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Circular Business Models: Doing more, with less, for longer

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Executive Summary

Lead contributor: Alon Rozen

This chapter summarizes the primary Circular Business Models (CBMs) that are enabling the transition to a more Circular Economy and how they can increase both the performance and sustainability of organizations adopting them. As we collectively search for an effective path to a circular and sustainable economy, successfully experimenting with and implementing new business models that incorporate circular-by-design principles should help rapidly transfer best practices across sectors and fuel rapid adoption. 

Circular Business Models can help slow, narrow, and even close resource loops as we transition from value chain thinking to a value cycle mindset. Once we realize that 80% of waste and environmental impact is defined at the design stage, we can see how important it is to apply design principles properly. Thus, the attraction for integrating the principles of “designing for X” (X being reuse, disassembly, testing, etc.) ensures we can do more with less for longer. When done properly, CBMs contribute to lowering costs, and reducing emissions and resource consumption, while increasing value and creating deeper relationships between providers and users. Thus, CBMs take us from the realm of feel-good solutions, in which profitability is sacrificed in the name of sustainability, to that of business model optimization where profit, purpose, people and planet co-exist harmoniously. 

CBMs are a source of significant competitive advantage for companies as they can (and should) generate additional economic benefits (lower costs and higher revenues), create new value-accreting partnerships with suppliers and stakeholders, and new ways of connecting with their users as the relationship is redefined into a more collaborative exchange of value. What is encouraging is that CBMs can be developed for products and services, tangible, or intangible/intellectual solutions, for high-value or low-value materials, commodity raw materials or high embedded-value products. Besides superior performance, CBMs will create new jobs, promote innovation in industry and services, embed clean energy further into the economy, dematerialize many parts of the economy, reduce waste, and increase the sustainability of cities and communities, while promoting responsible consumption and production. 

Primary CBMs presented in this chapter include those that slow resource loops (Maintenance & Repair, Reuse, Sharing), narrow resource loops (Refurbishing, Remanufacturing, Product-as-a-Service) and close resource loops (Industrial Symbiosis, Upcycling, Recycling). While research and practice in this domain are still emerging, CBMs are often categorized as one or a combination of three strategic approaches to increasing circularity:  retaining product ownership such that we speak more about usership than ownership, extending product lifecycles such that assets are used longer and more intensively while avoiding the extraction of virgin raw materials, and/or implementing design-for-X principles such that products are engineered to last longer and be easier to repair, maintain, disassemble, upgrade, return and recycle. 

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Chapter 1: Circular Business Models | Lead contributor: Dr. Alon Rozen

What are Circular Business Models?

When business models are designed for circularity, they help to slow, narrow and close resource flows effectively and efficiently – boosting performance while reducing environmental impact. Discover how Circular business models (CBMs) can be developed for all industries, organizations big and small, and are crucial for the transition.

What is the impact of CBMs?

Thanks to CBMs, we can do more – increase economic activity, with less – extract less of the planet’s finite resources, for longer – keep already extracted resources and existing assets in use (and reuse) sustainably. Explore how CBMs are key to designing out waste and regenerating our planet.

How can we do more with what we have?

CBMs plays a crucial role in slowing resource flows by finding various ways to use and reuse already extracted virgin materials. Common CBMs that slow resource flows include Maintenance & Repair, Remanufacturing and Sharing. Explore now how this helps increase economic activity without hurting the planet.

Why is remanufacturing so impactful?

Remanufacturing is one of the most impactful CBMs as it can significantly reduce the use of virgin materials, energy and water while extending the useful life of machines, appliances, and more. Learn now how it is not only great for the planet, but it is also a highly efficient and profitable business model.

How can we do more with less?

By increasing the usage of products, we need to manufacture less. This includes refurbishing and selling products as a service. Many successful businesses are using this approach. Explore now, how CBMs help narrow resource flows by finding ways to do more with less.

How important is refurbishing?

One important CBM that helps narrow resource flows is refurbishment. With the explosion of electronic gadgets in modern living, this business model offers consumers the option to buy “like new” and reconditioned products at a more accessible price. Discover why this is a highly profitable CBM.

Closing Resource Flows

CBMs that help close the loop include reuse, recycling (especially upcycling) and industrial symbiosis. This can reduce costs while reducing environmental impact. Learn now, how CBMs help to close resource flows by “closing the loop” such that there is no waste in the ecosystem, just like in nature.

How can we turn industrial waste into raw material?

Discover how Industrial symbiosis is a CBM in which one company’s waste becomes another company’s raw materials. This often requires matching companies from different industries, for example a shoe manufacturer that uses the rubber from a tire manufacturer for its’ shoes.

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Enrollment Information

  • Once you have enrolled, you will be given access to our Learning Management System.
  • The course is entirely online and self-paced. We estimate that the total effort required to be 3 hours.
  • You will be guided through the original content of the course with dynamic, rich, enjoyable, narrated, and easy-to-understand content. The course is divided into easily navigated sections focusing at each stage on the learning objectives to be achieved. Each section is followed by non-graded “knowledge check questions”, to help you ensure that you have successfully assimilated the content. You can go back and view the content as often as you like.
  • When you reach the end of the course, you will be awarded the Certificate of Completion.

What you will gain

  • Access to one Circular Economy course, with free access to the content for one year.
  • A digitally enabled, verifiable, and shareable certificate acknowledging your achievement.
  • One-year free membership in the Circular Economy Alliance Community, including access to Circular Economy Alliance members, resources, and events.
  • Special access to Circular Economy related events, research, resources, and news.

Please note:

  • In many EU countries, the cost of certification can be covered by personal or corporate “training accounts”. Please inquire within your organization or with the appropriate institution within your country for more information.

Policy

Circular Economy Alliance Code of Conduct and Code of Ethics

The Circular Economy Alliance platform, services, and products are designed to appeal to and be used by people from a wide variety of different backgrounds, countries, religions, and cultural norms. These diversity and inclusiveness are core values of the CEA, and we encourage our Community to embrace it and share it. That said, this geographic and cultural diversity can make effective communications and general policy definition a bit challenging.

That said, CEA is committed to advancing the transition to a just and inclusive Circular Economy which aims to decouple economic growth from resource use, eliminate waste by design, and tackle climate change. To achieve its mission and vision of a socially fair Circular Economy, CEA has adopted the principles of Corporate Social Responsibility and endeavours to promote the common good while creating value for all stakeholders. With this in mind, the Code of Conduct has been developed to ensure all activity on the platform and within the CEA community is mutually respectful. The Code of Ethics sets out the guiding ethical principles relative to all professional activities of the certified members of the Circular Economy Alliance, informs the actions of our partner network, and defines the conduct of CEA staff and persons acting on behalf of the Company.

The purpose of our Code of Conduct & Code of Ethics is to ensure that the Circular Economy Alliance platform (the Platform), products and services are inclusive and that we, our members, and our community uphold the principles and values linked to Circular Economy, social responsibility, sustainable development and all relevant domains, to ensure that people and the planet are not harmed in the name of profit, and that we all conduct ourselves with mutual respect.

Code of Conduct

The CEA Code of Conduct reflects the ethics and values of the Platform, product, services, and community. It has been prepared with members of the CEA community (the Community), content contributors, instructional designers, and administrators based on established best practices. With the involvement of our stakeholders, we will continue to update the Code of Conduct as we add new products, services, and activities and as we receive feedback from our learners and community members.

We cannot foresee all eventualities and align with all local regulations, so the Code of Conduct should indicate the nature of interactions and the social dynamic we would like to see on this Platform and within the Community. In the event of an issue not covered by this Code of Conduct, the CEA team will decide whether a behavior is acceptable or not, in a manner that is as fair and transparent as possible, while respecting the confidentiality of all involved.

This Code of Conduct applies to all activities on the Talent Learning Management Platform, the Circular Economy Alliance website, its social media pages (Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Discord, etc.), including comments, forum posts, and private messages.

Certified Alumni, members of the Community, as well as candidates for Circular Economy certification are encouraged to adopt the following guidelines for conduct:

  • Contribute to maintaining a safe, supportive, and orderly online learning environment that is conducive to learning and to show respect and dignity to other persons and to property.
  • Contact or communicate with CEA administrators and other personnel in a respectful, positive manner.
  • Behave and communicate on and off the Platform in accordance with the principles of Circular Economy, social responsibility, and inclusiveness.
  • Help ensure all CEA members and personnel have a positive experience in all interactions with you.
  • Appropriate behavior we encourage is as follows: communicating and interacting with respect; demonstrating empathy and sensitivity; giving constructive feedback; acting in accordance with the principles of inclusiveness, that is, showing respect for other norms, cultures, life preferences; promoting the values and principles of Circular Economy, social responsibility, and sustainable development.
  • Maintain behavior free from all forms of bullying, harassment, and discrimination.
  • Other forms of inappropriate behavior that will not be tolerated include dangerous, inciteful, or hateful speech; harassment or intimidation; threats of violence; intentional disruption of online discussion, webinars, conference, or other events; retaliation; influencing or encouraging any of the above.
  • We are a learning community, united around the principles of Circular Economy. As such, we encourage experimentation, a growth mindset, and tolerance for failures, mistakes, or lack of understanding.
  • Despite our shared values, disagreements and misunderstandings are bound to occur in a community as diverse as the Community. In the event, have a calm discussion, ask for clarification, and don’t assume that someone is intentionally being offensive.
  • Please get in touch with the site administrators to report any conduct, posts, activity or content that you do not believe is in accordance with this Code of Conduct. We encourage the Community members to report any incidents that violate the Code of Conduct. The CEA team will respond in a timely manner, and the member who violated the Code of Conduct will be contacted directly. Please use the Contact Us link to report any breaches.
  • Please protect your own and other people’s privacy. Please be mindful not to post or otherwise share your own or other people’s personal information publicly online.
  • Unless otherwise stated, all content posted on the Talent Learning Management System is private and is not searchable online.
  • Unless otherwise stated, all content posted on the Community platform is publicly visible and searchable online.
  • If you delete your CEA Community account, you can request that your Community posts and private messages be removed or anonymized.
  • The website administrators may delete activity, comments, posts, and equivalent that do not adhere to the CEA Code of Conduct.
  • In the event of a breach of the Code of Conduct, we either issue a warning, announce an account suspension or, in the event of a grievous violation, we may announce account expulsion and removal from the platform and the Community.
  • If you are part of the Community, we share the same principles. Let’s share the responsibility for creating a positive dynamic on the Platform.

Code of Ethics 

Certified Alumni, members of the Community, as well as candidates for Circular Economy certification are strongly encouraged to uphold the highest standards of ethical norms in line with Circular Economy principles and values:

  • Act with transparency, honesty, integrity, and make the interests of society and the environment a priority, avoid any known conflicts of interest, and aim to create value for all stakeholders.
  • Promote the circularity and sustainability of the systems regulating economic life according to the principles of “people, planet and prosperity”.
  • Act with respect for others and the environment and practice their professional activities in an inclusive and non-discriminatory manner that upholds the values of equity, equality and tolerance.
  • Exercise their leadership and decision-making skills in the pursuit of establishing a culture of equity, diversity, and inclusion in the workplace and in society.
  • Act in a way that furthers the integrity of the discipline of Circular Economy and its representatives.

The code of conduct is regularly reviewed to reflect necessary adaptations that emerge from input received through our CEA members’ reporting or by changes to the prevailing regulatory framework.

Effective as of: 1 March 2022

Last revised: 28 February 2022

More detailed information can me found in the General Terms and Conditions and the Certifications Terms and Conditions.

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