Circular Economy: What’s in It for SMEs in ASEAN?

In the face of growing global economic shocks and climate crisis, there is an urgency to promote transformation towards more sustainable and circular economies (CE). The Framework for Circular Economy, adopted by ASEAN in 2021, provides guidelines for policymakers and businesses in the pursuit of producing and consuming fewer resources. In alignment with this, Viet Nam approved a CE scheme last year, which includes key measures to integrate CE into policies and encourage private sector investment.

As the main contributors to GDP and employment in ASEAN, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have a crucial role to play in adopting new business models and practices. However, it is important to ensure that shifting to a CE does not impose undue compliance costs on SMEs. This issue was discussed in a public-private policy dialogue, hosted by GIZ in cooperation with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in Bangkok in May 2023.

Bringing together more than 100 representatives from the ASEAN Member States, the dialogue offered a platform to showcase CE good practices and discuss key barriers for SMEs, including access to finance and technology. Moving forward, GIZ will support a regional study on the readiness of SMEs and their participation in CE initiatives. Findings from the study will be shared with policymakers and disseminated through policy dialogues hosted on the ASEAN Access platform.

“Integrating circular business solutions is easier for larger companies that have the necessary human, financial and technological resources. Partnering with SMEs could be one way forward to share greening knowledge and make sure that SMEs are able to link up with international value and supply chains,” Ms. Maresa, ASEAN Access Network Partner, remarked.


ASEAN Access is a regional one-stop business information platform supported by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) with technical assistance from GIZ. In Viet Nam, the Agency for Enterprise Development (AED) under the Ministry of Planning and Investment is the national focal point for ASEAN Access.

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