Regional policy measures to support green and circular economy businesses

The SwitchMed Incubation Programme has helped green entrepreneurs like Jamma Abo El Hasan Jammah, who launched her start-up REWET to improve water efficiency for date palm irrigation in Palestine. (Photo credit: SwitchMed)

In SwitchMed, SCP/RAC is leading actions to support the creation and development of green and circular economy businesses in the Mediterranean. These businesses are acknowledged by the countries of the Barcelona Convention as key drivers for the Green and Blue Economy in the Mediterranean region.

While all businesses must adapt to their political, social and economic context and operate within regulatory and institutional constraints, green and circular economy businesses often face additional challenges such as establishing a secure foothold in the market, staying competitive with other businesses that do not internalize the costs of environmental and social responsibility, limited opportunities for building capacity on sustainable business practices, and access to financing. Additional challenges can arise when the markets for sustainable products are influenced by a heterogeneous framework of policies affecting business creation and development, especially in a regional setting like the Mediterranean.

Enhancing the enabling environment for green and circular businesses in the Mediterranean

A primary focus of SCP/RAC’s work in SwitchMed is identifying opportunities to leverage policy tools that enable green and circular economy businesses to flourish, and to raise awareness about their contributions to environmental, social and economic goals in the region. One of SCP/RAC’s main action lines in this respect is a wide, stakeholder-led consultation process (2020 – 2021) to formulate regional policy measures that support the development of green and circular businesses and strengthen the demand for more sustainable products in the Mediterranean.

The development of policy measures with a regional focus is needed to complement the other activities of SwitchMed that are focused on building capacities at the level of individual entrepreneurs and businesses, establishing national partnership with Business Support Organizations and supporting governments in the execution of their National SCP action plans. The regional measures are expected to promote harmonization of policies and approaches among regional actors, with the overarching aim of increasing the adoption of eco-innovation techniques among businesses, generating new green jobs, and strengthening the demand for more sustainable products.

Job creation, in particular, is of utmost importance in the southern Mediterranean countries with an abundant young population and high youth unemployment rates, especially for young women.

Together, the regional measures will contribute to multiple strategic directions of the Mediterranean Strategy for Sustainable Development (MSSD) and the Regional Action Plan on Sustainable Consumption and Production in the Mediterranean (Regional SCP Action Plan).

Likewise, the definition of these regional measures will directly support the implementation of UNEA-4 resolutions. The Fourth UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-4) celebrated in March 2019 under the overall theme “Innovative Solutions for Environmental Challenges and Sustainable Consumption and Production” highlighted the key role of sustainable businesses in the process of adopting SCP patterns to save our planet. Resolutions UNEP/EA.4/Res.1, entitled “Innovative pathways to achieve sustainable consumption and production” and resolution UNEP/EA.4/Res.4, entitled “Addressing environmental challenges through sustainable business practices” are particularly relevant.

Many of the Southern Mediterranean countries experience elevated unemployment rates, especially when looking at the latest rates for women. In 2018, the highest unemployment rates both for men and for women among the six ENP-South* countries for which data are available were recorded in Palestine (25.1 % for men and 51.2 % for women).

European Neighbourhood Policy countries - statistical overview (2019)

Stakeholder-led consultations to identify measures to support green and circular economy businesses and strengthen demand for sustainable products

Stakeholders in Algeria discuss challenges facing green entrepreneurs at the SwitchMed Synergy Workshop organized in December 2017 in Algiers. (Photo credit: SwitchMed)

As a starting point for the stakeholder consultations, SCP/RAC will develop a set of preliminary regional measures. These will be informed by the knowledge assets generated in the first phase of SwitchMed (available at the SwitchMed e-library), including findings and recommendations from National Policy Briefs, lessons from the national events and consultations conducted (e.g., Synergy Workshops, Switchers Meet Investors, …), and by the priorities of the National Action Plans for SCP. The preliminary measures will also be based on the results of two key SCP/RAC studies in progress: a baseline assessment on enabling environments for green and circular economy businesses in the Mediterranean; and a survey of best practices from around the world on policy measures that foster the creation and development of these businesses. The initiatives of the EU Circular Economy Package will likewise be considered. As a complement to these measures, SCP/RAC will also articulate criteria for the definition of green and circular businesses in the Mediterranean, to build a common understanding of the attributes that distinguish these businesses from traditional enterprises.
The preliminary regional measure will feed into the virtual and face-to-face stakeholder consultations that will be organized during 2020 and 2021. The consultations will target a broad set of stakeholders in the region representing businesses, governments, consumers and other civil society groups, regional institutions, the financial sector and academia, amongst others. The outcome of these consultations will be consensus on the priority regional measures that will support the development of green and circular economy businesses and strengthen demand for more sustainable products.

Adoption of measures by the governing bodies of UN Environment/Mediterranean Action Plan (UNEP/MAP)
The results of the stakeholder consultation will form the basis of a proposal for a decision by the Barcelona Convention Secretariat on regional measures to (i) acknowledge and to support the development of green and circular businesses and (ii) to strengthen the demand for sustainable products and services provided by those green and circular businesses. The criteria for the definition of criteria for green and circular businesses will also appear in the proposal.
The approval of the decision by the countries at COP22 in December 2021 is expected to promote a common understanding of the definition of criteria for circular and green economy businesses and facilitate the formulation of measures to support the development of these businesses at the national level.