministry of Environment and Lithuanian Confederation of Industrialists to discuss the prospects of circular economy dominating the mindset of country’s approach towards production, trade and consumption of goods and services. Two major discoveries have been made. On one hand businesses, especially the traditional ones, are sceptical towards circular economy for various reasons, on the other hand, government could play a more active role in promoting circular economy as the main way to organise business in the country.
Throughout the discussion it’s been indicated that even though circular economy provides many opportunities for new ideas and businesses, traditional sectors are still very much bound by their prejudice. For instance, they often operate using old equipment and do not necessary want to invest in some new while the old one still works and generates profits. Also, they are afraid that with the boost of circular economy, the economic growth will slow down as the longevity of the most products will be prolonged thus decreasing consumption. Moreover, it takes time to adjust to new set of business strategies and successfully implement them. In this instance businesses do not always want to switch from methods that they know work to methods that they are not sure will work.
Another big issue with circular economy in Lithuanian is that so far there has been no clear strategy or political mindset on the areas where circular economy would benefit the most and where the majority of the investments should be directed. Ministry of Economy and Innovation is currently working on this issue, but as it has been noted in the meeting, it needs to be a more unified attempt involving all relevant stakeholders in the field. Also, concrete roles should be prescribed to different actors to avoid duplication and to cover all the areas necessary for the circular economy to entrench in Lithuania, and this is where public procurement comes in handy.
According to Arturas Jakubavicius, Head of Innovation support services department at Lithuanian Innovation Centre, in order to remain competitive businesses will have to adjust to the new wave of circular economy or they will be left behind and will be forced to close up, while public institutions could foster this process by introducing specific requirements that would meet circular economy criteria for service providers in the public procurement tenders. This would contribute to the promotion of circular economy in the country in general and would force companies eager to participate in public procurement tenders to apply circular economy approach to their businesses.
Participants of the meeting have agreed on further discussions in this regard and have found the whole idea promising. They have also stressed out the importance of circular economy to the development of country’s competitiveness and its intersection with smart specialisation and industry digitalisation, noting that this connection may become a starting point for Lithuania opening up to circular economy as well.