Great Lakes Report
May 21, 2020

Creating a Circular Economy in the Great Lakes Region

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, with research and database expertise from Guidehouse, produced a first-of-its-kind report to showcase the economic and environmental value of the circular economy (CE) in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence region (GLR). By tracking the potential economic impact through available and forecast data, the report has outlined how companies operating within specific sectors can translate CE opportunities into business best practices that unlock new growth, competitiveness, and innovation.

Results demonstrate vast economic and environmental benefits for adopting a circular economy in the GLR. Among the three materials studied, the economic benefits range between $4.4 billion to $5 billion USD. The environmental benefits are equally advantageous, with reductions in greenhouse gas emissions ranging from 35 million to 120 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2). Finally, the report’s findings also reveal the importance of developing incentives that facilitate innovation and greening of the value chain, encouraging partnerships and collaboration to foster circularity, aligning the circular economy with mainstream policies, developing traceable actions and targets that hold stakeholders accountable for their progress, and embracing the social aspects of circularity to implement measures to support this shift. With these tactics in place, businesses in the GLR and beyond can achieve profound economic and social impact through the circular economy.

Best practice case studies were included in the report to provide qualitative depth and highlight circular leadership across the three materials of focus—steel, plastics, and wood/paper. These case studies from Kohler, Steelcase, Whirlpool Corporation, Clearwater Paper, Procter & Gamble, Sappi North America, WestRock, Schnitzer Steel, and Dow, have been compiled to inspire action from other companies and amplify the impact of their efforts.   

American Forest and Paper Association, Steelcase, Whirlpool, Kohler, and Great Lakes Governors and Premiers (GSGP) underwrote and contributed to this research, which was released in January 2020 and available here.

Case Studies