A world-first industry standard for the circular economy has been launched by BSI to guide companies towards business models that dispense with the linear ‘take-make-throwaway’ approach.
The BS 8001 standard provides the guiding principles for organisations to re-think how their resources are managed and implement a more efficient business model.
Although there are many different standards for specific areas such as recycling and materials, this is the first standard that takes in a whole business approach to the ‘circular economy’.
The key aim of circular business models is to keep products, components and materials in circulation and at their highest value, in other words to decouple economic growth from resource consumption.
This could include innovative approaches such as service-based systems that deliver ‘performance outputs’ rather than selling products, hire and lease models that take back products after use, incentivised returns and remanufacturing, or simply re-designing products for long life.
It contrasts with the traditional linear approach to business, where resources and materials are wasted at end-of-life.
The circular economy is considered a significant business opportunity that can help to reduce costs and supply chain risks, as well as generate new revenue streams and enhanced sustainability credentials.
It is also set to be encouraged by regulation in the near future, with the EU’s Circular Economy Package expected to be agreed by member states by the end of 2017.
The new standard is intended to be used flexibly by those which adopt it, irrespective of size, sector, or experience with the concept.
Companies involved in its creation included M&S, Rolls Royce, Amec Foster Wheeler and several others.
Francois Souchet, project manager for insight and analysis at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation – which promotes several circular economy initiatives and recently published a circular design guide – described the standard as “a valuable introduction” for businesses and other organisations.