A concept that is gaining recognition
Two words that are becoming more familiar to Europeans
Circular economy. Two simple words which, when combined, still manage to conjure up a degree of mystery and even a sense of the unknown. It is hardly surprising that the concept to which they refer has been assigned a variety of definitions. However, whether it be politicians, the media or NGOs, a whole range of stakeholders have been working closely on the issue over the last few years and are now placing it front and centre.
So, does the circular economy mean anything to Europeans? Almost 7 out of 10 say that it does. It is also encouraging to see that more than a third know exactly what it entails (Fig. 1). However, this awareness is somewhat variable, particularly from country to country.
The origins of the circular economy
The most astute consumers on this topic can be found in Southern and Western Europe. For instance, 36% of Italians are able to accurately define these two words. This is not particularly surprising in a country where localism and environmentally sound practices in general are relatively widespread, as previous Observatoire Cetelem surveys have often highlighted. In the East, perceptions are not as sharp and the words hold less meaning. Only 9% of Slovaks have a clear idea of what the circular economy is.
When people are questioned regarding their exact understanding of the term circular economy, a generational divide emerges that reappears on numerous occasions during the course of this survey. Under 50s are noticeably more au fait with the meaning of the term than their elders.
A positive image
Although the words might not resonate with everyone, overall perceptions are very positive (Fig. 2). Once the concept has been explained to them, more than 8 out of 10 Europeans view it in a positive light. The Italians are extremely receptive to the idea, but the Portuguese are even more so (93% and 94%). Once again, one must travel east to find more dissenting voices, the Czechs being a case in point, although the positivity score remains very high (73%).
A modern phenomenon, but more than just a fad
This positive perception of the circular economy is reflected in the opinions of those who associate it with equally positive values (Fig. 3). Indeed, 85% of Europeans believe that it is beneficial to the environment and natural resources, which happens to be one of its primary objectives. The Portuguese and Italians are the most likely to express this view (92%). The second quality associated with the circular economy is its capacity for innovation, as highlighted by 82% of Europeans, with the Italians and Portuguese again proving slightly more enthusiastic than the rest, although there are no major differences between the countries. Completing the podium in third place is job creation, an attribute put forward by 75% of Europeans, with very few divergences between the nations.
As confirmation of its potential staying power, only 35% of Europeans consider the circular economy to be a fad. One nation clearly stands out on this issue, with respondents expressing a view that sets it apart from the other countries. Indeed, 52% of those interviewed in France see the circular economy as a temporary trend.