What is circular economy, how do we measure it and at the end how do we make our business models more circular? Global standardization will help to answer these questions. Standardization in the field of circular economy is intended to be used by organizations seeking to understand and commit to a circular economy while contributing to sustainable development.

Mattias Lindahl and Tomohiko Sakao from Mistra REES together with Laura Linnala from Swedish Institute for Standards (SIS), and Raul Carlsson from RISE represented Sweden on site when the international committee ISO/TC 323 Circular Economy met in Kigali, Rwanda, at the end of September. In addition to that, a number of other Swedish technical experts participated online. All participating members contribute to five working groups regarding terminology, practical approaches, measuring and assessing circularity, circular economy in practice and Product Circularity Data Sheet.

In WG1 the terminology, principles, frameworks, and management system standard take form. A rigid definition of circular economy is needed, that everyone talks about the same thing, and has the same principles and routines for measuring and assessing.

– The terminology is the foundation for all work forward. As the standards are available in different languages it helps to have a shared vision across national borders which enables innovation and development. Sweden has taken a lead in the research of circular economy and has a good reputation, and our research at Linköping University provides important knowledge to the work of developing standards, says Mattias Lindahl.

The work has been going on for a few years with several meetings behind, but this was the first physical meeting since the pandemic. Mattias Lindahl believes it is important to meet in order to reach agreement in the different working groups.

– Circular economy is a new field, and it can be difficult to reach consensus when we have digital meetings. The majority must agree which was easier this time when we had a physical meeting in Kigali. We reached consensus regarding some circular economy terms, but the work continues, and WG1 have another meeting planned in USA in a few weeks.

The international committee will deliver five standards and three technical reports in coming years however the work will continue for a longer time with more standards within circular economy, according to Laura Linnala, project leader at SIS.