How social enterprises contribute to the digital transition

8th December 2021 | Publications

Social enterprises federated by the RREUSE network are active in the circular economy, providing valuable social and environmental contributions to the digital transition.

Due to the unprecedented shift to digital technologies in daily life, COVID-19 has exacerbated the need to tackle the digital divide, representing the gap between individuals in terms of access to ICT products and the ability to use them. In light of this, RREUSE’s members initiated and scaled up activities to provide second-hand ICT equipment to vulnerable groups, as well as digital skills training.

Rising demand for scarce critical raw materials and growing generation of electric and electronic waste have also tabled the need to promote and support the circular economy in the sector, as re-use and repair will be essential to address such problems. This is why RREUSE’s members focus on preventing resource depletion and diverting Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) from landfill through re-use, repair and recycling – all the while creating job and training opportunities for people distanced from the labour market.


Lastly, social enterprises have also implemented innovative digital tools (e-commerce, traceability and reporting software, or ICT warehousing systems) to extend product lifetimes through re-use and repair and therefore achieve greater impact. The use of these technologies can in addition facilitate training opportunities in the digital sector, ensuring a digital transition that works for all.

To support a policy ecosystem promoting a social and circular digital agenda, RREUSE recommends:

  • Extending resource efficiency requirements more ambitiously through ecodesign policies
  • Implementing durability and repairability scores to nudge consumers towards circular ICT products
  • Introducing tax exemptions to support re-use and repair activities
  • Using funding mechanisms to support the deployment of digital technologies in the re-use and repair sector, as well as to back social enterprises providing digital skills training
  • Formalising and mainstreaming circular skills development programmes at regional and national level, notably in the ICT sector
  • Introducing separate targets for re-use and preparation for re-use of (W)EEE

    Picture credit © Riccardo Annandale