LACE is part of the National Research Programme "Sustainable Economy: resource-friendly, future-oriented, innovative" (NRP 73), which aims to generate scientific knowledge about a sustainable economy over a period of five years (2018-2023)
The focus of research of LACE is on the circular economy (CE), a new paradigm aiming at transcending the current “take-make-dispose” linear economic logic. Overuse of natural resources, price volatility of raw materials, increased consumption and population growth, as well as negative effects of waste on ecosystems are encouraging the search of more viable alternatives in the long run. This lead to an increased interest in the principles of the CE, which inspired by the way ecosystems are organized and regulated, intends at closing the loops of materials, thus reducing the need for raw materials and energy and avoiding waste. In addition, alternative industrial systems and associated business models in Western economies with highly competitive and saturated markets are seen as drivers of innovation.
The project intends to study under which economic, legal, political, ecological and technical conditions a sustainable economy in the form of a CE can be both ecologically beneficial and economically profitable for companies. As the project intends to confront the principles of the CE with the possibility of implementation in the Swiss economy, it involves a close cooperation with partner companies from different sectors. In order to enable a comprehensive view of the problematics at stake, the project adotps an inter- and trans-disciplinary approach, combining the perspectives of economy (sustainable business models – HSG), environmental sciences (sustainability of CE with Material Flow Analysis – EMPA), as well as law and political science.
The institutional and regulatory aspects will be addressed in a research taking place at the University of Lausanne (Center of Public Law and IDHEAP). This contribution aims at identifying main factors enhancing or blocking the transition towards CE from a legal/institutional perspective, with focus on the Swiss context. It will prove interesting to have a closer look at following questions: what does CE mean and how is it linked to sustainability? who are the main actors interested in CE in Switzerland and what are the different understandings of CE among them? What are their representations, interests and strategies and the impact of their actions on the transition towards CE? What are the main policies and regulations (private law, public law, self-regulatory agreements) affecting technical, social and economic activities among chosen sectors? What influence do these have on the transition towards CE? Should the regulatory framework be reformed in order to favour the transition towards CE? If so, why and how?
The combination of an abstract and top-down approach (overview of the main legal domains, general legal principles and notions: e.g. notion of waste, polluter-pays principle, proximity principle, waste hierarchy, principle of limitation of waste, extended producer responsibility, etc.) and a bottom-up approach, based on empirical data collected within collaborating companies, should allow to gain a better understanding of the institutional and regulatory context affecting CE in Switzerland. Based on these recognitions, it will be possible to identify and prioritize transversal legal topics (e.g health protection and security regulations, international framework and free-trade agreements, property-regimes and leasing law, taxes and other legal economic instruments, competition law and cartels) to be further developed and analysed, in order to transcend an approach by silo. At first sight, it seems that a transition towards an “authentic circular economy” will require a global and deep paradigm change that would transcend mere adaptations and isolated reforms. Incremental changes within the current system might however represent important steps and help to gradually shift mentalities towards a new model.
Financing: SNF (PNR)
LACE Project leaders
Dr Roland Hischier, Empa
Prof. Dr Karolin Frankenberger, Executive School of Management, Technology and Law, St.Gallen (ES-HSG)
Prof. Dr Stéphane Nahrath, Institut de hautes études en administration publique (IDHEAP), Université de Lausanne
Prof. Dr Anne-Christine Favre, Faculté de droit, des sciences criminelles et d'administration publique, Université de Lausanne
LACE Project partners
Prof. Dr Peter Knöpfel, Institut de hautes études en administration publique (IDHEAP), Université de Lausanne
Dr. Nils Moussu, sanu durabilitas
Prof. Dr Suren Erkman, Faculté des géosciences et de l'environnement, Université de Lausanne
LACE Partners companies: Dr. Gabs, Logitech, Losinger Marazzi, Nespresso, Tisca Tiara, SV Group, V-Zug
Harlad Desing, Empa
Fabian Takacs, HSG
Dunia Brunner, Centre de droit public et IDHEAP Politiques publiques et durabilité UNIL