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British standard for the ‘circular economy’ launched

17 July 2017

BSI, the business standards company, has launched a new standard for the ‘circular economy’, BS 8001:2017: Framework for implementing the principles of the circular economy in organisations – guide.

The ‘circular economy’ is a concept which challenges organizations to re-think how their resources are managed to create financial, environmental and social benefits. BS 8001 was developed to meet these mutually beneficial goals, by providing guiding principles for organizations and individuals to consider and implement more sustainable practices. It is the first standard of its kind, both in the UK and globally.

One of the key aims of the circular economy is to keep products, components and materials at their highest utility and value at all times, in keeping with the mantra of the circular economy as being restorative and regenerative by design. BS 8001 outlines what the circular economy is and how an organization can transition from a linear to a circular, and more sustainable, day-to-day operation.

Practical implementation of the six principles of the circular economy – innovation; stewardship; collaboration; value optimizations; transparency; and “systems thinking” – is the bedrock of the standard, and step-by-step guidance on how an organization can navigate through the different stages of implementation is provided. “Systems thinking” is defined in the standard as an understanding of how organizations, individual decisions and activities interact within the wider systems they are part of.

Identifying the role of the circular economy in a particular organization, and how an organization can maximize the potential of this information, is one of the first steps outlined in BS 8001. Importantly, the standard is not intended to be prescriptive or certifiable; it is intended to be used flexibly by those which adopt it – irrespective of the size, sector, type or location of the organization. It is suitable for organizations at a nascent or more advanced stage of transition on implementing the principles of the circular economy.

The move to a ‘circular economy’ is a significant opportunity for businesses and organizations; by contributing to a resource efficient and low-carbon economy, costs and supply chain risks are reduced. Further benefits for businesses which choose to implement BS 8001 include improved resilience, new revenue streams, and enhanced corporate sustainability credentials.

Extensive input from UK businesses into the development of the standard has ensured the standard is useable in real-world scenarios, and that the language used in the document is not overly technical and accessible to those without prior knowledge of the circular economy.

David Fatscher, head of sustainability at BSI, said: “Resource productivity is at the heart of the government’s new Industrial Strategy and demonstrates how standards can be considered business improvement tools which help organizations unlock the untapped potential of sustainable growth. BS 8001 was developed to enable organizations to take practical actions to realize the economic and social benefits of the circular economy.”

To support the framework, BS 8001 provides guidance around the specific issues surrounding the transition to a circular model – namely measurements, liability and insurance, logistical concerns, and materials. Guidance is also provided on specific associated business models, including leasing, the sharing economy, and remanufacturing.

Francois Souchet, project manager for insight and analysis at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, added: “This standard provides a valuable introduction to the practical action organizations can take to accelerate their transition to a circular economy.”

Learn more about BSI and the Circular Economy here

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