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Naoual Loiazizi

A breakthrough for sharing and the circular economy

The theme for the afternoon at the Smart City seminars was the circular economy and sharing, and their roles in a sustainable future. The seminars were kicked off by Ulf Kamne, Gothenburg's Deputy Mayor, who promised that Gothenburg will be a world leader in the sharing economy, revealing that the city itself has cut its purchasing, offers a furniture recycling service and has a well-functioning musical instrument loaning service, to name just a few initiatives. 

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"We want to stand out and be the most progressive city in the world when it comes to environmental issues," he said.  

Sweden's Minister for Enterprise and Innovation, Mikael Damberg, applauded this as he noted that he had visited Gothenburg more than twenty times already this year, as there is so much going on in the different test beds and labs. 

"Sweden is going to be the first fossil-free country. That's a highly ambitious goal, but it will drive innovation and investment. The answer to climate challenge lies in our cities of the future – cities that are connected, run on green energy and are built in a smart and sustainable manner with smart and sustainable transport systems," Mikael Damberg said. 

The Dutch city of Dordrecht is one of eight cities in Holland with a focus on transitioning to a circular economy and has already come a long way. Policy Advisor Naoual Loiazizi talked about how a circular economy is not a goal, but rather a means to reach the UN's sustainability goals. 

"A circular economy makes cities future proof. It stimulates the economy and innovation. It's a policy-driven change linked to opportunities and employs an interdisciplinary approach," she said.  

Next up was Kristina Jonäng, Chair of the Environment Committee at Region Västra Götaland, who mentioned several ways of thinking circular on a regional level, such as by supporting industries that aim to be more sustainable, funding academic research and science parks and supporting different initiatives within textile and furniture recycling. 

Assistant Professor Leonardo Rosado from the Architecture and Civil Engineering Department at Chalmers University offered an academic perspective on the circular economy. 

"We call it urban metabolism – what goes into a city and what comes out? We're currently mapping 1,000 products to see what goes where – public, industry or private – and how we can prolong their life cycles by recycling or sharing." 

Anders Berger, Director of Public Affairs at Volvo Group, noted that Volvo – as well as the rest of Sweden – needs to improve its asset utilisation five times over, which in Volvo's case means supporting customers by fully loading buses and trucks, prolonging the useful lives of products and striving for more standardised public procurement processes.  He also mentioned a project they had started just the day before, wherein used bus batteries are repurposed for use in energy storage in apartment buildings. 

One of the most important topics of the day was the search for business models, a matter that Pieter van de Glind from Sharing Cities Alliance has many examples of. He shared a number of ideas from different cities, all based on digital ways to connect 'haves' and 'needs'. Car sharing, cooking on demand, renting tools, 3D printing … 

"Wave upon wave of sharing economy entrepreneurship is changing business, buildings and cities," he said. 

Sharing Cities Alliance is currently building a database of case studies, data, ideas and information so that cities can learn from each other. 

Four Swedish cities are taking part in the Sharing Cities initiative with the aim of contributing to the global sustainability goals. 

"We do so with test beds that interact and by sharing innovations and mistakes. We need to test and evaluate our theories and create the future we want," said Kes McCormick, Head of Sharing Cities Sweden

Gothenburg, which is one of the four sharing cities, has profiled itself with a number of grassroots initiatives, such as the Smart map, which gathers more than 100 ways of renting, sharing, borrowing or swapping online, an idea that is now going to be made open source and available to all cities. Emma Öhrwall, co-founder of the organisation Collaborative Economy Gothenburg, explains: 

"70 percent of Swedes say that they trust each other, and that's a foundation for a good country and a healthy economy. We build trust when we meet each other," she said. 

Martin Savén is Uber's Public Policy Manager and was invited to talk about how Uber develops its business models based on data collected from four billion trips in 2017, data that helps them to understand the behaviours of passengers and drivers and to come up with smart approaches to transport. Another representative from the transport industry was Kerstin Enochsson from Volvo Cars Corporate Strategy and Project Office. The company aims to contribute to a more sustainable future by making electric cars 50 percent of its production by 2025.  

"We're also developing new digital services – the car is not the most central thing in our lives, the phone is, with services and apps for everything."  

Anna-Karin S Öjerskog moderated the panel discussions which, like the discussions during the morning session, came to the conclusion that common laws and regulations are crucial to the development of different sharing solutions, or at least common ones for Europe. And that collaboration is key, even though that's easier said than done. 

"Time, resources, trust and dialogue are needed. But I feel that in Sweden, they’re already in place," Kes McCormick concluded. 

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