Unilever and Novelis launch circular economy toolkits

Unilever and Novelis launch circular economy toolkits Sustainability charity Forum for the Future has launched two free tools developed through partnerships with Unilever and Novelis to help businesses and designers accelerate the shift towards a circular economy.

The Design for Demand tool, developed with aluminium manufacturer and recycler Novelis, aims to educate designers and design students about circular design principles.

Meanwhile, the Circular Business Model Toolkit, created with consumer goods company Unilever, aims to help product teams understand how business models, innovative products and strategic partnerships can contribute to resource efficiency.

Both tools are designed to help ‘change mindsets about product lifecycles, material flows and processes’, and to speed up the transition from linear models to more sustainable ones that prevent and minimise wastage.

Design for Demand

The Design for Demand tool aims to instil circular practices in the minds of young designers. It introduces strategies for designing in circularity, explores material challenges faced and looks at several approaches and solutions that have already been tried to combat them.

The tool also offers several design briefs that can be downloaded for free and provides session plans and materials for teaching about the circular economy.

Forum for the Future explains the tool’s need on its website: ‘Our design strategies focus on the consumer – looking to empower them, to influence their behaviour and ultimately to create more demand for circular products, services and experiences. Sustainable options need to trigger consumer desire if they are to go mainstream, and create the necessary cost efficiencies in the process.’ 

Commenting on the new tool, Andy Doran, Senior Manager of Sustainability & Recycling Development at Novelis Europe, said: “Reuse and recycling lie at the heart of Novelis’s business – we opened the world’s largest aluminium recycling centre in Germany in 2014. Aluminium by nature has immense potential for recycling – 75 per cent of all the aluminium ever made is still in use – and we wanted to use it as a case study to help designers think differently about their design choices, material use and product vision.

“Designing for a circular economy isn’t easy, but it’s necessary. We want Design for Demand to assist designers in innovating new products that cut waste and change the way consumers use them.”

Circular Business Model Toolkit

The Circular Business Model Toolkit, meanwhile, identifies 10 circular business models with case studies where they have been implemented (including The North Face’s closed-loop targets and Marks & Spencer’s clothes swapping programme).

Each model has detail on potential market growth opportunities, how it can be applied to different brands and the scalability of each case.

Gavin Warner, Director of Sustainable Business at Unilever, said: “At Unilever, we firmly believe that action on climate change is good for business and we want to share that insight with others. We have found the Circular Business Model Toolkit immensely helpful as a tool that helps our teams visualise scenarios for better product sustainability, and are certain that they will be a valuable resource for other business leaders and decision makers as well.”

Need to ‘educate and empower’

The two toolkits have been developed in response to the European Commission’s relaunched Circular Economy Package, which was unveiled in December and aims to move European industries to more circular models through targets and legislative measures.

This was then followed with the announcement that finance of €24 billion (£17.4 billion) from the Horizon 2020 programme would be extended to support circular economy projects. The change will enable higher-risk sustainable business models and plans to access credit through InnovFin, an EU finance support programme that comes under the Horizon 2020 banner. This funding was previously only available to innovative industrial and technology projects.

Following the launch of the toolkits, Sally Uren, CEO of Forum for the Future, said: “The widespread ‘take, make, waste’ business model rampantly consumes finite resources and results in huge amounts of waste. We need to rapidly make the shift to economic models in which products and materials are repaired, reused or recycled as much as possible.

“The EU announcement is a step in the right direction, but we don’t just need legislation, we also need to educate and empower those that are embedded within the product design process and those who make business decisions. These two tools are aimed at doing just that.”

More information on the Design for Demand tool and Circular Business Model Toolkit can be found on the Forum for the Future website.