Technologies can play a key role in the transition from a linear towards circular economy. Circular strategies represent key investments to shape trade and logistics that are more resilient, resource-efficient and cost-effective, supporting the Sustainable Development Goals.
However, the risk stemming from digital technology is that it benefits those who are already online, and it could contribute to greater inequality within and among countries. This “digital gap” needs to be addressed by effective policies, education and capacity-building activities in order to leave no one behind.
The Advisory Group on Advanced Technologies in Trade and Logistics highlighted in its Second Session how technologies, and building collaboration through technology, innovative policies and standards, can promote an inclusive and digital circular economy.
Speakers presented use cases and discuss ways to implement and use advanced technologies, such as Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT) and others, to support the circular economy, and to provide benefits to businesses and other actors involved in sustainable international trade and value chains. Digital tools and innovative solutions have the potential to support the required standards, policy and regulatory approaches. Moreover, improved transparency and traceability supported by advanced technologies will also support attaining sustainability and circularity goals by gathering information about the products, the processes, the facilities and assessing the claims associated with it. For instance, blockchain technology can enable the exchange of data and information about sustainability performance in an immutable and decentralized manner in complex value chains. That information can be tracked and traced throughout the value chain and accessed by the relevant actors involved in the processes.
For trade and logistics, the development of online services and digital platforms promote wide-scale adoption of circular economy, while opening significant business opportunities. Regarding the traceability of value chains, digital infrastructure such as tracking technologies and digital modelling, accelerates the transition towards a circular economy environment by mapping the information regard the products and the processes. Technology can also support sustainable procurement by creating online markets where reused materials can be bought and sold. For waste management issues, digital material passports enabling end-to-end tracking of building materials, can help identifying materials for reuse at their end-of-life, thereby retaining material value over time and encouraging tighter looping.
To move faster towards circular patterns, responsible choices for both consumers and businesses need to be made easier through standards and regulatory frameworks. Advanced technologies play a key role to accelerate the transition, facilitate the connection between value chain actors and the exchange of reliable data. Policy and regulatory coherence, the use of international standards and collaborative models are key enablers to scale-up innovative solutions, ensuring interoperability and accessibility for small actors.
UNECE member states are mobilising significant funding and research expertise to explore the full potential of these technologies and progress towards mainstream adaptation.
UNECE - UN/CEFACT is working on several standards that together with its UN/CEFACT Core Component Library (UN/CCL) will provide a vital technology ingredient for the circular economy transition, allowing secure and unambiguous exchange of information which is the basis of any eBusiness system. All UN/CEFACT projects and activities share the main goal: supporting the implementation of SDGs, especially promoting economic growth (SDG8), fostering innovation (SDG9) and revitalizing global partnership for sustainable development (SDG17) harnessing the benefits of the available technology in the area of trade and logistics.
For more information on the Advisory Group on Advanced technologies in Trade and Logistics please visit https://www.unece.org/uncefact/agat