Helping medium-sized enterprises get fit for the Circular Economy

The Circular Economy is our big chance to embark on a new way of doing business that supports climate and environmental protection and biodiversity conservation by taking a circular approach to the design and implementation of products and business processes. Governments and large-scale enterprises around the world are already doing a lot of work in this area, and have started developing roadmaps. However, many medium-sized enterprises lack the necessary resources and are unaware of the potential that circular economy business models can offer their business. Over the coming months, WWF Germany, the Institute for Integrated Quality Design (IQD) at Johannes Kepler University Linz and acatech – National Academy of Science and Engineering will be developing a card deck to help medium-sized enterprises run their own workshops on circular economy business models. The Circular Economy Card Deck for Business Model Workshops project is funded by the German Federal Environmental Foundation (Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt, DBU).

Driving system change through medium-sized enterprises

Companies can contribute to a sustainable economy by adopting circular value creation processes. But the transition to a Circular Economy is only just beginning and linear value creation processes are still the norm. Medium-sized enterprises are the backbone of the German economy. If they can change the way they do business, this will act as a catalyst, enabling and accelerating a more widespread transition to a Circular Economy.

“We need to convince medium-sized enterprises that, in a circular economy, running a successful business is entirely compatible with climate protection and resource conservation. We can motivate companies to explore and invest in circular processes by putting forward convincing arguments and demonstrating that they will still be able to operate profitably,” explains Susanne Kadner, project co-lead and Director of the Circular Economy Initiative at acatech.

Opportunities for businesses

Circular business models show companies how circular strategies can generate business opportunities. In order to effectively transform existing value chains into circular value models, circular ecosystems must be created holistically by mutually complementary actors.

According to Rebecca Tauer, project co-lead and Head of the Circular Economy programme at WWF Germany, “Our card deck and the accompanying workshop guide can help companies leverage the potential of the Circular Economy for their own business. Clear and inspiring information about circular business models and how to implement them provides guidance for entrepreneurs, encouraging them to start making the necessary changes.”

What exactly is the Circular Economy Card Deck for Business Model Workshops?

A card deck is an effective, user-friendly means of introducing stakeholders to a particular topic. An attractively designed card deck and accompanying moderator’s guide help medium-sized enterprises to run workshops with the aim of developing and implementing their own business model solutions for a comprehensive Circular Economy. One important benefit of circular business models is that they can make companies more resilient. For instance, resilience can be strengthened by making greater use of take-back systems and using a higher percentage of secondary raw materials, thereby reducing dependence on primary raw materials and simplifying supply chains.

The card deck is based on a typology featuring 22 circular business model patterns developed by the Circular Economy Initiative Deutschland (CEID) “Circular Business Models” working group and published in the report “Circular Business Models: Overcoming Barriers, Unleashing Potentials”.

What is the Circular Economy?

The goal of the Circular Economy is to protect climate systems and ecosystems by maintaining the value of resources, materials and products for as long as possible. The entire value model is geared towards product longevity. Primary raw material consumption is reduced and the percentage of secondary raw materials in products is increased through high-quality recycling and more efficient return systems. This approach is underpinned by circular strategies such as maintaining and upgrading, repairing, reusing, refurbishing, remanufacturing and recycling, while circular product design provides the starting point for the entire value creation process.

Further information

Circular Economy Roadmap, Circular Business Models