The Next Economy
British Standards Institute Officially Launches BS8001 Circular Economy Standard

After months of waiting, the British Standards Institute (BSI) has finally launched BS8001, the world’s first standard for implementing circular economy principles.

Transitioning the economy to a more circular model has the potential to unlock €1.8 trillion in estimated savings globally, but confusion surrounding the circular economy is preventing businesses from embracing the concept. The new standard aims to clarify key issues about what the circular economy is and its growing business relevance, while providing guidance on how to implement its principles in order to create direct and indirect value as a result of process, product/service or business model innovation.

It has been written in a way so that can be applied to any organization regardless of location, size, sector and type and is built on six guiding principles:

  • Systems thinking: Organizations take a holistic approach to understand how individual decisions and activities interact within the wider system;
  • Innovation: Organizations continually innovate to create business value through the sustainable management of resources in products and services;
  • Stewardship: Organizations manage the direct and indirect impacts of their decisions and activities across their system;
  • Collaboration: Organizations collaborate internally and externally through formal and/or informal arrangements to create mutual business value;
  • Value optimization: Organizations keep all products, components and materials at their highest value and utility at all times;
  • Transparency: Organizations are open about decisions and activities that affect their ability to transition to a more sustainable and circular mode of operation and are willing to communicate these in a clear, accurate, timely, honest and complete manner.

“I believe the introduction of BS8001 is very timely. For one simple reason — there is seemingly an awful lot of confusion that exists around the circular economy concept,” wrote Phil Cumming, Senior Sustainability Manager for Marks and Spencer in a post for edie.

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“The idea of a circular economy proposes a real paradigm shift and a different way of thinking about the economy. As a result, various (potentially competing) interpretations of the idea have emerged across organizations, together with an abundance of terminology, often misused interchangeably (the term ‘closed-loop’ being a case in point). There is also an apparent lack of clarity over what a so-called business model is and isn’t. This all adds to the complexity of a concept which frankly is already pretty complex.”

According to Josh Fothergill, Policy Lead at the Institute of Environmental Management & Assessment (IEMA), the BS8001 could help scale up the adoption of circular businesses practices across the UK.

“It’s long been acknowledged that adopting circular economy principles is a key way to not only significantly reduce an organization’s immediate impact on the environment but also opens up new long-term lines of revenue for businesses that make the right moves,” Fothergill said.

“The launch of the BS8001 has the potential to guide the thousands of businesses that have struggled to make the circular economy practical, so this has every capability of really transforming the way the UK does business and marks the perfect opportunity for every organization to benefit.”

IEMA was a key player in the development of BS8001, collaborating with BSI to draft the standard’s core eight-stage process (Framing, Scoping, Idea Generation, Feasibility, Business Case, Piloting, Implementation and Reviewing).

The standard is the result of nearly 2.5 years of research, development and testing and serves more as a flexible guideline as opposed to a rigid set of requirements, allowing businesses the opportunity to experiment with how — and if — circularity can fit within the context of their organization. In addition to providing practical ways to secure smaller “quick-wins,” BS8001 is also designed to help organizations holistically rethink how they manage resources and enhance financial, environmental and social benefits.

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