Getting Started in Circularity

Although integrating the circular economy into business practices may seem daunting, business systems can evolve gradually into those where a product is manufactured, used, reused, recovered, and the materials used to make the product again. Here are steps you can take to brainstorm your way to a successful circular program:

  • Do your research: Inspiration and innovation can certainly come from within, but explore what others businesses and competitors in your industry are doing that’s circular. Check out our Circular Economy Toolbox and Circular Economy Resources pages to familiarize yourself with the realm of what’s possible in circularity.
  • Think outside of the box: Once you have more knowledge about circular programs in your industry, consider how you can tailor programs to fit your products and company culture. Create multidisciplinary teams to offer unique perspectives that can aid your circular program development.
  • Find a partner: An increasing number of third-party vendors can help you meet your circularity goals along various design and production stages. Given their expertise, they can also help you evaluate the feasibility of your ideas. Outside of doing online searches to locate such experts, look for them at industry trade events or conferences related to the circular economy or sustainability.

Getting Buy-In

Once you have cultivated your ideas into a more concrete proposal, convincing senior management and other key stakeholders of the importance of implementing a circular program can be equally challenging. Stakeholders may feel that circular programs may be too expensive, complex, or not deliver sufficient ROI, among other concerns. It's your job to convince them otherwise.

Below are essential strategies for communicating the argument about circularity to your key stakeholders:

  • Find a champion among your stakeholders: Champions are vital for almost any program that comes to fruition. Pinpoint someone in your C-suite or corporate board who understands your circularity vision and can help you navigate getting your circular program approved.
  • KISS (Keep it Simple, Stupid): While your internal team may understand the technical aspects of your proposed circular program, your key stakeholders may not possess the same knowledge. Assess the expertise of your stakeholders and adjust the content of your presentation accordingly.  
  • Provide examples of circularity programs in your industry and/or among your competitors: Showing your stakeholders that other businesses in your industry are embracing the circular economy - particularly your competitors - puts your circular program in perspective, which can embolden your stakeholders to prioritize the program.   
  • Strategize how it could work in your company: Hypothesizing and conveying what resources would be needed, who will be involved, and other details regarding your proposed circular program will make it easier for your stakeholders to envision how the program may affect your company’s operations and bottom line.
  • Talk numbers: Stakeholders like numbers. Not just the financial costs should be roughly estimated and emphasized but also other quantitative measures of how the program will better your company.
  • Emphasize the ROI: To demonstrate the value that can be reaped by the company embracing circularity, highlight the return on investment and how your circular program can enhance any corporate responsibility programming your company may already have.
  • Anticipate the questions you’ll be asked: Knowing your audience - and the types of issues that concern them - will allow you to more effectively prepare to address any challenges your stakeholders may raise regarding your circular program.