Towards a robust and inclusive circular economy – Exploring tools from regenerative economics for assessing the socio-economic metabolism of Samothraki in Greece

Two goats at the beach on the island Samothrakis

Dr. Filippos K. Zisopoulos was awarded 40.000€ by the Impact for Sustainability Fund, part of the Stichting Erasmus Trustfonds, for his research “Exploring the application of regenerative economics on socio-economic systems – The case of Samothraki”. This study falls within the larger Sino-Dutch project Inclusive Wise Waste Cities (IWWCs) which is situated within the Erasmus Initiative Dynamics of Inclusive Prosperity striving to enable as many people as possible to benefit from increasing prosperity, while minimising negative consequences.

The multi-disciplinary team of researchers within the IWWCs project is exploring the complexity of urban waste management systems from three different dimensions, namely that of circular economy, that of social inclusion or exclusion, and that of urban regeneration and resilience. Particularly the last one, which is often left unaddressed or considered mainly in qualitative terms, will be the main focus of this project. Given that the impact of the current linear business models and of unsustainable production and consumption patterns on waste generation, on climate change, and on social inequalities can be substantial, it is becoming apparent that the business-as-usual mentality needs to change. Recently, the Coalition Circular Accounting in the Netherlands proposed that priority should be given on developing and adopting methods and tools which can support businesses that experiment with circularity to account for value creation through circular business models and to facilitate the quantification of impacts on the society and the environment. However, what these methods and tools should look like is still unclear. 

Regenerative economics, the main theory which will be tested during this project, is a scientific field which stems from ecological economics, and which can provide such accounting tools as the Coalition Circular Accounting is proposing. Its theoretical underpinning is grounded on information theory and on energy network science which examines how energy and resources flow through natural ecosystems, and therefore it has very little to do with actual economic theories. The premise of regenerative economics is that natural ecosystems are the embodiments of sustainability since they have existed for millennia. Following this reasoning, natural ecosystems can provide insights to foster the development of inclusive and regenerative socio-economic networks (eco-mimicry) as an effort to start facing the realities of our current social and ecological crises.

This study will be running for one year during which Filippos, together with assistant Prof. Daan Schraven from TU Delft and Prof. Martin de Jong from Erasmus University Rotterdam, will explore if and how indicators from regenerative economics can be applied to study the socio-economic metabolism of the Greek island Samothraki and what could be the potential insights both on a theoretical as well as on a practical level. Since the analysis is of methodological nature and context dependent, the research will be conducted in close collaboration with other researchers who have studied the socio-economic metabolism of Samothraki extensively, as well as with researchers who are experts in the application of quantitative tools such as ecological network analysis and ascendency analysis.

The results from the Samothraki case study will illustrate more broadly how regenerative economics could serve the purpose of accounting tools. This information will be valuable to organizations (e.g., municipalities, businesses, research institutes etc.) in the Netherlands and abroad to measure, report, and share knowledge regarding progress towards a robust and inclusive circular economy.

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