The Central Bureau of Statistics draws up the relationship between the sustainable development goals and the circular economy

How do the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the circular economy affect each other? On March 18, 2022, Statistics Netherlands will publish a report examining the nature of this relationship.

Make the economy more sustainable

With the Sustainable Development Goals, all UN member states strive for a sustainable future. The Netherlands has also committed to these goals. Statistics Netherlands monitors progress on behalf of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate. The results can be viewed annually in the Broad Welfare and Sustainable Development Goals Observatory. In addition, the Netherlands has been working on a circular economy program since 2016. This is a collaboration between different knowledge institutions with the aim of preserving raw materials in the chain for as long as possible, with as few negative impacts on the environment as possible. Under the leadership of the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL), the circular economy program is getting more and more concrete goals. Roel Delahaye, Researcher at CBS: “The circular economy is a way to make the economy more sustainable and is directly aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.”

Exploring Synergy

Statistics Netherlands has now investigated how reporting on the circular economy contributes to achieving the SDGs and how more can be said about the circular economy with the help of SDG reporting. Delahaye: We’ve also looked at how we CBS can say something about the synergy between the SDGs and the goals associated with the circular economy programme. These goals can reinforce each other, but they can also work against each other. In the report, the Central Statistical Office presents a number of indicators that better reflect the relationship between the sustainable development goals and the circular economy. We clearly see that the transition to a circular economy affects the sub-goals of the various SDGs. Recycling, efficient use of raw materials and substitution are often associated with indicators of the Sustainable Development Goals, among other things. It also works in another way: SDG indicators on waste and economic importance, among other things, say something about the circular economy.


Judith Maas is Director of the SDG Netherlands Foundation, which connects all parties involved in the Sustainable Development Goals in the Netherlands. She believes that linking the sustainable development goals with the indicators of the circular economy program is a good idea. “The SDGs are the only complete sustainable agenda on which there is global consensus. The great thing about this agenda is the interconnectedness of the various topics. At the same time, this presentation makes it difficult. In the Netherlands, the national government has chosen to implement the SDGs within the policy Current.As a basis, we think it would be good to put the SDGs at the forefront of policies.So we take them as a starting point.

The sustainable development goals are at the forefront of policy

By putting the SDGs at the forefront of policy, Maas says you avoid making mistakes because the pursuit of one goal hinders the pursuit of the other. Suppose, for example, that we are fully committed to electric driving, but at the same time we are consuming all the scarce lithium. If you take the SDGs as a starting point for your policy, you will see this coherence better and you can better take into account the negative side effects of the policy. This also applies to the circular economy. If you do not want to make mistakes in your policy in this regard, you should take the Sustainable Development Goals as a starting point.


In practice, the circular economy program in particular defines sustainability policy, says policy maker Andrei Rodenburg of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management. This program serves several objectives: economic, geopolitical, and also environmental. After all, for a kilo of gold, a huge amount of land would have to be moved in South America. The Netherlands Statistics Office maps the effects of our policy for current and future generations, here and elsewhere. This is precious.

Price or environmental impact?

Rodenburg explains that in the circular economy program, the ministry focused mainly on entrepreneurs and the raw materials themselves. Now we are looking more broadly, for example at the way people make their choices when buying a product. Do they only care about price or, for example, about environmental impacts as well? In the near future we also want to focus more on education and corporate employees. If more products need to be recycled or repaired, you must have different skills. As a ministry, we are also looking into the possibility of making recycling mandatory in the construction industry, and if so, how. The use of recycled materials is not always possible, but the building as a whole can also be recycled. In a new residential area, for example, you are building a school that you can later make suitable as a retirement home or nursing home with air conditioning.

give a point of view

Rodenburg stresses that long-term sustainability is required when measuring sustainability goals. It is important that time series be produced in the next ten years to see if what we want is achieved. I would like to emphasize that it is good to continue to look at the full scope: we are dealing with many developments in the field of digitization, in the field of geopolitics, etc. Statistics Netherlands can work together with planning offices on scenarios for the future. This gives people perspective to act. Then they see why some sustainability measures are needed and why they do it. Politics can be supported.

Develop more indicators

The current government, as well as the European approach with the Green Deal, emphasizes the contribution to climate change in the circular economy programme. Like Rodenburg, Delahaye argues for a general picture: “For example, by adding effects on health. But also by quantifying the impact between the SDGs and the goals from the circular economy programme. We hope that policy in this regard will receive attention, so that funding becomes available to further develop our proposals.

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