Project summary

EU 2020 highlights that the EU and Member States should enable SMEs to turn environmental challenges into opportunities. Green growth can offer significant benefits, however as stated in the Small Business Act (EP 2014/2209 INI)) policy makers need to fully understand the potential of the green economy, whilst being aware of the barriers that SMEs face regarding the greening of their products, production processes, business practices and services.

The circular economy is a key concept of the green economy, based on optimising systems rather than components, away from ‘Resource to Waste’ to resilient and productive circular systems. Strategic alliances between support organisations such as Ellen MacArthur Foundation, McKinsey Company, etc and multinational enterprises have been at the forefront of circular economy exploration and application. SMEs rarely have the same access to knowledge networks to stay up to date with new technologies, or communicate with potential clients or investors. It is therefore key to understand how SMEs can exploit the opportunities of circular value chains. 

The CESME project addresses SME inclusion in the circular economy, by interregional meetings identifying good practices aiming to examine how best regional and local authorities and business development agencies can improve relevant policy instruments and design support packages to assist SMEs to enter the circular economy. Through the creation of a return on investment analysis - Circular Economy Toolkit quantifying the economic and social benefits of circular value chains as well as a White Book guiding SMEs step by step into circular economy, the CESME partnership hopes to introduce new circular initiatives targeted SMEs. These initiatives will be implemented and tested for feedback and adaptation in order to be replicable tools across EU as well as monitored against their expected impact. Finally, this will lead to the improved effectiveness of the policy instruments addressed by the project partners.


from 1 Apr 2016
to 30 Sep 2020

Environment and resource efficiency

What policy instruments does the project address?

North Denmark Region has a solid experience in promoting resource efficiency and renewable energy and thus a good starting point to create the conditions for a thriving circular economy. In addition, North Denmark Region is the only so called 'Climate Region' in Denmark, which implies very ambitious climate objectives to maintain this position. At the same time the regional SMEs hold a large unrealized potential within this field, which is prioritized in the Region's strategy for Green Growth, focusing on exploiting the regional potentials to further:

 - Identify SMEs with potentials for greater utilization of resource- and energy efficiency

- Development of green business models

- Advice on how to unlock their potential 

- Implementation of green business models

 On this behalf the Regional Authority expect the following measures within 2020:

- 350 new jobs

- 45 M EUR growth in revenues for the participating SMEs 

Green Growth is a very high priority to the Regional Government. However, there is a strong need to address this policy instrument aiming to raise awareness among the SMEs on their potentials within green transition. North Denmark hopes to gain new knowledge and insight based on the good practices and experiences within the partnership in order to support and improve the dissemination and thereby raise the number of SMEs transition into circular economy. 

Which partners are working on this?
  • Business Development Centre North Denmark
  • North Denmark Region

2014-2020 Emilia-Romagna Regional Operational Programme, Axis 3: Competitiveness and attractiveness of industrial system, Investment priority 3c, Support the creation and expansion of capacities for the development of products and services. Specific objective 3.1: Relaunch of propensity to investment inside productive sector. Action 3.1.1: Aids for investments in equipment and intangible goods, and support for business reorganization. 

The addressed policy aims to support SMEs growth through investment with a high level of innovation and technology, with a positive impact on energy use, environment and employment, by supporting productive specialization in the fields of RIS3 area. 

The target indicators of the Regional Operational Programme within the addressed policy instrument is to increase regional investments in SMEs green growth towards circular economy.

Which partners are working on this?
  • Metropolitan City of Bologna
  • ART-ER Joint Stock Consortium Company (until 30/04/2019 ERVET)

The Regional Strategy of South Ostrobothnia recognizes sustainable development as one of the main values of the region and as the baseline for all the regional planning.  

Section 4 of the Regional Strategy is the main strategy for guiding the regional EU Structural Funds.

On the national level Finland has committed to protect biodiversity and nature by several national and international agreements. By utilizing the natural resources in an ecologically sustainable way, South Ostrobothnia aims at preserving the nature. The aim is to conform the human actions to natural resources and endurance of the nature.

 In section 4.10.3 of the Regional Strategy of South Ostrobothnia there are actions for improving the quality of the environment and enhancing the sustainable use of natural resources. According to the actions the use of natural resources in industrial processes and energy production principles of sustainable development are followed. The natural and environmental values are combined with economic interests by active cooperation. Local raw materials such as wood based materials are utilized sustainable.

Regional Strategy emphasizes that financing these actions can be done by ERDF funding or by Agricultural and Rural Development. Low carbon economy is a significant target area of the regional ERDF funding. Some of the projects can include energy and material efficiency. The aim is to fund solutions for environmental questions of business operations.  

Which partners are working on this?
  • Regional Council of South Ostrobothnia
  • JPYP Business Service

The National Development Programme of Bulgaria 2020, Objective 3, Priority 7: 'Methodological support for companies to work together and use effectively the secondary products and usage of wastes as resources (e.g. using industrial symbiosis)' aims at supporting SMEs to enter green growth and industrial symbiosis at best.  

In support of this, the Ministry of Environment and Waters provide information to all organisations and administrative bodies, that deal with waste management. BAMEE provides information specified SMEs e.g. information on national and international markets, tenders, offers and inquiries from Bulgarian and foreign enterprises and finally they also offer specialized training.  

However, the current policy instrument does not stimulate effective usage of waste as resources. In order for the policy instrument to succeed there is a clear need to improve tools for B2B communication and improve business models, which will enable more SMEs to raise awareness of the possibilities and benefits of using waste from one SME as a resource to another. 

Which partners are working on this?
  • Bulgarian Association of Municipal Environmental Experts - BAMEE

The Operational programme for Wales recognises sustainable development as Wales’ integrated approach to seeking economic, social and environmental outcomes. The Operational Programme for Wales also identifies significant opportunities to improve the competitiveness of SMEs through greater resource efficiency, which can have positive environmental impacts. This includes resource efficiency interventions under the SME Competitiveness Priority, Section 2; Specific Objective 2.4; paragraph 31: ‘To increase the growth of those SMEs with growth potential, in particular through accessing new markets’. 

 The ERDF programme will support actions for:

• tailored advice and business support to address barriers to growth, e.g: strategy, marketing, business models, systems, risk management, resource efficiency, operational improvement, product development, supply chains and distribution.

 • resource efficiency and energy efficiency measures within SMEs, including addressing barriers to related investment, supporting behavioural change, supporting the diffusion of technology and innovation and encouraging SMEs to undertake energy audits. 

Wales Waste management plan ‘Towards Zero Waste’ TZW published in 2010 is about managing waste better and reducing waste, it is also about putting sustainable development at the heart of government. TZW is about making the most of the opportunities for resource efficiency and waste management to contribute towards a sustainable future for Wales. 

Which partners are working on this?
  • Welsh Government

The Regional Authority of Central Macedonia prioritize the improvement of resource efficient SMEs, which is stated in Priority Axis 3 of the Operational Programme. The aim of the policy instrument is to utilize the enormous potentials for cost savings and for gaining a higher productivity, thus enabling companies to become more competitive and in a better position in the global value chain. 

By transfering knowledge and good practices, new projects will be financed by already existing budget lines of the Regional Operational Programme. In addition, by addressing this policy instrument through CESME, awareness from potential SMEs will be raised and matured and hopefully, they will be included in the projects that are going to be financed by the Regional Operational Programme. 

Which partners are working on this?
  • Region Development Fund of Central Macedonia on behalf of the Region of Central Macedonia