Create an enabling regulatory environment

Reviewing the regulatory framework and enabling experimentation and innovation

Most public procurement policies have been developed with linear products, systems, and processes in mind. Therefore, some regulation and legislation may currently inadvertently prevent the implementation of a more circular approach to public procurement. As your city government conducts pilots, you may identify legal and regulatory challenges. Identifying these regulatory challenges and discussing potential solutions with the relevant stakeholders can inform the revision of the regulatory framework.

The creation of a circular procurement experimentation programme or regulatory sandbox for pilots, can support innovation in the procurement process. These experimentation programmes provide an opportunity for innovators to trial new products, services, or business models in a real-world environment where some rules have been temporarily waived. These time-limited trials - conducted under regulatory supervision and testing new approaches in pilot projects - can provide you with evidence on whether certain regulations should be adapted or not.

Adapting the regulatory framework over time will enable your city government to implement and scale circular practices. As many of these policies might be decided at the national or international level, your city government will need to collaborate with policymakers at different levels of governance to adapt the regulatory framework for a circular economy.

Questions to consider:

  • Are there legal or regulatory challenges that are preventing the implementation of a more circular approach to public procurement? + Which other policy areas affect public procurement in your city? + Are suppliers and other stakeholders facing legal or regulatory barriers?

  • Can regulatory exemption(s) be granted for certain pilot projects? Is it possible to create a circular public procurement regulatory sandbox or experimentation programme?

  • Can you identify and discuss regulatory challenges that your suppliers face in an open and transparent manner?

  • Can your city government adapt the policy and regulatory framework to better enable circular public procurement?

  • Can you collaborate with policymakers at other levels of governance to adapt the regulatory framework?


1) The Government of the Netherlands aims to adapt its legislation to advance the circular economy. The Circular Economy Implementation Programme 2019-2023 is now investigating which legislative amendments may be necessary.

2) Following a successful pilot, the City of Zurich made it mandatory in 2005 to use concrete products that contain at least 25% recycled aggregates in public building projects. Recycled concrete is now used whenever technically feasible, and out of the 18,400 m3 of concrete used annually in public building projects, 90% (or 17,000m3) are made from recycled aggregates. In 2013, the city introduced the additional requirement that all concrete used in public building construction works meet a standard.

3) In 2019, New York City banned the sale and purchase of styrofoam packaging and is encouraging the use of reusable, returnable, or refillable containers or packaging made of other materials such as aluminium, or paper.


  • The “legislation and regulation” section of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Urban Policy Levers paper, provides an overview of how city governments can set regulations to support the development of circular economy opportunities.

  • The Circular Public Procurement policy page of the Circular Flanders website provides an introduction to various policies on circular, sustainable and green public procurement and European legislation.

  • The “Legal Framework” learning module by the Urban Agenda for the EU provides an overview of different tools and instruments, and legal aspects to achieve more through public procurement.

  • Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) is a global partnership of more than 30 leading development organizations that works to advance the lives of poor people, especially women, through financial inclusion. CGAP developed a visual guide and a report that walks you through the key decision points on how build a regulatory sandbox.

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