The corona crisis has had an enormous impact on our economy. As many as 98% of regular businesses have experienced serious problems. This is evident from a survey (Dutch only) carried out by Circular Flanders and the VITO knowledge centre. Things are different with the circular companies. Two out of three circular companies (66%) state that they were not hindered by shortages during the corona crisis. Circular economy proves to be an effective vaccine during unexpected crises.

Mol, 6 July 2020 - More than 540 companies and organisations completed the survey of Circular Flanders and VITO in May and June. This survey explored how companies, governments and non-profit organisations look at the past months, the future and the role of the circular economy in the recovery. The results of the survey (Dutch only) were presented to experts from essenscia, Agoria, Bond Beter Leefmilieu, VITO and Circular Flanders during the VITO Connect round table debate.

Flanders sees the opportunities of circular economy

There is clearly support for circular economy in Flanders. Companies, institutions and non-profit organisations are aware that circular economy not only has a beneficial effect on the environment and climate, but also confirm that circular strategies create new employment opportunities and make our economy less dependent on the (uncertain) import of raw materials.

Circular companies are doing better in the corona crisis

What shortages did companies themselves experience during the corona crisis? This mainly concerns shortages of raw materials, components, reduced customer demand and difficulties in finding financing.

Two out of three companies applying a more circular strategy responded in the survey (Dutch only) that they did not experience any shortages. In the other group of companies, no less than 98% were found to be facing shortages.

Circular companies that experienced fewer shortages appear to focus on local supply chains and reduced use of materials to manufacture and deliver their products and services to the customer

Circular = resilient

The central success factors of a circular economy also appear to be those that make a company more resilient to shocks: local and connected business, creativity and cooperation.

1. Renewed focus on local and connected business: 90 percent of respondents said that the circular economy makes us less dependent on (uncertain) imports of raw materials. Reuse of raw materials that we have here (in Flanders and by extension Europe), also called urban mining, is at the heart of the circular economy.

"We have to make the balance between local and international. Circular economy focuses on what we have locally in terms of materials, goods and capacities. But it will only work if we can use that in an international cooperation framework.”

Karl Vrancken, VITO

2. Creativity: innovation is crucial and is not limited to the technological aspect. 8 out of 10 respondents believe that such circular business models will gain in importance over the next five years.

"Remarkably many companies came to us during the lockdown: they took time to rethink their business model.”

Brigitte Mouligneau, Circular Flanders

3. Collaboration: 87% of respondents are convinced that circular economics leads to more collaboration between companies.

"I have seen a lot of interesting collaborations. For example, between food companies that supply alcohol to the pharmaceutical or chemical industries in order to start up a hand gel production here in Belgium. [...] I hope that those kinds of collaborations will be permanent in our economy.”

Frank Beckx, essenscia Vlaanderen

Conclusion: sustainability and resilience go hand in hand

Above all, the conclusions of the survey and the roundtable discussions showed that sustainability and resilience are almost inextricably linked.

Karl Vrancken (VITO): "With this project, we wanted to explore the relationship between circular economy on the one hand and the performance of companies in a sudden crisis, their resilience, on the other. If sustainability is our long-term goal, circular economy is a means to that end. However, we will not have a circular economy if all circular initiatives fail at the slightest hitch. Our path to sustainability is preferably economically robust. That's why it's encouraging to see that companies that adopt more circular strategies also experience fewer shortfalls and report more resilience."

Brigitte Mouligneau (Circular Flanders): "We learn from this survey and the round table that there is an even greater need for an unambiguous and stimulating policy framework, support and public investment in the circular economy."


Would you like to know more about the survey (Dutch only) or the round table?

VITO Connect circular economy:


Karl Vrancken, Research leader Sustainable Materials, VITO | 0479 979 041
Brigitte Mouligneau, Transition Manager Circular Economy, Circular Flanders/OVAM | 0499 949 229

+32 14 33 58 92