Circular Yorkshire Month

Katie Thomas, from the York and North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership, describes the role and importance of Circular Yorkshire Month as part of work to accelerate the region’s transformation to a carbon-negative, circular economy.

What does the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) do?

As a public-private sector partnership, the York & North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership acts as a bridge between businesses and the public sector in York & North Yorkshire. We set the strategic direction for government investment, seeking to drive good growth and a greener, fairer and stronger economy for all.

For the last few years, our policies in York and North Yorkshire have been focused on encouraging green initiatives within the region, especially around the circular economy. A circular economy can support businesses, the public sector, and communities. In February 2019, we launched our Local Energy Strategy which sets out our plans to decarbonise the energy system. Then, in November 2019, we launched our Circular Economy Strategy.

Why did you introduce Circular Yorkshire Month?

The overarching aim of the Circular Yorkshire Month campaign was to bring organisations together from across Yorkshire to accelerate the region’s transformation to a carbon-negative, circular economy. Our objectives were to increase awareness and understanding, to grow organisational and individual commitment, and to build capacity and capabilities for action through enabling collaboration and knowledge-sharing.

What is the impact of the circular economy and your campaign?

Global research from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation indicates that the circular economy has the potential to reduce emissions worldwide by 45%, and we expect similar levels in York and North Yorkshire.

Our Circular Yorkshire Month campaign has helped a huge range of businesses, stakeholders, and partners engage with the circular economy in a clear and accessible way and start making changes to the way they use the planet’s resources. It has helped us de-mystify sustainability and enable change across a range of sectors, as well as increasing awareness of the issues we face with climate change and how to combat them.

However, because we are acting as the catalyst for collaborative action, rather than delivering projects ourselves, it is difficult to capture and measure the direct impacts of our work.

What did your work involve?

In November 2020, we held our second Circular Yorkshire Month. Taking lessons learnt from the previous year, we wanted to warm-up organisations to the concept of the circular economy before the ‘high-point’ of the campaign in November. Despite the challenges we faced as a result of Covid, we ran 20 webinars between June and November which engaged a total of 1355 people. These focused on sharing circular best practice and supporting businesses to identify circular economy opportunities within their own operations. These principles can be embedded in companies’ strategic plans and policies, from COVID-19 recovery plans to waste management.

Our stakeholders were fully involved. We shared successes from other cities, regions and countries, and also global think tanks such as the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. We also shared lessons learnt more locally, such as from Circular Malton.

We released 6 guides with practical steps businesses could take to engage in the circular economy, along with a short film, so that businesses could access the campaign remotely. These help SMEs to see the advantages to becoming circular, from saving costs to incorporating sustainability in their branding. They also help SMEs to take the first steps towards becoming a circular economy business.

What are your next steps?

For example, through the Yorkshire and Humber net-zero carbon sub-group, we are developing a Circular Yorkshire Work Programme to expand our York & North Yorkshire circular economy activities across the wider region.

We are currently underway with a piece of work that will establish the contribution of key circular economy opportunities in York and North Yorkshire to reducing carbon emissions.

This year’s Circular Yorkshire Month will focus on communities and places, in line with the priorities from COP26, and much of our work this year will be focused around towns and schools. We are releasing a Circular Towns Guide, to showcase regional success stories and to help people to set up their own circular town initiatives.