The circular economy is a new way of designing, making, and creating value that benefits business, society, and the environment. This learning path is designed to help you bring circular economy ideas in your organisation.

Here, at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, we have witnessed a wide variety of circular economy initiatives within organisations. We have found that while systemic thinking and collaboration are key to accelerating the transition, each organisation needs to find what works best for their specific circumstances.

Why should you be excited about the circular economy?

From business opportunity, to delivering tangible solutions for business, environment and society, to improving company profile, to future proofing your business - watch circular economy champions in Intesa SanPaulo, Philips, H&M Group, Solvay, and Danone share why they are personally excited about the circular economy.

2 Pitch circular economy ideas within your organisation

Pitch circular economy ideas within your organisation

One of the key aspects of a circular economy is that it requires collaboration and moves beyond working in silos. You will need to work with your team members, colleagues who work in other areas, and management to bring circular ideas into your organisation.

We have prepared a learning journey which is dedicated to making this easier.

Three questions to help you prepare a circular economy pitch

Who do you want to influence?

Think about what’s on their agenda and what objectives and priorities they need to address, as well as what motivates them personally and professionally.

What’s the context?

Look into your company’s values and strategic goals and think how the circular economy could help you enact and deliver. Analyse external companies by looking at industry trends and competitors, as well as risks within your supply chain. The circular economy might be a way to get ahead in your field.

What do you want to do practically?

A circular economy is all about practical solutions to existing problems and realising new opportunities. Include top line ideas on how circular economy ideas can help with existing challenges and opportunities in the organisation. Even more importantly, think of a small scale, localised trial or pilot project to get things started.

3 Introduce the circular economy to your colleagues

Introduce the circular economy to your colleagues

Raise awareness of the concept within your organisation

To implement circular economy ideas you will need to collaborate with different departments and functions. People will respond better and be more willing to get involved if they have a clear understanding about the circular economy and believe that it is the right approach for your business.

Click the link below to discover the freely available resources we have prepared to help you raise the circular economy understanding in your organisation.

How companies communicate circular economy ideas internally

Learn tips from companies to engage your employees on circular economy.

Watch the representatives from Intesa SanPaulo, H&M Group, Danone, Renault, and Solvay discuss how they engage their employees on circular economy topics.

4 Bring people together to discuss circular economy topics

Bring people together to discuss circular economy topics

If we bring people together to share their stories and collaborate, we solve problems better and faster.

Learning about the circular economy works best when you put your theory into practice - and in return learn from your experience. This underpins our iterative approach.


If you work in product design...

If you work in product design...

If you are a product designer, consider how you can apply three circular economy principles when designing your products.

Look into your design process

Design in the circular economy

A circular economy extracts the greatest value out of resources by keeping products, components, and materials at their highest value at all times. By rethinking design, your business can capture and optimise the business value of circularity.

The three principles of a circular economy - designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use for longer, and regenerating natural systems, should be embedded in the design process from the very beginning.

Circular design process

The circular design process comprises four stages and is informed by approaches such as design thinking and human-centred design.

Understand - Get to know the user and the system.

Define - Put into words the design challenge and your intention as the designer.

Make - Ideate, design & prototype as many iterations and versions as you can.

Release - Launch your design and build your narrative - create loyalty in customers and deepen investment from stakeholders by telling a compelling story.

Circular design approach

Circular design considers not only the user, but the entire system within which the design will exist. This means understanding the impact of our design on stakeholders we may never have previously thought of, and building in feedback loops to help identify and address the unintended consequences of our design decisions. At every stage of the design process we need to both zoom in on the user needs and zoom out to consider the systemic implications, oscillating continuously between these two equally critical perspectives.

Circular design strategies

There is a variety of design strategies to help you design with the three circular economy principles in mind. These strategies include Designing for inner loops, Moving from products to services, Extending product life, Making safe and circular material choices, Dematerialising, and Making products modular.

Explore circular design further

We have a separate learning that will take you further into the circular design process.

View our design learning path

Or browse our Circular Design Guide.

Why design matters

Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, explains the circular economy and why designers need to get involved.


If you are in a customer facing role...

If you are in a customer facing role...

If you are in a customer facing role, rethink ownership and set up take back schemes.

Rethink your business model

Rethink your business model

Create new business models to keep products in use for longer

New types of business models can be used to ensure that products return to the supply chain, and that resource use is optimised. There is not much value in products that are designed for reuse or recovery if users just discard them or keep them in a drawer for years.

Customers' perception of value is changing as well. They don't always expect or want to own a product. What they want is access to the product when they need it, or the results that a product can offer.

Explore two fascinating examples of new business models in action.

Take back your products

Take back your products

Reverse logistics is a key building block of a circular economy

Most supply chains follow a linear model: products are transported to customers but usually there is no easy way to get them back to the producers. To create value from products and materials after their use, efficient reverse logistics and treatment methods are needed to get them back to the market.

One of the main challenges in retrieving sold products is persuading the customer to return it. After selling a physical product, the challenge for the manufacturer is to get it back in order to take advantage of its retained value.

Explore more about how to engage your customer to return products and then read about Mazuma’s example.

Renault and Philips share their experience

Renault and Philips share their experience

Watch Markus from Philips talk about the bring-back scheme for their best-selling and most innovative vacuum cleaner model. Jean-Denis from Renault speaks about the key elements of their successful move to circular business models.


Explore industry related opportunities

 Explore industry related opportunities

The circular economy provides a future vision fit for many industries. Scroll down for new ideas on how you could embed circular economy principles if you work in food or in fashion.

8 If you work in fashion…

If you work in fashion…

The fashion industry holds huge potential to be part of the transition towards a more circular vision

In a circular economy, where products are created to be restorative and regenerative by design, clothes, textiles, and fibres are kept at their highest value during use and re-enter the economy after use, never ending up as waste.

If you work in the fashion industry, these three questions will help you rethink your approach to circularity:

  1. How can you change your business model to increase clothing use?
  2. How can you change the way you design and produce clothes to make sure that all materials are safe and renewable?
  3. How can you take back old clothes and turn them into new?

If food is your main business…

If food is your main business…

The food industry is ripe for disruption. For every dollar spent on food, society pays two dollars in health, environmental, and economic costs.

The challenges of the global food system can sometimes seem daunting in their breadth and sheer complexity. But there are tremendous opportunities available to take a long-term view of the future of food and catalyse a fundamental shift in the system.

Three things to consider if your business is food based

Source food grown regeneratively, and locally where appropriate

Regenerative approaches to food production will ensure the food that enters cities is cultivated in a way that enhances rather than degrades the environment. In this context, regenerative food production is considered in a broad sense as encompassing any production techniques that improve the overall health of the local ecosystem and create other systemic benefits.

Make the most of food

Cities can play an important role in sparking a shift to a fundamentally different food system in which we move beyond simply reducing avoidable food waste to designing out the concept of ‘waste’ altogether.

Design and market healthier food products

In a circular economy, food products are designed not only to be healthy from a nutritional standpoint, but also in the way that they are produced. New innovations, products, and recipes can play their part in designing out waste. Marketing can position delicious and healthy products as easy and accessible choices for people on a daily basis. Food brands, retailers, restaurants, schools, hospitals, and other providers can reorient our food preferences and habits to support regenerative food systems.

Pause For Thought

What is one circular economy idea that you could bring into your organisation, starting today?

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