In the constant pursue of the sustainability of socio-industrial systems, the definition of useful, reliable and informative, and at the same time simple and transparent, indicators is an important step for the evaluation of the circularity of the assessed systems. In the circular economy (CE) context, scientific literature has already identified the lack of overarching indicators (social, urban, prevention-oriented, etc.), pointing out that mono-dimensional indicators are not able to grasp the complexity of the systemic, closed-loop, feedback features of CE. In this respect, Emergy accounting is one of the approaches that have been identified as holding the potential to capture both resource generation and product delivery dimensions and therefore to provide an enhanced systems’ evaluation in a CE perspective.
Because of Emergy’s intrinsic definition and its calculation structure, Emergy-based indicators conceptually lend themselves very well to the evaluation and monitoring of circular processes. Additionally, Emergy has the unique feature of enabling the evaluation of systems that are not necessarily only technosphere systems, but also of technological systems which embed nature (techno-ecological systems).
The present paper gives a perspective on a set of Emergy-based indicators that we have identified as suitable to evaluate circular systems, and outlines the different perspective compared to the circularity indicators defined in the “Circularity Indicators Project” launched by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.