Critical appraisal of the circular economy standard BS 8001:2017 and a dashboard of quantitative system indicators for its implementation in organizations

So far, organizations had no authoritative guidance on circular economy (CE) principles, strategies, implementation, and monitoring. Consequentially, the British Standards Institution recently launched a new standard “BS 8001:2017 – Framework for implementing the principles of the circular economy in organizations”. BS 8001:2017 tries to reconcile the far-reaching ambitions of the CE with established business routines. The standard contains a comprehensive list of CE terms and definitions, a set of general CE principles, a flexible management framework for implementing CE strategies in organizations, and a detailed description of economic, environmental, design, marketing, and legal issues related to the CE. The guidance on monitoring CE strategy implementation, however, remains vague. The standard stipulates that organizations are solely responsible for choosing appropriate CE indicators. Its authors do not elaborate on the links between CE strategy monitoring and the relevant and already standardized quantitative tools life cycle assessment (LCA) and material flow cost accounting (MFCA). Here a general system definition for deriving CE indicators is proposed. Based on the system definition and the indicator literature a dashboard of new and established quantitative indicators for CE strategy assessment in organizations is then compiled. The dashboard indicators are mostly based on material flow analysis (MFA), MFCA, and LCA. Steel cycle data are used to illustrate potential core CE indicators, notably, the residence time of a material in the techno-sphere (currently 250–300 years for steel). Moreover, organizations need to monitor their contribution to in-use-stock growth, a central driver of resource depletion and hindrance to closing material cycles.