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Doing business in the circular economy

Circular business models pay. The European business world could save 630 billion euros annually by using resources better. Discover more about this new way of doing business here.

At the core of the circular economy is the principle that nothing is lost: just like in the natural world, raw materials circulate endlessly in the system. This benefits all: the planet, businesses, and the people. The link between ecological and economic gain is the attraction of the circular economy: sustainability suddenly becomes an opportunity instead of something that just has to be done.

The number of companies that are seeing the advantages of the circular economy is increasing. Large companies are putting feelers out, bankers are studying their role, and start-ups are launching new concepts. The most innovative players fill a niche that is still small but no less important. They subject the circular principles that look so nice on paper to the harsh reality of the market. Does the consumer want to come along? Will we secure the financing? Is what we are doing actually more sustainable?

5 circular business models

Below we show how companies can take advantage of the circular economy in the real world. Each time, we give an example of a Belgian frontrunner. An enterprise can generally embark upon five routes towards more circularity:

  1. Circular input
  2. Raw materials recovery
  3. Extension of working life
  4. Sharing platforms
  5. Product as a service

The figure below, borrowed from Accenture, shows the different business models. The thick ring in the middle represents the chain or life cycle of a product: from raw material to sale, to end of life and return. Different loops or extra circuits can occur along the chain. For example: a product that becomes defective during use/consumption can end up in the same phase of use after repair.

5 business modellen circulaire economie

1. Use of circular inputs

It all starts at the beginning: produce as much as possible using renewable energy and bio-based, biodegradable, or recyclable raw materials. Use less materials, dematerialise, or virtualise. Also buy circular.

Some examples:

 

Friday 23 February 2018

GLIMPS is a design studio that applies bio-manufacturing to make sustainable products and experiences. Bio-manufacturing involves producing objects, materials and concepts based on organic materials …

 

Friday 1 December 2017

BC Architecten converts soil to form building materials such as loam bricks, cob materials, loam plasters, etc. and helps architects, contractors, and building owners use applications to make constru…

 

Friday 1 December 2017

Belgian Oleon is the largest European player in oleochemistry, or the processing of organic raw materials (vegetable oils and animal fats) to form semi-manufactured products. These natural raw materi…

 

2. Raw materials recovery

Recovery of raw materials and/or energy from discarded products or auxiliary flows (often from a different circuit than one’s own).

Some examples:

 

Friday 23 February 2018

GLIMPS is a design studio that applies bio-manufacturing to make sustainable products and experiences. Bio-manufacturing involves producing objects, materials and concepts based on organic materials …

 

Friday 15 December 2017

Tomato Masters has been growing tomatoes of the highest quality since 1966. The neighbouring start-up Aqua4C cultivates omega perch, a sustainable Belgian fish with an exclusively vegetarian diet. …

 

Friday 15 December 2017

Instead of draining purified waste-water off into a ditch, the vegetable-growing company Ardo will now offer its effluent as irrigation water for the agricultural co-operative INERO CVBA, whose membe…

 

3. Extension of working life

Extend the functional life cycle of a product with repair, upgrading, and resale. Already calculate for the second and third life of a product in the design phase: choose a modular design, parts that can be removed, or parts that can be repaired easily.

Some examples:

 

Wednesday 30 May 2018

Circular construction could make real estate affordable again. How, you ask? A growing and ambitious network of researchers, companies, governments and civil society organisations believes that Re…

 

Tuesday 5 December 2017

Facadeclick is a dry building system involving facing bricks which click together to form blocks. The Facadeclick system uses no adhesives or mortar, but has innovative connecting parts to join facin…

 

Tuesday 5 December 2017

BMA Ergonomics sells ergonomic office chairs to companies and individuals. The chairs are built in a modular manner; this means they can be easily cleaned and repaired, or reupholstered. Meaning they…

 

4. Sharing platforms 

Enabling more intensive use of products with shared use/access or ownership.

Some examples:

 

Friday 29 September 2017

Partago is a Ghent partnership that facilitates electric car sharing. You can book and unlock an electric car near you using your smartphone and the Partago app. The partners are co-owners of the car…

 

Thursday 28 September 2017

Peerby is a network site that allows people to borrow items from their neighbours. If you need a drill, high pressure cleaner, or child’s car seat, you can post a short message that all Peerby member…

 

Wednesday 27 September 2017

Tournevie is a non-profit lending service for tools and equipment in Brussels. The principle is comparable to that of an ordinary library: in exchange for a small annual contribution, you have unl…

 

5. Product as a service

This entails offering access to a product while keeping ownership to enjoy all the benefits of a closed circuit.

Some examples:

 

Wednesday 30 May 2018

Circular construction could make real estate affordable again. How, you ask? A growing and ambitious network of researchers, companies, governments and civil society organisations believes that Re…

 

Tuesday 5 December 2017

Happy Kiddo gives your kids cool outfits, without having to go to the store with every clothing size. You can change your clothes at the beginning of each month. This is how the online clothing li…

 

Thursday 28 September 2017

Belgian families pack up all their belongings in boxes every ten years or so only to unpack them a few kilometres from their old house. Whether you use banana boxes or brand-new moving boxes, there a…

Tools for entrepreneurs

Close The Loop

 With Close The Loop Flanders Circular and Flanders DC guide you through the principles of a circular fashion industry.

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The Circulator

The Circulator helps you find your way through potential circular strategies and offers inspiration with inspiring cases.

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BMIX

 The Business Model Innovation Grid (BMIX) provides a user-friendly overview of all possible sustainable business models and with 100 cases.

Go to tool >

Cirkeltips

The 'OVAM Cirkeltips' helps companies to develop a more sustainable material management step by step. On the basis of already known data, companies can compare their waste production with other similar companies, get tips to make their materials management more sustainable and they can discuss these topics. (only in dutch)

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Ecolizer

The OVAM Ecolizer is an ecodesign design tool and is aimed at all designers and companies who want to know and tackle the environmental impact of their products.

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The Circular Design Guide

The Circular Design Guide is a guide from IDEO and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which aims to ask innovators, entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs new questions about value creation and sustainable business models, and to encourage them to apply circular principles in their own work.

Go to tool >