A practical guide to getting into circular economy

Photo économie circulaire

Circular economy is a trending topic. But are we all talking about the same thing? For the first time, a voluntary standard helps companies grasp the topic and implement projects that cover all its dimensions. Its name? XP X30-901. Developed 100% by professionals, and 100% French.

With all this talk about circular economy, you can end up… going in circles. The idea is in vogue, but how it’s interpreted can differ. There’s a general agreement to put an end to the infernal trinity of producing, consuming and throwing away, but not necessarily about what should be used instead: ecodesign, recycling, short cycles, etc. For the first time, a document proposes a common understanding grid, laying out the terms, principles, and practices that all of the actors agree to work with on the subject: voluntary standard CP XP X30-901, published 15 October in the AFNOR collection. “It proposes a 3 x 7 matrix covering the three dimensions of sustainable development (environment, economy, society) and the seven areas of action of the circular economy: sustainable procurement, ecodesign, industrial symbiosis, functional economy, responsible consumption, extension of service life, and the effective management of materials and products at the end of their life cycle. When you launch a circular economy project, you have to consider all these questions,” explains Olivier Cartigny, AFNOR project manager, who led the working group that developed the standard.

XP X30-901: Questioning the economic model and business strategy

This group, which you can still join, brings together about fifty stakeholders: associations, industrialists, service companies, local authorities, institutions including the Ministry for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition, as part of its road map on the circular economy of April 2018. The document is the outcome of their work, rather than a top-down one, and is a tool to assist in project management: it provides requirements for planning, implementing, evaluating and improving a circular economy project. Like other management system standards (ISO 9001, ISO 14001, etc.), it is based on the principle of continual improvement. It is intended as a guide for the project manager, the sustainable development manager or the manager himself, including local authorities, to ensure that the project will truly achieve a circular economy. “The standard raises the question of changing the business model. It calls into question corporate strategy,” says Corinne Del Cerro, development manager at AFNOR Standardization, in charge of the topic of circular economy.

XP X30-901: A French victory

The standard could also inspire a label, certification or other sign that an organization applies it in all respects. And this is with the assurance that it is understood abroad: the XP X30-901 standard is intended to be an international standard. The countries that are members of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) have approved the creation of a technical committee on the subject (ISO TC 323), under French leadership, to bring together professionals wishing to develop the international standard, on the basis of the French-developed text. France is thus taking the lead on this strategic issue, and with them all the economic players who saw it as an opportunity to revisit their model in the light of the climatic and ecological crisis.

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