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The Circular Innovation Lab method

Facilitating a company’s road to circularity


Written by Twan Huysmans




The Circular Economy, Circular Innovations, Circular Businesses, … You have probably heard of circularity before and the initiatives that companies are taking to become more circular. But what does it mean? Why do companies engage in it? What are the problems that they face during the process of becoming more circular? Most importantly, how do we at BrightWolves help our clients along this process? You can all find it in this article!


If Earth’s history is compared to a calendar year, modern human life has existed for 37 minutes and we have used one third of Earth’s natural resources in the last 0.2 seconds [1]


So first, what is circularity?

This principle aims to keep resources in use for as long as possible and to eliminate waste and pollution. There are three guiding principles to reach this goal. First, companies must try to minimize virgin material use when offering goods and services to their clients. One possible way to do so is by designing products differently. Second, they should enable their clients to use the offered products longer. This can be achieved by using more durable materials for its products. Finally, the products should be reused to increase the product life by making them easier to repair or recycle.


Why would you start your journey towards circularity?

There are several reasons why a company would want to reach circularity. The most straightforward reason would be to lower negative impacts on our environment. By eliminating waste and pollution, companies enlarge our planet’s lifetime. There are, however, many other reasons to become more circular. The first one is that it can improve the business as it implies financial savings. Implementing circular practices can deliver additional revenue streams and increase resource efficiency. Moreover, as global regulations around sustainability and waste management become more stringent, companies are feeling pressure to adopt circular practices to remain compliant.


What problems will you face on the road towards a more circular product or service?

You will face several roadblocks along the way, from (i) identifying all the different actions needed to reach maximum impact, to (ii) aligning your full organization. A lot of different actions are needed to reach a large impact, and everyone needs to be aligned.


One large problem is a lack of current state measurement. It is hard to know what the impact is on the status quo, so it can be a big hazard to decide which circular practices will be most impactful.


Besides making fact-based decisions, we notice that resistance from stakeholders is one of the hardest problems to tackle. The best ideas often imply a large risk for the company’s operations. Therefore, it is extremely difficult to get everyone on the same page. On top of that, next to own employees, also clients and customers often resist the proposed ideas at first. It is crucial to involve them in decision-making as soon as possible.


The BrightWolves Circular Innovation Lab method

At BrightWolves, we created the “Circular Innovation Lab”. This approach is mainly focused on solving the last and most important problems that companies face.

In total, this method consists of four steps:


  1. First, a company can organize multi-stakeholder events or multidisciplinary brainstorms to identify new circularity initiatives. In this phase, we state: “The wilder the idea, the better”. There could be workshops organized, competitions launched, partnership events held, etc.

  2. These ideas should then be gathered in a “long list” of circularity ideas that serve as a properly documented backlog. Afterwards, there should be a prioritization to get to a “short list” of ideas. These ideas should be those with the largest potential environmental and business impact.

  3. For every shortlisted idea, a feasibility assessment should be performed. This assessment considers operational and financial implications and investigates if the organization is capable to realize the initiative.

  4. When an initiative seems to be feasible for the organization, the final step is to assess the business viability of the idea. For this stage, both internal and external stakeholders should be invited to dwell upon the fit, desired benefits, impact, etc.

Following the steps above, this method creates the right supportive environment to enable circularity in every organization.


Are you looking for help to support your journey towards full circularity? Don’t hesitate and reach out to Peter-Jan or Lode!



References

[1] https://www.theworldcounts.com/challenges/planet-earth/state-of-the-planet/overuse-of-resources-on-earth

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