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Transforming the future: the circular economy and small businesses

04 Mar 2024. 09:33
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  • SME maturity
    1. Estrategias e iniciativas digitales
    Scope to digitize
    1. Digital strategy

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In order to comply with environmental regulations and meet the demands of an increasingly aware society, it is essential to seek solutions focused on a sustainable future. In this context, the circular economy emerges as a model that SMEs and freelancers can adopt to achieve this.

Do you want to know what it is and how to implement it in your business? We tell you about it below.

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Transformar el futuro: la economía circular y las pequeñas empresas

What is the circular economy?

The circular economy is a resource management model that seeks to minimise waste by extending the life cycle of products through recycling, reuse and repair. In this way, it breaks with the traditional "make, use and throw away" model, which involves a high expenditure of resources and energy, and generates tons of waste.

It is one of the main elements of the European Green Pact by which the European Union is committed to achieving climate neutrality by 2050. For this reason, implementing it on time brings a great advantage in terms of responsible positioning in the market and among the competition.

How does the circular economy influence SMEs?

The circular economy is presented as an opportunity for SMEs in the short term and could become an obligation if we talk about the future. However, despite its strategic and legal importance, 54% of Spanish SMEs do not know what the circular economy is. Moreover, of those that are aware of this model, only 15% have implemented specific initiatives.

In relation to this, the Trade Union Institute for Labour, Environment and Health de la Fundación (ISTAS) and Ecoembes presented in 2023 a report that aims to explain the main challenges and incentives faced by SMEs on their way to circularity.

The first conclusion we can draw from the report are the main barriers faced by SMEs:

  • Lack of knowledge and information on the circular economy and its impact on the environment.
  • Lack of personnel specialised in circularity.
  • Lack of financial resources and difficulty in accessing public aid.


According to the United Nations, 70% of SMEs need access to external funding to reduce their emissions.


Furthermore, this report highlights that the main drivers for the implementation of a circular economy are:

  • Efficiency in the use of resources, which in turn enables a reduction in waste and costs.
  • Compliance with environmental regulations, both in the European framework and in the national and regional frameworks.
  • Pressures from markets, consumers and supply chains that have an increasingly sustainable approach.


You have already seen that, despite the barriers, the future is going to be centred on the circular economy, so it is essential to implement it so as not to be left behind. We tell you how you can take the first steps!


How to implement the circular economy in your daily life

Although the full transition to circularity involves redesigning processes and products, here are some tips for you to start implementing it in the daily habits of your SME or in your professional activity as a freelancer:

  1. Promote the repair and reuse of products with after-sales service programmes, repair manuals and incentives for the return of used products. For example, if you have an electronics shop, you can collect second-hand devices for repair and sell them again at a discounted price.


  1. Encourage responsible use of products to extend their useful life by educating both your own organisation and your customers about sustainable practices and maintenance options. For example, if you sell garden maintenance machines in your SME, you can provide advice to your customers on the correct way to use, clean and store these tools.



  1. Digitise everyday processes to reduce the waste of natural resources and also to achieve an optimal performance of your work.  For example, a law firm can use the paperless philosophy to reduce the use of paper in the processing of documents.


  1. Collaborate with other SMEs that share your commitment to the circular economy and sustainability. If you are in the hospitality industry, you can look for suppliers who do not use plastic materials and who ship using recyclable packaging.


In addition, if your product meets the sustainability requirements set by the European Union, you can apply for the Ecolabel, a voluntary label that helps to identify environmentally responsible products.


In conclusion, although the adoption of the circular economy may present major challenges, such as initial investment or employee training, these will be transformed into opportunities to develop new skills, access sustainable financing and differentiate themselves in an increasingly aware market

If you want to keep up to date with all the latest news on digitalisation affecting SMEs and the self-employed, visit our news section. We look forward to seeing you!

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