Ellen MacArthur Foundation unveils ‘landmark’ digital tool to help businesses track circular economy progress

The tool's launch event heard from businesses which have been trialling Circulytics

Called Circulytics, the tool was revealed to the UK’s wider business community at a launch event in London this morning, following smaller-scale trials at more than 30 businesses including Unilever, Ikea’s Ingka Group, Groupe Renault and DS Smith.

It enables users to track the extent to which their business is contributing to the Foundation’s three principles of a circular economy – designing out waste and pollution; keeping products and materials in use; and regenerating natural systems – by assessing data across 18 metrics.

Factors taken into consideration include strategy and planning; people and skills; systems, processes and infrastructure; external engagement; materials and energy used internally and products and services offered externally. Once the tool has assessed data across all factors, businesses are given an overall score and an overall grade from A+ to E.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation said in a statement that Circulytics has been developed because, as more businesses recognise their responsibility in addressing global resource-related challenges, they have struggled to take strategic action on the circular economy due to a lack of comparable metrics by which to measure baselines, risks and opportunities.

Appetite to bridge this gap between ambition and action on the circular economy seems high, with more than 100 businesses having pre-registered to use Circulytics ahead of its launch. As of today, the tool is being made open-source and free-to-use.

“Over the past ten years, our work has helped to show the circular economy is not only a multi-trillion-dollar economic opportunity but a vital part of the solution to some of the biggest challenges we face today, including climate change and environmental damage,” The Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s chief executive Andrew Morlet said.

“Many businesses are starting to embrace this opportunity, but for the transition to happen at scale and speed they need accurate data and clear analysis. Our ambition for Circulytics is to help any business, in any industry, anywhere in the world, recognise and unlock the potential of the circular economy.” 

Work to develop Circulytics has taken more than a year, Morlet added.

“As we all saw at COP25 in Madrid, whilst policymakers will continue to play that vital role in establishing the conditions for success, we need industry-led transformations and solutions. It’s absolutely vital that businesses take this leading role, and the circular economy is the framework which offers that opportunity.” 

The small print

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has not yet said when it will be able to benchmark data collected through Circulytics by sector or more broadly, as the organisation is waiting for a larger set of users before doing so.

But it has vowed to send individual scorecards to companies “as quickly as possible” once they submit data – hopefully within a month.

Once a large enough user base to generate industry and cross-industry benchmarks is secured, the Foundation will make these resources available publicly. However, all data will be anonymised unless participating businesses consent to be named.

Elaborating on the Foundation’s plans to garner business support for Circulytics, the organisation’s data and metrics lead Jarkko Havas said it would, as a first step, reach out to all companies working with the industry in any capacity. This includes the 300+ actors involved with the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment and the Make Fashion Circular initiative.

By 2025, Havas added, the Foundation is hoping for 25% of Fortune 2000 companies to be using Circulytics, and for users to be updating their scorecards on a “suitable time period”, slated as once per financial year.

Havas also emphasised the importance of engaging businesses beyond those which already consider their circular economy efforts to be advanced.

“The ambition is that any company – whatever stage they are at will have the opportunity to take part and see where they are currently standing.”

Sarah George

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