How can you manage resources to benefit both your organization and the environment? See BSI’s ground-breaking standard

by Brianna Crandall — July 12, 2017 — BSI, the U.K.-based business standards company, has launched a new standard for the “circular economy,” BS 8001:2017: Framework for implementing the principles of the circular economy in organizations — guide offering practical action organizations can take to accelerate their transition to a circular economy of sustainable resource management.

The “circular economy” is a concept that embodies the “reduce, reuse, recycle” motto in the broader corporate sustainability context, challenging organizations to re-think how their resources are managed to create financial, environmental and social benefits. BS 8001 was developed to meet these mutually beneficial goals, by providing guiding principles for organizations and individuals to consider and implement more sustainable practices. It is said to be the first standard of its kind, both in the U.K. and globally.

One of the key aims of the circular economy is to keep products, components and materials at their highest utility and value at all times, in keeping with the mantra of the circular economy as being restorative and regenerative by design. BS 8001 outlines what the circular economy is and how an organization can transition from a linear to a circular, and more sustainable, day-to-day operation.

Practical implementation of the six principles of the circular economy — innovation, stewardship, collaboration, value optimizations, transparency, and “systems thinking” — is the bedrock of the standard, and step-by-step guidance on how an organization can navigate through the different stages of implementation is provided. “Systems thinking” is defined in the standard as an understanding of how organizations, individual decisions and activities interact within the wider systems they are a part of.

Identifying the role of the circular economy in a particular organization, and how an organization can maximize the potential of this information, is one of the first steps outlined in BS 8001. Importantly, the standard is not intended to be prescriptive or certifiable; it is intended to be used flexibly by those which adopt it — irrespective of the size, sector, type or location of the organization, points out BSI. It is suitable for organizations at a nascent or more advanced stage of transition on implementing the principles of the circular economy.

The move to a circular economy is a significant opportunity for businesses and organizations; by contributing to a resource efficient and low-carbon economy, costs and supply chain risks are reduced. Further benefits for businesses which choose to implement BS 8001 include improved resilience, new revenue streams, and enhanced corporate sustainability credentials.

Extensive input from U.K. businesses into the development of the standard has ensured the standard is useable in real-world scenarios, and that the language used in the document is not overly technical and accessible to those without prior knowledge of the circular economy. BSI notes that the U.K. Government’s focus on resource productivity in its new industrial strategy demonstrates how standards can be considered business improvement tools that help organizations unlock the untapped potential of sustainable growth.

To support the framework, BS 8001 provides guidance around the specific issues surrounding the transition to a circular model — namely measurements, liability and insurance, logistical concerns, and materials. Guidance is also provided on specific associated business models, including leasing, the sharing economy, and remanufacturing.

Learn more about circular economy concept and purchase the new BS 8001:2017: Framework for implementing the principles of the circular economy in organizations — guide on the BSI Web site.