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Traceability, Transparency and Data

Availability of and access to reliable information are crucial for the circular economy. This includes agreed classification systems and mechanisms to track and report related data.


Classification and reporting on resources

car battery
  • Internationally harmonized classification and reporting specifications on primary and secondary (recyclable) raw materials are critical for the effective management of natural resources. The UN Framework Classification for Resources (UNFC) facilitates comprehensive resource classification and management, addressing technical, social, environmental, and economic issues. With rising demand for the critical raw materials needed for the green energy transition in mobile appliances, electric vehicle batteries, or wind turbines, it can help identify new regional and national production opportunities. The European Union has already used this tool for its Strategic Action Plan on Batteries, with 19 member states reporting on cobalt, lithium, nickel, and graphite. 

  • A UNECE report on Women Entrepreneurship in Natural Resource Management: Challenges and Opportunities for the MSME Sector in the post-COVID-19 Socio-economic Recovery showed that application of tools such as UNFC could also provide valuable entry points to harness gender equality as a driver of the shift to more circular and sustainable patterns.

woman working in an energy power plant
  • Trends in the UNECE region, which accounts for 60 per cent of wood provision worldwide, show that it is possible to obtain increased amounts of wood as a raw material without depleting the resource base. UNECE, working together with global and regional partners, conducts periodical assessments of the state of forests, sustainable forest management, and assesses the production and consumption of wood-based products and wood energy.

Access to information on products and activities

  • The Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus Convention) supports the public’s role in shaping policies for the circular economy.

air pollution
  • The Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers can be used to improve the monitoring and controlling of input and output parameters from industrial activities, such as energy consumption, pollutant releases and transfer of waste, while providing public access to related information. 

Measuring circularity of the economy

  • Sound, relevant and internationally comparable statistics are needed to guide policy actions towards a circular economy. Important aspects of a circular economy and its relationship with climate change policy (such as use of renewable energy or energy efficiency, for example) are addressed by the CES Recommendations on Climate Change related Statistics (2014) and its Set of Core Climate Change-related Statistics and Indicators (2020).

  • The current lack of a measurement framework and guidance to define the scope of circular economy – including the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development – hinders the development of national plans and initiatives. In response, a UNECE Task Force on measuring the circular economy, led by Finland and composed of leading experts from countries, will define the measurement scope of circular economy and prepare practical Guidelines to support measurement in a systematic and internationally comparable way.

  • UNECE helps ensure linkages between measures of economic development and environmental, social and wellbeing statistics – including the circular economy – within the System of National Accounts, a global statistical standard that provides an overarching framework for measuring economic activity.

  • The annual Joint OECD/UNECE Seminars support the implementation of the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA), contributing to the measurement of the circular economy.