Planning and decision-making
Public authorities can engage in construction and demolition activities through multiple roles that require different kinds of expertise. Additionally, public strategies targeting the built environment often pursue many competing objectives. Adopting new practices within local public authorities and promoting inter-departmental collaboration is critical to the operationalisation of the circular economy at the local level.
Demonstration cities in CityLoops had initially identified poorly structured internal logistics and communication practices, or lack of political mandate as critical barriers to increased circularity in municipal activities for the built environment. This Replication Package provides an overview on how organisational changes within a local authority could address such challenges and support circular projects.
Public authorities face different challenges in the pursuit of circularity for the built environment, from limited time and financial resources to an unclear division of responsibilities and opportunities at the different governmental levels, including the strategic and operational gaps between internal actors. These challenges can be addressed by acting on four interconnected fronts:
- Interdisciplinary collaboration: It is crucial for the success of a project to ensure from the early stages that sustainability aspects are taken into account, that stakeholders are involved in a structured manner and that responsibilities and financial resources are allocated clearly. Pursuing interdisciplinary collaboration from the start allows to engage with different departmental levels to leverage their expertise, but also to create ownership of the circular vision across the organisation. It is directly linked to goal alignment within local authorities, as it implicates early-stage communication and intraorganizational agility, and it avoids frustration deriving from conflicting agendas across departments.
- Knowledge and skills: parallel to interdisciplinary collaboration, securing joint learning as a basis for dialogue and allowing room for experimentation and time for reflection and evaluation are practices, that not only support the success of current and future projects but also increase circular thinking within an organisation.
- Economic measures: implementing circular projects is strictly dependent upon adequately allocating financial resources, whereby it is also needed to take into consideration the value of sustainability – including a quantification of environmental social benefits.
- Policy and management: For many cities, it is still quite unclear what they can and should do at the city level and what instead is competence of regional and national governments, and this ambiguity is exacerbated by the awareness gap between politicians and the city management. Political mandate has been clearly identified as an essential precondition for the successful implementation of circular strategies in the built environment, as it secures support in the execution of political visions and facilitates goal alignment between overlapping or competing strategies. At the same time, policy development needs to be followed up at the managerial level and it is important that political ambitions and operational awareness are well connected to the top management in the administration. Radical changes in municipal practices take a long time and they must be backed up with strategic decisions taken by political leaders and the leading civil servants. Clarifying responsibilities and available policy levers to address circularity in construction, helps cities deliver change efficiently and effectively.