Circular Economy: Engaging consumers in your closed-loop goals

Consumers make purchasing decisions every day, considering price, quality, and value for money amongst many other things. These days, many also consider an organisation’s sustainability commitments and purpose. Whereas these may previously have been deemed a ‘nice-to-have’, BSI polling has shown these are moving higher up the consumer purchasing agenda.

For purpose-driven organisations, there is clearly an opportunity not only to lead the charge towards sustainable systems and solutions, bringing benefit to people and planet, but also to achieve commercial gains in the process. There are many facets to this, from decarbonisation to more efficient use of water, and implementing the principles of the circular economy.

In today’s linear economy, the extraction of finite resources, the production of goods, and the disposal of waste are inefficient and expensive. Equally, it can put organisations at odds both with regulatory requirements, such as the European Waste Framework Directive, and stakeholder expectations around sustainability goals. By embracing the circular economy, where resources are re-deployed or reused, material use and resultant waste are addressed, and waste flows are turned into inputs for further production, organisations can limit their impact on finite resources, reduce waste and bring opportunities for positive economic impacts. But what processes can they follow to achieve this and demonstrate the credibility of their circular claims to engage consumers in their goals?

Underpinning circular claims and goals with the use of recognised external validation is one way organisations can build trust, achieve credibility with consumers and avoid greenwashing. As a trusted partner for organisations looking to embrace sustainability, BSI offers guidance on the circular economy journey.

Starting by implementing a successful environmental management system (ISO 14001), organisations can then begin to integrate circular economy goals. Operating an environmental management system can result in further benefits of energy conservation, reduced waste, cost savings, enhanced reputation and facilitate engagement in global trade and supply chains. To further build on this, Principles of the circular economy in organisations (BS8001) acts as a framework for organisations of any size or type to follow in implementing a relevant and transformational approach to the circular economy.

Circularity can relate to any resource, but it’s more visible to the consumer when it comes to the items we use in our everyday life, from phones to toys, clothes, or furniture. The World Economic Forum reports that more than 100 billion tons of resources, including minerals, metals, and fossil fuels,  enter the economy every year. However, only 8.6% get recycled and used again. This generates huge amounts of waste, so finding ways to keep them in circulation or give them a second life is pivotal. By refurbishing products, the lifespan of resources and materials can be extended. Through remanufacture, emissions can also be reduced.

Of course, for consumers, it can be difficult to know what a sustainable choice is. When it comes to building consumer trust in refurbished and remanufactured products, organisations can have the processes and quality of the goods verified with the ‘Kitemark™ Remanufactured and Reconditioned Products’ scheme. Based on the Design for manufacture, assembly, disassembly and end-of-life processing standard (BS 8887), organisations using the scheme are awarded the Kitemark™ if it can be evidenced that remanufacturing and reconditioning processes result in products that are equal to or better than new in terms of quality, function, and durability.

Circular Computing, an IT supplier that remanufactures laptop products at volume, achieved the BSI Kitemark for remanufactured and reconditioned goods. The accreditation gives customers reassurance that a remanufactured laptop from Circular Computing is as good as, if not better than buying new, offering a reliable, high-end alternative and providing quality, without compromise. The environmental benefits that have followed because of their circular model include approximately 316kgs of carbon avoided, 1,200 kgs of virgin resources preserved, and 190,000 litres of water saved for every remanufactured laptop

This is about sustainability, but also about economics. To date, their sales have generated economic savings to their customers of circa £15-21 million. Circular Computing has benefited from a profitable circular business model and experienced operational cost savings, the market has benefited from a wider range of product and pricing choices, and society has benefited from job creation leading to taxable income, skills enhancement, lower retail prices, and ‘green’ upskilling.

Close to half (47%) of consumers told us they considered an organisation’s purpose when making purchasing decisions, rising to 74% of 18–24-year-olds. There is both environmental and economic impetus in the drive towards circularity, but making this transition does not have to be a significant challenge. By validating circular claims through recognised guidance and standards, organisations can live their purpose, build consumer trust and avoid greenwashing to realise the environmental and commercial benefits of the circular economy and accelerate progress towards a sustainable world.

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie