How to get your transition started?

Many organisations recognise the need for the circular economy and what it might bring. The key question remains: how to progress towards this economy within your organisation? What steps can you take? What is the most relevant and priority action to undertake?

This article is the last in a series of publications introducing the BS8001 circular economy standard.    

  1. Why you should consider embracing the circular economy!
  2. Which principles of the circular economy deliver value?
  3. How to get your transition started?

This article provides guidance and a framework. In line with our previous blogs, we have used the BS 8001 standard as a basis to which we have added our experience in the field.

Flexible framework

The standard seems to suggest that the best start is to explore the organisation’s level of maturity. You will most probably and rather quickly identify that competing levels of maturity exist within your organisation across different divisions, products, services categories and, undoubtedly, across individuals and functions. To deal with this fuzzy front end of the process, a few guidelines can help you find your way. The eight key questions of the standard can be summarised as follows:

  • Do you have an understanding of how the circular economy may be relevant to your company in the long run?
  • Do you have a strategic plan in place, fitting with circular economy activities?
  • Do you have ideas and priorities on realising your circular economy activities?
  • Do you have identified and feasible testing and development plans?
  • Do you have the resources assigned to perform those tests?
  • Do you perform experiments and pilots to validate ideas and approaches?
  • Do you already have successful products or services integrated in your business activities?
  • Do you have monitoring and associated mechanisms in place to support your continuous progress?  

Obviously, the answers to these questions lead you to the most appropriate starting point in the eight-stage framework: framing, scoping, idea generation, feasibility, business case, delivery and implementation, piloting and prototyping, monitoring and reporting (see figure above).

For each of these stages, a set of activities is described as well as gate reviews to allow you to check the stage's completeness. In virtually all stages, a key gate review question is ‘To what extent is top-management approval required before progressing?‘. This approach may give the impression that a sequential path needs to be followed through the different stages. This is not always the case. In reality, an iterative approach is often adopted. Nevertheless, these key stages provide insight into the different aspects that need to be addressed sooner or later.

The involvement of stakeholders is a key to making good progress. Their involvement and awareness can be seen as a key requirement to make progress and perform the action required at a following stage. As an example: starting the idea generation activities related to new product-services will only be successful if internal stakeholders such as R&D, sales, marketing, etc. are aware of what the circular economy might bring to the company.

The standard suggests starting (scoping) with the current vision and how the circular economy could support or undermine the company's long term value proposition. From our experience, here we see a pitfall if great energy and attention are afforded to considering the risks associated with the circular economy. Although these risks need to be addressed, we encourage companies to start from a desired future, which often brings positive energy into the discussion. In a later stage, when small scale experiments are set up, all the assumptions and risks can be addressed.     

A strong feature of the standard is the attention to foster a learning culture and the emphasis to focus on both the achieved results and the followed process. To be successful, the business processes will also need to be reviewed and management systems (ISO-certified or not) will need to evolve.   

Guidance on issues and considerations

Over and above the framework for implementing the circular economy principles, BS 8001 also provides guidance and considerations. The areas of impact can be at five distinct levels: economic, technical, policy/regulation, behavioural and organisational. Identified issues are numerous and the majority of companies will easily recognise them: issues related to accounting, legislation, information management procurement, etc.

(Table @ Sirris: Sirris, based on BS8001

How the issues to be considered might interact in certain thematic areas is illustrated in the table above. The coloured areas of interaction represent both risks and opportunities. Emphasis should be on the fact that each company has to explore its own impact from decision making or activity interactions on its business and value proposition. As such, you can adapt this table based on the experience and knowledge gathered during your own progress following the framework stages. 


BS 8001 is a valuable standard that can support companies of any maturity level in their transition towards a circular economy. It should be used as a guide and not as a set roadmap. The standard is not intended to be used for certification.

The value of the document is also its weakness. The definitions, principles and framework and guidance are all valid for a broad range of organisations. This means that interpretation and translation to specific companies and markets require some effort. Categorising the elements that are a key to your products-services and other elements that might be less relevant will be part of the exercise. Last but not least, identified relevant topics need to be reviewed in the light of the company's specific vision, needs, markets, competences etc.

Our services

Sirris and Agoria assist and support companies on their way towards a circular economy. Our initiative identifies small structural steps towards the desired future, while monitoring and strengthening employee and other stakeholder involvement. This approach allows companies to discover, step by step, which added value can be achieved and results in concrete action to cash in on that added value. Content and speed are adjusted to fit the company's specific organisation.

Our business-oriented approach consists of an exploratory meeting, awareness-raising, advice and assistance, while investigating which opportunities and concrete solutions are available for your company.

In addition, there is also a collective approach through the Circular Economy Connect learning network, which offers opportunities for networking and peer-to-peer learning. Within this network you will be offered the opportunity to enter into contact with leading guest speakers, to visit other inspiring companies, to exchange experience with other companies, to reach solutions for shared challenges together and to attend interactive workshops.

This article is published within the framework of the ‘Eco-compliance als competitief wapen’, project coordinated by Sirris and Agoria, with support from VLAIO.

(Source picture above @ Sirris, based on BS8001)