A circular economy toolkit for policymakers provides the tools and methods needed to embark on a circular economy transformation.

At the core of this programme is the report Delivering the circular economy: a toolkit for policymakers, which describes a step-by-step methodology and demonstrates its application through a case study in Denmark.

The content of this page is under continuous development. For questions or suggestions, please email toolkit@ellenmacarthurfoundation.org.

This toolkit is a much needed and relevant aid to policymakers globally to assist them in the transition towards a circular economy. The pilot has been very helpful for Denmark by clearly outlining effective options for Danish policymakers to accelerate the shift towards a circular economy.

- Ida Auken, MP, Danish Parliament ​​

Toolkit description

The circular economy offers business leaders and governments a clear opportunity for long-term growth that is less dependent on cheap materials and energy, and which can restore and regenerate natural capital. This report complements the recently published report Growth Within: A circular economy vision for a competitive Europe by providing an actionable toolkit for policymakers. The executive summary, key charts, and an interactive version of the full report may be downloaded below.


The Ellen MacArthur Foundation developed the toolkit with the Danish Business Authority and Danish Environmental Protection Agency as key contributors to the pilot phase; analytical support was provided by the McKinsey Center for Business and Environment, with macroeconomic and policy analysis were provided by NERA Economic Consulting, and funding from MAVA Foundation. In addition, a large number of stakeholders were involved as contributors, including 25+ Danish and international businesses, a number of policymakers, academics and other society stakeholders. For a list of individuals and organisations contributing to the content, please see page 8 of the report.

"This report provides a useful methodology that will help move all stakeholders involved in a circular economy transition into action."

Pere Torres Grau, Secretary for Business and Competitiveness, Ministry for Business and Labour, Government of Catalonia

What's included in the report

The report provides a step-by-step methodology including 11 tools, which aim to:

  • Assess a country’s circular economy starting position, define its ambition level, and select focus areas
  • Systematically screen, sector-by-sector, circular economy opportunities, identify barriers that limit these opportunities and analyse policy options to overcome these barriers
  • Assess economy-wide implications.

Case study

The case study of Denmark applies the tools presented in the methodology and evaluates opportunities in five focus sectors: food and beverage; construction and real estate; machinery; plastic packaging, and hospitals. The study demonstrates that even in a country with a starting position as advanced as Denmark, there are significant opportunities to scale up the transition towards the circular economy. Macro-economic modelling conducted in the study suggests that opportunities identified in these five focus sectors, covering just 25% of the economy, could lead by 2035 in Denmark to 0.8–1.4% additional GDP growth, the creation of 7,000–13,000 jobs a 3–7% reduction in the carbon footprint, and a 5–50% reduction in the consumption of certain virgin resources.

"Pinpointing economic opportunities through the combination of company level analysis, macro-economic modelling and barrier assessment provides a very powerful starting point for our future work on the circular economy."

Anders Hoffmann, Deputy Director General, Danish Business Authority

"The circular economy toolkit for policymakers project has been a fruitful experience for us. For the first time, we now have quantified some of the potential gains that lie in a circular economy for a country like Denmark."

Claus Torp, Deputy Director General, Danish Environmental Protection Agency

Barriers to transition

The report underlines that circular business opportunities are mainly hindered by non-financial barriers. It suggests that a sector-by-sector approach is the most appropriate to identify the most relevant opportunities, barriers and policy options. Furthermore, system-wide measures, such as broader changes to the fiscal system, could support the transition towards the circular economy.

Toolkit 'Plug and Play' tools

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation is developing several ‘plug-and-play’ versions of selected tools described in Part 2 of the report. Estimated timing for launch of the tools is end of 2015.

Tools will include:

Sector selection
This tool provides a means to perform the sector prioritisation exercise, described in Section 2.1.3 of the report, that guides the selection of focus sectors for further study.

Sector-specific impact quantification (with material savings)
This tool provides an initial, simple way to model the impact of an identified circular economy opportunity on a sector. The approach helps the user to estimate the impact on a specific product category or sub-sector within each assessed economic sector, based on information obtained from statistics agencies, expert interviews, and businesses.

Barrier identification tool
This is a template aimed at facilitating the identification and sizing of potential barriers to a circular economy opportunity. It helps the user systematically define and assess the height of each barrier.

Policy option scoring and short-listing
This tool provides a systematic, semi-quantitative way to identify and prioritise policy interventions to address previously identified barriers.

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