The current momentum around circular economy monitoring and the evolving role of port managers (PMBs) in sustainability reporting is an excellent opportunity to clarify the direction in which this should be integrated into port performance systems. This is the time to establish the right framework and context to take incremental steps towards a mature circular economy monitoring system in port areas. This topic focuses not only on exploring and clarifying the challenge or simply gaining insights, but also on making these insights actionable.
Navigating the circular transition
“Ports are at the crossroads of transitions and changing realities” is the headline of a report by Deloitte and ESPO (2021). Large-scale socio-economic change comes from better cross-sectoral collaboration, rather than isolated actions by individual actors.
The shift to collective impact for a circular economy (CE) is not just a matter of encouraging more collaboration or partnerships. It also requires a fundamentally different, more disciplined and more powerful approach to demonstrate real progress towards common goals.
Ports, and more specifically Port Management Bodies (PMBs), are expected to share responsibility for making the circular economy work. Monitoring and evaluation should be used for both transparency and accountability. Ambition can be raised by talking not only about learning, but also about improvement and impact, so that learning is used to drive real change.
The current momentum of the monitoring of circular economy monitoring and the evolving role of port managers (PMBs) in sustainability reporting is an excellent opportunity to clarify the direction in which the circular monitoring should evolve and be integrated.
Giving more clarity and direction to the challenge
Monitoring progress towards shared circular goals is not yet clearly defined and needs to be better understood. The concepts of ‘circular economy and ports’ and ‘circular economy and monitoring’ are not yet fully documented, researched and implemented. Therefore, their combination is certainly at an early stage.
That’s why, as a first step, Circular Flanders commissioned an exploratory study to bring more clarity, structure and direction to this relatively open question of monitoring circularity in ports. Based on scientific knowledge and tested in (international) practice, the exploration resulted in actionable insights and a first framework with a pragmatic set of indicators for Port Management Bodies (PMBs). At the same time, the next steps for the gradual advancement of circularity ambitions and performance were formulated.
Get to know us
Meet the Research Team
The European Centre for Strategic Analysis (ECSA), Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB – Social Sciences & Solvay Business School) and Ports and Logistics Advisory (PLA) took up the Circular Ports Monitor exploratory study. Learn more about the research approach and the process undertaken.
Dr. Alain Verbeke is an Adjunct Professor at the Solvay Business School, Vrije Universiteit Brussel. He has been a Visiting Professor at the Université Catholique de Louvain, an Associate Fellow of Templeton College, University of Oxford, and an Academic Associate of the Centre for International Business and Management, Judge Business School, University of Cambridge. He holds the McCaig Research Chair in Management at the Haskayne School of Business, University of Calgary and is the Alan M. Rugman Memorial Fellow at the Henley Business School, University of Reading. He has served as Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of International Business Studies and is a Fellow of the Academy of International Business and the European International Business Academy.
Dr. Verbeke’s academic research agenda focuses on the governance of strategic interdependences in the realm of firm-level strategy and public policy making. He has unique expertise in the broad governance challenges facing internationally operating firms and large-scale infrastructure providers.
Dr. Verbeke has published 40 books, 90 book chapters and 130 journal articles that have been cited over 27,000 times. He has directed over 150 advisory studies, mostly large-scale project evaluations, feasibility studies and strategic masterplans with significant social and environmental impacts, and implications for sustainability.
Prof. dr. Elvira Haezendonck (Vrije Universiteit Brussel and Solvay Business School) is Full Professor at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) and Visiting Professor at the University of Antwerp (UA), as well as guest lecturer at Erasmus University of Rotterdam (Maritime Economics and Logistics). Her research covers topics in the field of sustainable strategies and management, applied to infrastructure, ports and complex projects.
She has published various articles, books and book chapters in relation to sustainable strategies, project evaluation, competitive analysis and stakeholder management, and since 1996, she has been involved in over 100 national and EU research projects on for example strategic analyses and impact assessments in/for ports and infrastructure, and on complex project management. She teaches several strategy and (project) management courses on both bachelor and master level.
She also takes up multiple board positions within and beyond academia. In 2022 Prof. dr. Elvira Haezendonck was elected as first female president of the International Association of Maritime Economists (IAME), the global academic association of maritime economists. Since 2010 she has (co-)promoted two consecutive Research Chairs on Public-Private Partnerships at VUB, and currently she is in the lead of a third research chair on Infrastructure Asset Management, sponsored by Antea, Arcadis, Sweco and Tractebel.
Prof. dr. Michaël Dooms is affiliated as associate professor with the Solvay Business School at the University of Brussels (VUB) where he teaches courses in the broad field of Strategic Management. He teaches port management courses in international programs at the Erasmus University Rotterdam and at the Athens University of Economics and Business. Prof. Dooms is member of PortEconomics.eu and a member of the Port Performance Research Network (PPRN), where he co-animates the port authority strategy group.
His other research interests are in the fields of complex project evaluation in the infrastructure sector, international business, corporate strategy and cluster competitiveness. He has published in leading scientific journals such as the International Journal of Project Management, Research in Transportation Business and Management, Maritime Policy and Management, Maritime Economics and Logistics and the Journal of Transport Geography.
Prof. Dooms worked as a project manager and researcher on several research and consulting projects, which need a multi-disciplinary (integration of technical, economic and environmental criteria) and multi-stakeholder (public and private sector, local communities) approach, such as project evaluations, long term master plans and visions (for the ports of Antwerp, Zeebrugge and Brussels), the expansion of the DHL-hub at Brussels National Airport, the storage of nuclear waste and (re)development of brown- and greenfield economic zones. Within the EU framework research programs, he was the coordinator of the collaborative project to create a European Port Observatory measuring the industry’s performance (PORTOPIA, 2013-2017).
Dr. Peter de Langen is the owner and principal consultant of Ports & Logistics Advisory, based in Malaga, Spain. Peter de Langen is part-time professor at Copenhagen Business School and held a part-time position as professor Cargo Transport & Logistics, at Eindhoven University of Technology.
From 2007 to 2013, Peter worked at Port of Rotterdam Authority (PoR), department Corporate Strategy as senior advisor. From 1997 to 2007, he worked at Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR). Peter is co-director of the knowledge dissemination platform www.porteconomics.eu, develops training events and regularly speaks at industry conferences. He authored more than 50 peer reviewed articles as well the book ‘Towards a better Ports Industry’.
In 2013, Peter founded Ports & Logistics Advisory (PLA, see www.pl-advisory.com). PLA aims to provide high impact contributions to projects and organisations and is active in boardroom advisory, research and executive education in ports & logistics worldwide. PLA works for leading companies and governments in the ports industry, amongst other Port of Rotterdam, Port of Barcelona, the European Seaports Organisation, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, United Nations and the Panama Canal Authority.
Peter de Langen
Lynn Faut is a doctoral candidate at the Free University of Brussels (VUB). She studied Business Engineering at Solvay Business School where she graduated summa cum laude and received the 2021 Excellence Award. Since then, she joined the Management and Strategy Team at VUB as a PhD candidate where she researches circular economy monitoring in ports.
Lynn has always been passionate about the circular economy and tries to integrate it into her daily lifestyle.
Fanny Soyeur graduated in 2019 as a Business Engineer at the Solvay Business School, VUB. She has been working 3 years at the VUB under Professor Michael Dooms, where she coordinates and develops the internship program of the Solvay Business School, the foreign trade missions as a thesis for business engineers and as a practical course for other university wide students and the international business project course.
Her PhD research deals the social aspect of transitions in seaports. She has worked as a researcher on several research and consulting projects, such as a research on the economic and strategic impact of standards in the Belgian economy from NBN in 2019, a socio-economic study of the companies of the Port of Brussels in 2021, and an exploratory research on circular economy monitoring in ports (Vlaanderen Circulair, 2022).
Interested in the exploratory research?
The exploration is recorded in the form of a research notebook in which all the steps and findings of the exploration are carefully documented.
As such, it reads differently than a publication aimed at the general public. However, we want to be as transparent as possible in sharing this information. Therefore everything is open access under the CC BY-NC-ND license. You can request both the final report and the appendices by leaving your personal information.
This paper may also be of interest to you
The academic paper Ensuring circular strategy implementation: The development of circular economy indicators for ports is based on the Circular Port Monitor – Explorative Research It is available online since April 4, 2023, in the Journal of Maritime Transport Research (Elzeviers).
The paper is open access under the CC BY-NC-ND license You can go to our library for a direct download.
Discovering the first set of indicators for immediate use
During the exploration of monitoring the circular economy in ports, it became clear that in addition to actionable insights, there was an immediate need to develop a basic set of indicators. Not a circular indicator or index that encompasses everything in one number, nor a multitude of complex indicators, nor the ultimate set of indicators for the coming decades, but above all an initial set of indicators to get started.