For Italian businesses, environmental sustainability and the circular economy have become lucrative assets worth investing in. This is supported by the analysis of the second CleanTech Observatory conducted by Eumetra on behalf of Circularity, an innovative SME active in the fields of sustainability and the circular economy, and Innovatec S.p.a, a leading clean tech company. The study delves into the sensitivities and behaviors of companies regarding environmental sustainability, the circular economy, and energy efficiency.
Circular investments yield economic returns
Interviewing a representative sample of 450 SMEs and large Italian companies (ranging from 10 to over 250 employees), the study revealed that in 2023, 62% of Italian companies – nearly 2 out of 3 – reported that investments in sustainability and the circular economy have generated a higher economic return. 44% (especially larger enterprises) state that they will further focus on sustainability projects in the future. Compared to the 9% in 2022, the percentage of companies that have already invested in circular economy projects has nearly doubled in a year. This growth aligns with an increased awareness of the tangible benefits that such investments can bring, especially from an industrial perspective.
These investments primarily involve the procurement of recycled materials (64%) and the recycling of production waste (61%), with 14% of investments directed towards industrial symbiosis projects. This further indicates how circularity is increasingly perceived as an essential element within the Italian industrial fabric. The rising investments in this domain demonstrate that businesses are beginning to believe in the value of the circular economy. However, circularity not only brings economic benefits; 50% of interviewed companies state that it has improved their reputation, and 33% claim to have gained a competitive advantage.
The main obstacle: Lack of expertise
The Observatory also focuses on the barriers that hinder circular investments. For nearly half of the surveyed companies (47%), the lack of expertise within the organization obstructs growth. Additionally, 41% find the regulations still too complex (compared to 16% of companies in 2022).
"This second edition of the CleanTech Observatory shows several growing trends compared to 2022, which is undoubtedly encouraging, although there is still much to be done," comments Camilla Colucci, co-founder, and CEO of Circularity. "The survey results confirm that Italian entrepreneurs are aware that sustainability is now essential for the longevity of their businesses. It is evident that a paradigm shift requires structural intervention, a redesign of business processes, significant investments, and, above all, expertise. For this reason, Circularity was established to support Italian companies in this transition, through digital tools like the Circularity Platform, as well as by providing educational programs on ESG topics and offering technical-strategic consulting services."
Released in June 2023, the second version of the Circularity Platform is a practical tool designed to facilitate companies in implementing circular economy projects. Circularity's innovative technological platform is the first and only one that activates and facilitates collaboration between companies in the perspective of industrial symbiosis, involving over 20,000 companies. This number is expected to increase further thanks to the new functionalities introduced this year, allowing businesses to find new sources of recycled materials, create a network of partners for dialogue and ideation, and utilize digital tools to measure their ESG performance and that of their supply chain.
Image: Envato Elements