Retrospective on the 1st day of the Benelux Circular Economy Business Forum: More than 150 participants took part to this multiformat event on 4th and 5th October 2022, organised by the Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce and its Enterprise Europe Network, together with the Benelux Union and in close collaboration with the Luxembourg Ministry of the Economy, the Luxembourg Ministry for the Greater Region and “Betriber & Ëmwelt” of the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST).
Taking place in the framework of the 2022 Luxembourg Presidency of the Benelux Union, the first day of this 2-day cross-border economic forum was honored by the presence of H.R.H. the Crown Prince, the Luxembourg Minister of the Economy, Mr. Franz Fayot, and the Secretary General of the Benelux Union, Mr. Alain de Muyser and placed the key role of circular economy in achieving sustainable development and in transforming nowadays economies and societies.
In his welcome address, Mr. Carlo Thelen, CEO / Director General of the Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce, stressed the difficulties that companies have been facing. "For many years, we have been stressing the need to move from an extensive growth model to a qualitative growth model. This means using our limited resources more rationally and efficiently and "doing better with less". To achieve this, the circular model is a promising successor to the linear model for building a more environmentally friendly and resource-efficient growth. Moreover, it has the potential to stimulate innovation, generate new jobs and diversify products and services based on new business models and practices.” Carlo Thelen explained, while also underlining the initiatives taken by the Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce, an upcoming one being the opening of the House of Sustainability.
To highlight the existing intergovernmental synergies, Mr. Alain de Muyser, Secretary General of the Benelux Union, explained that “the mission of the Benelux Union is more than ever to be a lighthouse: to accompany this transition to a sustainable economy by supporting the implementation of a political and regulatory framework which will allow local actors, citizens and businesses, to orient themselves, and by offering them a crossborder toolbox in order to achieve these objectives.” Being a priority in its 2022 Action Plan and Luxembourg Presidency, the Benelux Union offers space for circular economy to be implemented on a regional level, proactively, efficiently, test collaborations and crossborder initiatives, which can be adapted to the Single Market level.
Mr. Franz Fayot, Luxembourg Minister of the Economy, offered valuable insights of the government’s work in terms of circular economy, which is at the center of the politics and the businesses’ agenda. Minister Fayot insisted that the transformation to a circular economy will not take place as easily as it seems, as a global change of our perspectives is needed: notions like sobriety, GED per well-being, intelligent growth, growth via education & culture, reinventing the collective, and a full change in our lifestyles.
Circular economy key trends in the Benelux: “It’s time to make circular economy happen!”
To represent each country of the Benelux’s strategies, a duo of experts from the public and the private sector shared insights on what has been done, what still needs to be achieved and what solutions are available to accelerate the implementation of circular economy.
To explain the young but promising Luxembourg national circular economy strategy, Ms Laurence Tock, Director Circular Economy & Sustainable Technologies, at the Luxembourg Ministry of the Economy represented the country. Renown Luxembourg expert in circular economy, Mr. Romain Poulles, Managing Director of PROgroup, gave a critical view on and shared concrete themes where there is a need to act.
For Belgium, Mr. Stephan Vandermolen, Attaché at the Federation of Enterprises in Belgium (FEB) and specifically at the Sustainability & Circular Economy Competence Centre gave an overview of the circular economy strategy in Belgium as well as the strong efforts of the FEB in the domain, namely a Report on the advancement of circular economy in September 2022. Implementing circular economy business models is a win-win-win situation it is for companies, for their clients, and for the environment, explained Mr. Florian André, CEO at P2S Management Consulting.
Digitalisation and financial incentives were the heart of the discussions for the Netherlands, well-known for their actions in circular economy, being for example the first host of the Circular Hotspot initiative series (for the 2022 edition). Mr. Arthur ten Wolde, Executive Director & Circular Economy Expert at Ecopreneur.eu, the European Sustainable Business Federation explained the circular economy strategy of the Netherlands. On a more thematic note, the sustainable construction company Madaster was represented by Mr. Johan Klaps, Managing Director of the Belgium branch.
The Benelux countries all have their national strategies and federative initiatives but adapting to changes that can be radical is challenging. There is now a need for all economic actors to actually start implementing circular economy principles. Hence, the key message of the round table, underlined by all speakers: “It’s time to make circular economy happen!” and for good.
Deep dive into two themes: circular economy in the industry sector, and in construction & infrastructure
Mr. Guy Keckhut, the moderator of the entire event, introduced the presentations of a thematic workshop on circular economy in the industry sector with the following experts: Mr. Rafael Jaimes Contreras, Head of Circular Economy Unit at the Wallonia Cluster Mecatech explained how metallurgy was a priority in this aspect for the Walloon government. Ms Stéphanie Sauce, Marketing Manager at General Technic in Luxembourg, explained how the company introduced circular economy in their business model to serve their clients in the industry sector. Innovation in the industry is important as well, as underlined by Mr. Ramses Villa, Business Creation Manager – Benelux at EIT InnoEnergy, a venture fostering interesting startup projects. Energy was at the heart of the session.
Ms Yvonne Havenga, Policy Coordinator, at the General Secretariat of the Benelux Union animated an insightful thematic workshop on circular economy in construction and infrastructure. Mr. Michael Moradiellos del Molino, Head of Real Estate, EPEA – Part of Drees + Sommer talked about the cradle 2 cradle notion in the construction sector. Mr. Hugues Kempeneers, Director of Embuild – Brussels, the Brussels office of the Belgian Federation for Construction, highlighted how Brussels benefitted from sustainable construction to become a smart city. The crossborder at its core Interreg Project Digital Deconstruction was presented by Ms Annie Guerriero of the LIST, Mr. Jean-Yves Marié from BIM-Y, and Mr. Guillaume Dubois from Schroeder & Associés.
The important question of waste management: overview of the regulations in place, synergies available, and solutions for companies
Waste management is a fundamental aspect of sustainability and circular economy, and a prickly crossborder issue. The closing conference, organised in collaboration with Betriber & Ëmwelt, was dedicated to this theme.
In their opening words, Ms Sabrina Sagramola, Manager International Affairs and EEN National Coordinator of the Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce, and Mr. Lucien Hoffmann, Director of the Environmental Research and Innovation Department (ERIN) of the LIST, settled the context of the issue and the need for collaboration on this aspect. Ms Caroline Fedrigo, Senior Engineer at the LIST presented the proactive Betriber & Ëmwelt initiative and its work to help companies understand environment legislation and obligations.
On this note, Luxembourg has adopted a “Zero Waste Strategy” and implemented in its national law a legislative package dedicated to waste management and single-use plastics, which were explained to the audience by Mr. Paul Rasqué, Advisor at the Luxembourg Ministry of the Environment, Climate and Sustainability. These obligations come from a 2014 EU package of directives and are biding to all economic actors.
Giving a crossborder view on the subject, Mr. Emmanuel Mossay, Director Research & Innovation and Circular Economy Expert at EcoRes highlighted the Belgium federal and regional legal frameworks when it comes to waste management. For the Netherlands and on a solution-focused level, Mr. Rob Buurman, Director, Recycling Netwerk Benelux (NL) offered insights on how collaboration in this subject could go smoother. Cooperation is already at stake thanks to the biding efforts of the Benelux Union: this is what was highlighted by Mr. Stéphane Verwilghen, Legal Advisor for the General Secretariat of the Benelux Union.
Knowing this, solutions are already available to help companies transition. This is what was presented by Ms Sophie Öberg, Deputy Director, and Ms Laura Mullenders, Project Manager – Waste Management, of IMS – Inspiring More Sustainability Luxembourg. Highlight project in the field, a transition kit to help companies go from recycling to reusing has been developed and proved useful, as suggested by the practical company testimonies of Mr. Arnaud Waxweiler, Sustainability Lead at ING, and Mr. Christoph Längsfeld, ESG-Officer at ERGO Life.
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Presentations of the speakers are available for consultation below.
Did you miss the event or want to relive the programme? Check:
the article about the second day dedicated to synergies between Benelux and Greater Region, and business synergies here.