Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Designing your product, service or business model for a circular economy

Designing your product, service or business model for a circular economy

The design of a product, process or system, and the design of the business model determine how efficiently materials can be used and how effectively they can be kept circulating in the economy. Up to 80% of a product’s environmental impact is determined at the design stage; this includes how easily something can be repaired or recycled.

How design can benefit your business

  • brings new business opportunities and generates new income
  • enhances brand reputation
  • develops long term customer supplier relationships, for example where you recover products / materials for repair and reuse, or where you provide a service based on delivering performance
  • reduces the consumption of raw materials
  • reduces the risk of resource shortages and the consequential increase in their cost.


What you can do

Design of process, product or service

  • carry out a lifecycle analysis of your product or service
  • make waste prevention a key design criterion
  • design out non-renewable materials; use bio-based products as an alternative to fossil-fuel products
  • design in recyclable materials
  • consider if you can make your product more simply, cutting the number and amount of materials; ensure building designs consider waste reduction in both new build and refurbishment
  • design products for a longer lifetime and which are supported by a guarantee and trusted repair services
  • design products ready to be disassembled, economically repaired and eventually recycled
  • design buildings for reuse and recycling
  • design your processes making sure you use as little packaging as possible to achieve an adequate level of protection for your products, and that packaging can be reused or recycled
  • consider taking back products at end-of-life, to refurbish them for a new marketplace, to recover valuable materials, or to recycle

Design of business model / system / service

Instead of basing your business on product sales, consider adapting an alternative business model that will enable you to retain the value in products and materials and keep them circulating in the economy. You could, for example:

  • consider the servicing and/or repairing of goods before returning them to the original or secondary market
  • hire or lease your product – see case studies: Edinburgh City Car Club (now Enterprise Car Club) and ACS (clothing rental)
  • provide a service based on delivering the desired performance outputs of a product – see the case study: Juice
  • offer a financial incentive for the return of the ‘used’ products.
  • consider sharing products between members of the public or businesses - what is known as a peer-to-peer model

Check the free briefing from bsi on the newly developed BS 8001:2007 standard. This aims to help businesses take steps to develop a more circular approach to their activities.
       bsi: Executive briefing: BS 8001 – a guide

You can get help to develop a more circular approach to your business activities from a number of business support organisations. This can be in the form of advice and training,as well as funding opportunities. 
In Northern Ireland see our page:  Business support organisations  - Northern Ireland
In Scotland see our page: Business support organisations  - Scotland

Share resources such as best practice guides, toolkits, reports and videos – see the EAUC Sustainability Exchange.


Further information


In this Guideline

What is a circular economy?

Using fewer resources

Managing your waste for a circular economy - recycling and beyond

Designing your product, service or business model for a circular economy


Repairing goods

Remanufacturing and refurbishing


Protecting biodiversity and regenerating natural systems

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