Opportunities and Challenges for a Contractor in a Change Towards a Circular Economy
Sammanfattning: Few have missed out on the fact that the world's carbon dioxide emissions need to be reduced, and the need to switch to a circular economy in order to save earth’s resources is increasingly discussed. In Sweden, the construction sector accounts for more than a third of all generated waste and almost a quarter of all hazardous waste. Therefore, it is necessary to prepare for a transition to a circular economy in the construction industry, where reuse and recycling of materials as well as waste management are highly prioritized issues. As the contractor is a crucial actor in achieving circular economy in the construction sector due to their technical competence and potentially large opportunities to influence the degree of climate impact, the focus of the study was chosen to be from a contractor's perspective. Since a contractor's change to a circular economy also includes an organizational change, it becomes an interesting aspect to take into account as well. Furthermore, the study aims to examine the main motivational factors, opportunities, challenges and financial risks the contractor faces in a transition to a circular economy, both internally in the organization and in a broader perspective in relation to other actors. Thus, it enables an examination of what opportunities there are for the contractor to go from "word to action". The study is conducted according to qualitative principles and the data collection is based on semi-structured interviews where a majority of the respondents represent different parts of the construction sector, with relevant knowledge and competence. The results show that the contractors' motivation to make a transition is partly based on seeing future competitive advantages, but also on a more mandatory nature, as new laws and regulations appear to a greater extent. Possibly, the use of financial incentives in procurement can increase the contractor’s motivation. Identified challenges at an organizational level include difficulties in understanding the concept of circular economy and the management’s role in their communication with employees. Other barriers that have been identified are the lack of a well-functioning and mature market for second-hand materials and the difficulty in assessing the quality of these. The largest identified financial risk for the contractor is mainly related to responsibility for the guarantee of reused materials, as repairing measures can be costly. An important question for the contractor is therefore how risk allocation should be designed. Briefly speaking, it seems that much can be achieved and many of the barriers reduced through close collaboration with other actors in the sector, e.g. clients, architects, suppliers, and consultants. In final, there are some first steps that the contractor can start with in a transition. Although risks can be reduced, they are inevitable in the transition to a circular economy, especially in the beginning. The contractor should therefore, provided that they work with a like-minded client, dare to test circularity in smaller steps. This may, for example, be to gradually introduce reused components into projects or carrying out smaller pilot projects to obtain knowledge. Once knowledge is built up, they should invest in the right marketing, not least to make themselves attractive to suitable clients. It is not optimal for the contractor to passively wait for a client's directive or the establishment of a mature secondary market before they begin their work towards a circular economy. There is always an opportunity to start with what they have at their disposal, for instance, focusing on how to reduce internal waste as much as possible and use their technical competence to come up with circular initiatives in construction projects.
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