The digital Circular Economy – Data policy for a comprehensive circular economy

Half of all greenhouse gas emissions and 90 per cent of biodiversity loss are caused by how resources are extracted and processed in our economy. The linear economy, in which resources go straight from the factory to the landfill, is a dead end. In order to address climate change and resource scarcity in the long term, we need a circular economy based on the cradle-to-cradle principle, in which products, production and business models are designed in such a way that materials and resources can circulate almost endlessly.

Digitalisation is an important and powerful lever for setting this transformation in motion. In order to enable circular value creation, complex management of material and substance flows along the entire life cycle of a product is required. The key to this is data. The more information about the composition, use and environmental and health effects of products is digitally recorded, shared, analysed and processed, the easier it will be to manage raw materials and products in a circular way and to scale circular business models and ecosystems.

This study "The Digital Circular Economy" is the result of the project Digitalisation and Circular Economy, which the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung and the Cradle to Cradle NGO carried out together in 2023. Using different industries and specific use cases as examples, the study analyses how the potential of digitalisation for circular value creation can be leveraged in Germany and Europe.

The authors identify the disclosure and sharing of product data across company boundaries as a key success factor. The Digital Product Passport (DPP) envisaged by the EU is a key instrument for this. However, in order for the DPP to realise its potential, binding rules based on the goal of circularity are needed to determine which data must be collected by whom and shared with whom, and which standards must be taken into account - in short, circular data governance. The authors summarise the findings of the project in nine recommendations for action and show what policymakers need to do to ensure that data policy paves the way for a sustainable circular economy.


Download Study


Stefanie Moser


+49(0)30 26935 8308

Max Ostermayer

Climate, Environment, Energy

+49(0)30 26935 8319

Data Governance for the Circular Economy

Panel talk at the C2C Congress on September 9th (only in german)

Sebastian Daus I Co-Founder & CEO, FixFirst
Katja Hansen I Research Fellow TUM & Beirätin C2C NGO
Dr. Florian Hofmann I Scientist & Lecturer, Brandenburgische Technische Universität Cottbus-Senftenberg

Max Ostermayer I policy Advisor for Climate, Environment, Energy, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung

Congress 8.+9.09.23


Everything you need to know about the congress in review more


Data for the circular economy (only in german)

This FES impuls explains how circular data governance enables sustainable economic activity. more


Digitally accelerating the circular economy

The new FES impuls examines the role of international data standards for the circular economy and the associated challenges. more

Project outline

Digitalisation and circular economy (only in german)

Project outline for a series of expert discussions organised with the Cradle to Cradle NGO. more


Data regulation for the circular economy (only in german)

Read the Tagesspiegel background article by Stefanie Moser and Nora Sophie Griefahn here. more

FES@WCEF2024 - The World Circular Economy Forum

Accelerator Breakfast Session on 17 April 2024

Building a Data-Driven Circular Economy: Insights from Germany

Data and effective data governance are key in facilitating the transition towards a circular economy, enabling the management of complex material flows and the scaling of innovative circular business models. As a strong advocate for using digitalization strategically in the circular economy, Germany has initiated significant partnerships and projects in this arena. In this accelerator session, we aim to explore Germany's approach in building a data-driven circular economy, including the National Circular Economy Strategy, and discuss forthcoming steps with politics, industry, and civil society experts.

Location: Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung EU Office Brussels, Rue du Taciturne 38, 1000 Brüssel

Time: 08.30 am - 9.30 am 

Klick below for the full programme

08.15 am – Registration  / Exchange over Coffee & Breakfast

08.30 am – Opening & Introduction: Data policy for a comprehensive circular economy

  • Claudia Detsch, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)
  • Max Ostermayer, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)

08.40 am – Expert Inputs - Germany's approach in building a data-driven circular economy

  • Florian Kammerer, Head of Department „National Circular Economy Strategy, Resource Efficiency” at the German Federal Ministry for the Environment 
  • Susanne Kadner, Co-Founder Circular Republic & Director at UnternehmerTUM
  • Annika Stuckenhoff, Senior project manager at BDI-Initiative Circular Economy

09.00 am – Roundtabel Discussion with all Participants 

09.25 am - Closing remarks

  • Nora Sophie Griefahn, Managing Director at the Cradle to Cradle NGO

09.30 am – End of the Roundtable Discussion  & Time for Informal Exchange over Coffee & Breakfast

10.00 am – End of the Accelerator Session


From 15th - 18th of April

This event is an accelerator session at the World Circular Economy Forum 2024. more

What is a circular economy or circular value creation?

The circular economy is an economic model that focuses on reusing and recycling natural resources to minimize waste, extend the life of products and maximize value creation from materials. The circular economy thus enables economic activity within planetary boundaries and represents a comprehensive transformation that is oriented towards the entire product life cycle. In German, the term circular economy is often used synonymously. However, this is often only associated with the established waste management systems surrounding recycling - i.e. with the end of life of products.

What does "cradle to cradle" mean?

The Cradle-to-Cradle concept is a holistic approach to a circular economy that starts with the design of products and addresses climate and resource issues together. The term can be translated as “from cradle to cradle”, or “from origin to origin” and is abbreviated as C2C. The C2C design concept describes how products and processes must be designed so that the materials used can continuously circulate in biological and technical cycles. What is crucial is the specific usage scenario for which a product is intended.


What is data governance?

Data governance includes both the procedures for defining rights and obligations for handling data and the application of these rules when collecting, storing, processing and sharing data within and between organizations. In particular, data governance can determine which types of data are subject to certain rules and standards, as well as who can access this data.


What is a digital product passport?

A digital product passport (DPP) is a structured collection of product-related information with a pre-defined scope that is recorded and accessible digitally, e.g. by scanning a QR code. The DPP is used to electronically record, process and exchange product information between companies in the supply chain, authorities and civil society or consumers.

As part of its draft for a new ecodesign regulation, the EU Commission proposed in 2022 to make the digital product passport mandatory for all products on the EU market. This European digital product passport should then provide all the information that ensures optimal value retention of products and materials in the sense of circular value creation (EU Commission 2022).

What role do data and data governance play in the circular economy?

The more information about the composition, use and environmental and health effects of products is digitally recorded, shared, analyzed and processed, the easier it is to circulate raw materials and products or to scale circular business models and ecosystems. The diagram shows the role data and data governance play in different phases of the life cycle of a product in the circular economy

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