Last month the European Commission launched its €24 billion Circular Economy Package, designed to encourage a move away from the ‘take, make, dispose’ approach in favour of using resources in a more sustainable way. The Circular Economy Package demonstrates that the EU is taking sustainability seriously. But the question remains, how will it work in practice, when applied to individual businesses and products?

Forum for the Future has been investigating and championing the idea of a circular economy for a long time. For example, we worked with the Technology Strategy Board (now Innovate UK) and the RSA on The Great Recovery project to tackle waste through better design, and ran a circular business models competition with Innovate UK to generate excitement about this new approach. We’ve also partnered with Novelis to inspire more businesses to ‘go circular.’

The Circular Economy is an attractive concept with a strong business case. It promises the efficient (re-)use of resources, saves businesses money, increases competitiveness, creativity and innovation, and creates jobs. Nevertheless, many companies are challenged to turn the potential into practice, which is why it must be accompanied by practical steps that businesses can take to transition from linear to circular.  

This is why Unilever and Forum for the Future have developed a toolkit that identifies 10 different circular business model archetypes. For each archetype, we selected appropriate examples of business cases, from Nespresso and M&S Schwopping to Nike’s Reuse-A-Shoe initiative and Ecover’s Glocal project. For each business case in the toolkit there is more detail on the potential market growth opportunities, the potential to apply the example to brands and the scalability of the case.

Download the toolkit

Unilever has already begun to put the toolkit to good use, says Gavin Warner, Director of Sustainable Business at Unilever:

“We have found the Circular Business Model Toolkit immensely helpful as a tool that helps our teams visualise scenarios for better product sustainability, and are certain that they will be a valuable resource for other business leaders and decision makers as well.”

We hope businesses will be inspired to use the toolkit to think differently about product life-cycles and experiment with more challenging design and material choices. The toolkit is free to use, downloadable and also includes an exercise which can be used in workshop and learning situations.  

Last week, during The World Economic Forum’s meeting in Davos, high-profile businesses and charity leaders were talking about circular economy. Now that it is firmly on the agenda for governments, NGOs and world leaders, businesses need to jump on the circular economy bandwagon! Whether you’re a small, local enterprise or a large multinational, going circular is a great opportunity to improve efficiency and resilience, and we hope the toolkit will help guide you in exploring this for your business.

If you would like to know more about the toolkit or circular business models, please contact us.

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Image credit: born1945 / Flickr