Shaping the future: Circular economy as a driver for sustainable corporate success

Circular economy as a driver for sustainable corporate success
Circular economy: helps companies on their path to a sustainable future. | © Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF)

Entrepreneurs in Switzerland are increasingly focusing on the principles of the circular economy and asking themselves the right questions: How does this orientation strengthen the competitiveness of the Swiss economy? Why is a “circular economy” much more than just an environmental protection concept? And what advantages do I as a company gain from implementing it? This article shows where answers to these questions can be found and highlights the advantages that a sustainable economy offers companies.

Alongside the Federal Office for the Environment FOEN and economiesuisse, the National Research Program NRP 73 is one of the key players supporting decision-makers with recommendations for action, best practices and sound information on promoting a sustainable economy with responsible use of natural resources.

NRP 73 generated and published scientific findings on key topics and specific projects with the aim of promoting the welfare and competitiveness of Switzerland as a business location.

Switzerland’s role in the circular economy transition

The amount of waste generated in Switzerland each year is considerable. This is mainly due to high consumption and high-income levels. According to the Federal Office for the Environment, between 80 and 90 million tons of waste are produced here every year (source: FOEN). Switzerland is well aware of this challenge. In March 2024, the Swiss parliament decided to integrate significant changes in line with the circular economy into the Environmental Protection Act. The changes concern, among other things, the closing of material cycles, the shelf life of products and regulations on the waste hierarchy.

The National Research Program NRP 73 also promotes the development towards a circular economy. The focus areas of NRP 73 are food production, the sustainable economy, construction/housing, sustainable consumption and forest ecosystems. Important drivers are new technologies, the consideration of environmental impacts in market prices and the increasing alignment of public procurement with sustainability criteria.

Circular economy as a strategic approach to increasing competitiveness

Companies increasingly recognize that the circular economy will help determine their future viability. The key to anchoring a circular economy in an organization’s DNA lies in the awareness that business sustainability is far more than just an environmental protection concept.

The circular economy should always be understood as a strategic approach to increasing the competitiveness of companies. This is why the National Research Program NRP 73, with its research projects, offers entrepreneurs, politicians, and other decision-makers in Switzerland insights and recommendations for action to deepen this understanding and put it into practice.

Discover Now | NRP 73

NRP 73 develops knowledge for a sustainable, resource-conserving economy in Switzerland that promotes prosperity and strengthens competitiveness.

The findings of NRP 73 enable business and politics to effectively integrate the circular economy into their strategies: From the development of sustainable product designs to the implementation of new business models and toolkits for CEOs as well as politicians: the research projects offer a wide range of information. They show how companies can improve their market position through sustainability.

To date, there has been little reliable evidence for Switzerland as to which circular strategies have the greatest impact on the sustainability of companies. One of the objectives therefore had to be to develop appropriate methods for decision-making. The associated research projects on the circular economy are now answering important questions such as:

  • Where can decision-makers get support for an effective and successful circular economy?
  • How can cycles be made sustainable?
  • How can strategies for a “sustainable economy” be implemented economically to reduce the waste problem?
  • What regulatory and systemic obstacles stand in the way of sustainability?

Additional short briefings relevant to the key topic of the circular economy were published especially for CEOs and politicians. These links give entrepreneurs free access to a wealth of information and best practices that enable companies to combine sustainable change and business success:

The freely accessible publications on the NRP 73 website provide an excellent guide for companies that intend to further strengthen their competitiveness and thus their future viability through the circular economy. The content is available in German, French, and English.

Why the circular economy is an opportunity for companies

The scientific research results and studies indicate that the circular economy also represents a strategic opportunity for economic and political players to strengthen corporate success and thus also welfare and Switzerland as a business location in the long term. Conversely, from a scientific perspective, the traditional, linear economic approach of “produce, use, dispose” is only sustainable to a limited extent.

The modern understanding of a circular economy focuses on longevity, reuse, repair, reprocessing and recycling, and thus also opens up new business opportunities for many companies in Switzerland.

In summary

  • Switzerland is striving to play a leading role in the circular economy. This is being driven by modern technologies, the consideration of environmental costs in market pricing and the increasing focus of public procurement on sustainability criteria.
  • Successful implementation of the requirements of a sustainable economy strengthens the company’s success at various levels.
  • Increasing efficiency in the use of resources is not just about sustainability. In the medium to long term, this will reduce costs and, as a result, increase competitiveness in national and international competition.
  • Companies also benefit from a gain in reputation, which they can use proactively in their customer approach and communication to successfully secure their position in the market for the future.

This article marks the start of a series of articles that will be published on this online platform at regular intervals over the coming weeks and months.

This text was produced in cooperation with the National Research Program (NRP 73). The editorial responsibility for all text content lies with the authors.