Umeå Central City Square

Umeå Central City Square. Photo: Jonas Birmé / Flickr

However, how circular transitions in cities impact people has been rarely researched, and even less attention has been paid to the negative consequences of circular economy (CE) transitions.

This paper presents the findings from a social impact assessment conducted in the city of Umeå, Sweden. The authors identified several negative impacts of a CE transition across seven social impact categories and explored three areas in depth with stakeholders in the city: employment, access to services and participation.

The authors found that the negative impacts of the CE are perceived to be limited and that the CE interventions are mainly viewed as a win-win-win outcome, i.e., a win for the environment, the economy and people. This raises questions about the level to which societal consequences have been considered and whether all relevant stakeholders, in particular civil society, have participated in the design of the city’s CE strategy. Their findings can inform other cities about possible negative consequences of CE transitions and provide insights into how to incorporate different stakeholders in the CE transition process to ensure that no one is left behind.

Highlights
  • Provides the findings from a social impact assessment in the city of Umeå, Sweden, which aims to be a leader in the CE this decade.
  • It shows that the transition to a CE in the city is mainly viewed as positive by different stakeholders in the city (government, academia, and industry), with few perceived losers. Participation of civil society and citizens in designing the CE strategy has, however, been low.
  • As transition processes are often prone to injustices, we recommend a more thorough consultation and participation process to design CE interventions.