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How to Design and Assess Products for a Circular Economy: New Circularity Indicators

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation developed the principles of a circular economy in 2010, introducing the idea of transitioning to a resource-efficient and regenerative economy that eliminates waste. In 2012 and 2013, the Foundation issued two reports outlining the economic potential of shifting towards the new circular economy model, with analysis by McKinsey and Company.

Many global corporations showed remarkable interest in the opportunities outlined in the reports. Based on this response, the Foundation created the Circular Economy 100, an alliance of 100 global corporations and emerging innovators working towards building circular economy capability.

Also in 2013 the Foundation launched the first global postgraduate fellowship program in circular economy, partnering with Yale University, Stanford University, London Business School, and India’s National Institute of Design. The world’s first MBA in the circular economy was launched around the same time at the Bradford University School of Management.

Since then the transition to a global circular economy has been accelerating and in May 2015 the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, in collaboration with Granta Design, introduced circulatory indicators.  These indicators enable businesses to assess how well a product or company performs in the new circular economy model. Now companies can assess the extent to which the material flow of a product or a whole company is restorative and in turn, assess their progress in transitioning from a linear to circular model.

The indicators were developed in a two-year research project bringing together European businesses, expert designers, and leading academics to ensure the robustness and economy-wide relevance of the measurement approach. The indicators methodology, a project overview, a collection of non-technical case studies, and integration of the product-related indicators are publicly available here. There is also a commercially-available software tool named GRANTA MI:Product Intelligence™ that allows users to evaluate a range of environmental, regulatory, and supply chain risks for their designs and products.

To read more about the circularity indicators visit the Ellen MacArthur Foundation here.

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