Opinion Column: MSMEs in the Construction Sector: Key Actors and Challenges for the Transition to the Circular Economy
Opinion column by Maud Breyne, project manager in the area of Sustainability and Circular Economy at the Eurochile Business Foundation. The Circular Economy in Chile is a concept in vogue with a recent but important momentum. One of its drivers is the Roadmap for a Circular Chile by 2040, published in 2021 by the Ministry […]
Opinion column by Maud Breyne, project manager in the area of Sustainability and Circular Economy at the Eurochile Business Foundation.
The Circular Economy in Chile is a concept in vogue with a recent but important momentum. One of its drivers is the Roadmap for a Circular Chile by 2040, published in 2021 by the Ministry of Environment. In this process, the Eurochile Business Foundation participated in collaboration with Eurochile professionals, public and private sector actors, as well as national and European experts. Together, they defined the main guidelines to turn Chile into a country with a circular approach by 2040.
This document provides guidelines to advance the transition from a linear economy to a circular economy and has axes of innovation, regulation, territories and culture. To this end, it establishes medium and long-term goals and addresses several economic sectors. One of them is the construction sector, which has an important strategic focus, as it contributes 7.1% of GDP and 8% of jobs to the country.
The urban population is expected to continue to grow and the global building stock is expected to double between 2020 and 2060 (Architecture 2030, 2020, Why the building sector?). To cope with this demand, the building industry must adapt and transform.
One of the sector’s responses has been the development of sectoral circular economy strategies and roadmaps, thanks to the “Construye 2025” programme promoted by CORFO. We highlight the Roadmap 2022-2025, and the RCD Roadmap 2035. The first has a horizon with 3 strategic axes (industrialisation, sustainability and digital transformation). The second focuses on Construction and Demolition Waste (CDW).
Despite this, the sector is not free of obstacles. Recurrent problems include illegal waste disposal, non-compliance with health regulations and the lack of specialised infrastructure for proper waste management.
The sector is 98% made up of Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs), which generate 81% of jobs, according to the Internal Revenue Service (SII). This makes MSMEs key in leading the sector’s transition to the circular economy. In addition to being numerous, they have the advantage of having a greater capacity for adaptability and innovation than larger companies. However, MSMEs offering sustainable products and services face resistance to change and a lack of opportunities to make their products visible to relevant actors in the value chain. A survey of more than 100 MSMEs revealed that the majority regret the lack of financial and regulatory incentives that benefit MSMEs.
In view of this situation, and in order to face this challenge, our AL-INVEST Verde Construction project “Articulation and development of sustainable business models led by MSMEs for the construction sector” was created. With funding from the European Union, it seeks to strengthen the linking of MSMEs that offer sustainable products and connect them with actors with this type of demand. It also seeks to promote, train and disseminate circular economy concepts to move the sector forward.
On the other hand, Europe is at the forefront of promoting the circular economy globally, especially in the construction sector. Whether through the initiatives of its institutions, companies or academia, we can benefit from their valuable experience. In this context, the AL-INVEST Verde Construction project, which is co-executed by the Eurochile Business Foundation and led by Eurecat, the Technology Centre of Catalonia, aligns perfectly with Eurochile’s mission, which seeks to establish links between Chile and the European Union.
With more than 30 years of experience in the work of being the link between small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Chile and Europe, the Eurochile Business Foundation continues firmly in its mission to contribute to the development of the country. In its eagerness to incorporate current issues, we are committed to promoting knowledge and experience in order to boost the circular economy in various sectors, such as construction, the fruit industry, recycling and tourism. These sectors are currently being addressed throughout Chile, with a special focus on supporting MSMEs.