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How can companies measure and follow up circular strategies?

As with all other changes, a transition to circular business models must be followed up and measured. But which indicators and key figures are actually best? Robert Boyer, senior researcher at RISE, knows the answers.

It doesn't really matter what kind of goal you want to achieve – if you're going to make a transition and start working in new ways, you need to find an approach to ensure that you actually get to where you want to go. The same applies when switching to circular business models, but the problem today is that the amount of indicators and measurement methods has completely exploded in the past five years.

– “In academic literature alone, there are several hundred different methods, and then we have not even taken into account what the consulting world or the companies themselves have developed.”

Different methods depending on the industry or company

So how do you know which method is best? The answer from RISE and Robert Boyer is “it depends.”

– “Different tools are different for different industries and companies. For example, the steel industry has developed a measurement tool that works very well for them, but that would say nothing at all to a hotel chain, for example.”

To make it easier to find the right metrics, RISE suggests initially looking at circularity from three dimensions:

  • Material recycling (where does your material come from, is it recycled, how do you handle your waste and so forth)
  • Reuse (is the product used frequently or does it just stand there and collecting dust)
  • Longevity (is it made to last a long time or break after a week).

– “All three dimensions individually constitute an important main thread on the way to becoming circular. Some organisations have a product or service for which all three matter, while for a service provider, for example, it is irrelevant to look at the material aspects.”

One path at a time

In other words, in order to find the right measurement tool, it is important to first identify which of these paths the company needs to follow.

– “I would say it’s unrealistic to think that you can change in all three dimensions at once. It’s better to look at your business with this approach and think about which of the paths is easiest to deal with. Start there, and then take the others, steps by step.”

We can quickly determine if there is someone out there who fits well with what you are going to do

Long experience and specific measurement methods

RISE has extensive experience in helping companies to both choose the right direction and to measure how successful they are with their new, circular strategies. And Robert Boyer points out that there are several advantages to enlisting the help of an external party when choosing a measurement method.

– “There are many free tools online that can guide businesses, and although many of them are perfectly ok, they only give you an overview. You don't get the detailed understanding of the transition that you need to be able to determine if your plan will take you to the goal.”

RISE, on the other hand, has an overview of the more specific measurement methods that already exist.

– “We can quickly determine if there is someone out there who fits well with what you are going to do. If there isn’t anyone, we have experience in developing measurement methods that fit even in the more complicated cases.”

Validation of results

Collaboration with an independent institution such as RISE entails validation of companies' figures.

– “For the time being, there is no official standard or accreditation that can be used to show the outside world that what you are doing is actually circular. Until there is, there can be substantial value in an independent party validating that your calculations, measurement methods and results are correct,” concludes Robert Boyer.

Published: 2021-12-17
Robert Boyer

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Robert Boyer

Senior Researcher

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