How to's might be one of the most searched-for terms in Google. So why not create one regarding circular economy? Well, here I suggest 7 steps to know if your company is on the road to circularity based on the suggestions of the specilized literature and the proposal of the top four organizations working on the topic of circularity assessment.
If you follow these you would be able to know if you are on the right track or not (hopefully you are):
1. Products and offerings: Identify the products/offerings of your company.
2. Value: Define your value proposition, delivered through such products/offerings.
3. Processes: Identify all the processes that result in your product/offering.
4. Organization: Establish all the other processes that allow you to deliver your value proposition.
Once you have a clear picture of your organization it is time to ask the tough questions!
5. Circular products/offerings: Regarding your products/offerings, there are 7 things that you should be able to assess: use intensity, hazardousness, circulated inputs, criticality of inputs, locality, restorativeness and ethics.
6. Circular value: In terms of value proposition, it is necessary to calculate the value retention potential you have if you implemented different circular strategies as well as the material intensity of your value proposition.
7. Circular processes: Processes are also important for assessing circularity. To know if they are circular or not, you need to see if they include circular design, use renewable energy, how much waste they generate and what kind of circular inputs do they use.
8. Circular organization: Finally, your organizational aspects need to be evaluated as well. You need to know if circularity is part of your strategy, if you communicate circular principles and values to your stakeholders. In addition to this you have to assess what is your level of collaboration with other actors, your transparency and integrity. Finally, you have to ask yourself if your company contributes to surpassing the planetary boundaries.
These are general indications for conducting a circularity assessment based on the specialized literature, expert opinions and assessment proposals. Specific tools have been developed by the Ellen Macarthur Foundation and Circle Economy for companies to assess their circularity. Other organizations working on the topic are VBDO and Viktoria ICT Swedish. If you are interested, contact them to know more about their initiatives.
The great thing about circular economy, and we owe this to the hard work of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, is the fact that it has reached out to the top management of companies and policy making bodies. This is a sign that a change in mindsets is happening; people that understood the world in a very narrow and simplistic way, the economists, are now getting the 'bigger picture' and they see good business in it. This is why any effort to define what circularity is and entails, has to capture such broader understanding and avoid simplifications; we can't just give up 3 long years of outreach because we are afraid of tackling complexity.This regarding recent efforts to develop tools to assess circularity.
One of the core elements of the circular economy, its bringing back compexity into an area that has been famous for over-simplifying reality and pretending to shape our daly lives based on this. Complexity means bringing all elements into the analysis, seeing the feedback loops that exist in the system, acknowledging multiple scales and the role of context. This calls for creative, risky and radically new tools for analysing complex phenomena such as circularity. Old tools used in the old model are irrelevant for a new approach such as the circular economy. Therefore, efforts to understand circularity can't fall into the simplicity trap of assuming it belonhs to one single scale or to one aspect of the economic activity.
His is specially relevant for assessment or measurement efforts. They are an important decision-making tool in transition processes such as achieveng a sustainable development path. This means that these actors rely on them to plan, do and communicate. In this sense, such process is only as good as the tool to measure it.
In order to evaluate how good a tool is for assessing something it is important to know how close it is to the the original idea that it is assessing. Several initiatives are being developed to assess circularity and it seemed as a relevant topic for my master thesis. What I did was to evaluate a group of tools already created in terms of how 'true' were them to the 'expert' idea of circularity to see if they would effectively contribute to the transformation of the economic system.
In the coming days I will share the final report and short versions of my main findings, hoping to contribute to the debate about what is circularity and how can we move towards it. So stay tuned!