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Circular By Design: Innovation, strategy and resource flows

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Executive Summary

Lead contributor: Dr. Alessio Franconi

This chapter will provide the reader with valuable knowledge that may inspire and influence the design of the Circular Economy. Due to the proliferation and fragmentation of design strategies, the shift is challenging to comprehend and apply in practice. What are the primary strategies for circular design? How can the designer determine which design strategies are appropriate for the product they need to create? How can design strategies be managed and integrated to achieve a consistent approach? And how can design strategies be efficiently used to accomplish multiple product lifecycles? This chapter strives to answer these questions by providing background information to facilitate an understanding of how and why product design and manufacturing play a strategic role in the transition to the Circular Economy. Concrete examples and case studies demonstrate how firms and designers use circular design strategies to support multiple product life cycles. The chapter is divided into four sections (1) introduction to the chapter; (2) Circular Design Strategies; (3) Customers in the Circular Product Design; and (4) Chapter takeaways. The first section of the chapter emphasizes the distinction between technological and biological resource cycles by providing examples of the two flows of resources. In addition, an outline of how to slow down, narrow, and close technological and biological cycles is provided here. The focus of the second section of the chapter will be on the main strategies that may be adopted to preserve or restore the value of the product, such as Design for Maintenance, Design for Reuse, Design for Refurbishing, Design for Remanufacturing, Design for Upcycling, Design for Recycling, Design for Cascade Use and Design for Biodegradation. Several sub-strategies are discussed and interwoven with case examples for each approach. The slowing, narrowing, and closing method is utilized in the third section to illustrate the key design solutions that may generate sustainable and circular user behaviors. This section demonstrates how product and service designers may shape and affect people’s behavior via the design of products and services. Design for Timeless Aesthetics, Design for Emotional Attachment, and Design for Sharing are just a few strategies addressed in this part of the chapter. In the fourth and last part of the chapter, the notions described above are consolidated to support the reader in the reflection and assimilation of the proposed contents. This chapter is an essential resource for enriching everyone involved in product decisionmaking. Practical and comprehensive, this chapter will be an essential reading for the following decision makers: product designers, industrial designers, process design engineers, product development managers, managers and personnel in accounting, marketing, distribution, and strategy. 

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Discover what's inside

What is circular design?

Explore how design is a critical enabler of a Circular Economy and influences the entire value chain. The objective of circular design is to design products and services capable of having multiple life cycles. As such, several strategies will be provided to support designers.

How to reach multiple product lifecycles?

Eventually, the product will become obsolete. How can an inevitable situation be turned into a business opportunity? Discover how Understanding and quantifying the number of cycles a product must complete is a critical first step toward achieving a Circular Economy.

How to slow resource flow?

Slowing resource flow consists of creating products that make the best use of the resources and energy used in their production and use, such as long-life goods and product life extensions. Explore different design strategies that may be used to reach these objectives.

How to close resource flow?

Closing resource flow means designing for the reuse of the resources in new loops. Discover how It is possible to create innovative and regenerative systems through an awareness of the systems in which the product is recovered and the use of various strategies.

How to use biological strategies?

While understanding how to create technological cycles is far more developed, knowledge of how to build biological cycles is still in its infancy. Explore several helpful insights that can help accelerate the shift to a design that is based on biological materials.

How to narrow resource flow?

Narrow resource flow focuses on boosting resource efficiency via the use of fewer resources per product. Discover how by implementing strategies that affect the whole supply chain, it is possible to create products that are both material and energy-efficient.

How to design sustainable and circular behaviors?

When designing for the Circular Economy, it is vital to understand the relationship between the consumer and the product. Learn different strategies that can be used by the designer in order to influence and accomplish certain user behaviours and outcomes.


The Circular Economy is heavily reliant on design. Designers are required to reimagine centuries-old products, services, and business models for a better future. Get access now and explore a range of innovative methods to implement Circular Economy principles.

Meet the Leader

Meet the leaders supporting the Certification program!

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Enrollment Information

  • Once you have enrolled, you will be given access to our Learning Management System.
  • The course is entirely online and self-paced. We estimate that the total effort required to be 3 hours.
  • You will be guided through the original content of the course with dynamic, rich, enjoyable, narrated, and easy-to-understand content. The course is divided into easily navigated sections focusing at each stage on the learning objectives to be achieved. Each section is followed by non-graded “knowledge check questions”, to help you ensure that you have successfully assimilated the content. You can go back and view the content as often as you like.
  • When you reach the end of the course, you will be awarded the Certificate of Completion.

What you will gain

  • Access to one Circular Economy course, with free access to the content for one year.
  • A digitally enabled, verifiable, and shareable certificate acknowledging your achievement.
  • One-year free membership in the Circular Economy Alliance Community, including access to Circular Economy Alliance members, resources, and events.
  • Special access to Circular Economy related events, research, resources, and news.

Please note:

  • In many EU countries, the cost of certification can be covered by personal or corporate “training accounts”. Please inquire within your organization or with the appropriate institution within your country for more information.


Circular Economy Alliance Code of Conduct and Code of Ethics

The Circular Economy Alliance platform, services, and products are designed to appeal to and be used by people from a wide variety of different backgrounds, countries, religions, and cultural norms. These diversity and inclusiveness are core values of the CEA, and we encourage our Community to embrace it and share it. That said, this geographic and cultural diversity can make effective communications and general policy definition a bit challenging.

That said, CEA is committed to advancing the transition to a just and inclusive Circular Economy which aims to decouple economic growth from resource use, eliminate waste by design, and tackle climate change. To achieve its mission and vision of a socially fair Circular Economy, CEA has adopted the principles of Corporate Social Responsibility and endeavours to promote the common good while creating value for all stakeholders. With this in mind, the Code of Conduct has been developed to ensure all activity on the platform and within the CEA community is mutually respectful. The Code of Ethics sets out the guiding ethical principles relative to all professional activities of the certified members of the Circular Economy Alliance, informs the actions of our partner network, and defines the conduct of CEA staff and persons acting on behalf of the Company.

The purpose of our Code of Conduct & Code of Ethics is to ensure that the Circular Economy Alliance platform (the Platform), products and services are inclusive and that we, our members, and our community uphold the principles and values linked to Circular Economy, social responsibility, sustainable development and all relevant domains, to ensure that people and the planet are not harmed in the name of profit, and that we all conduct ourselves with mutual respect.

Code of Conduct

The CEA Code of Conduct reflects the ethics and values of the Platform, product, services, and community. It has been prepared with members of the CEA community (the Community), content contributors, instructional designers, and administrators based on established best practices. With the involvement of our stakeholders, we will continue to update the Code of Conduct as we add new products, services, and activities and as we receive feedback from our learners and community members.

We cannot foresee all eventualities and align with all local regulations, so the Code of Conduct should indicate the nature of interactions and the social dynamic we would like to see on this Platform and within the Community. In the event of an issue not covered by this Code of Conduct, the CEA team will decide whether a behavior is acceptable or not, in a manner that is as fair and transparent as possible, while respecting the confidentiality of all involved.

This Code of Conduct applies to all activities on the Talent Learning Management Platform, the Circular Economy Alliance website, its social media pages (Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Discord, etc.), including comments, forum posts, and private messages.

Certified Alumni, members of the Community, as well as candidates for Circular Economy certification are encouraged to adopt the following guidelines for conduct:

  • Contribute to maintaining a safe, supportive, and orderly online learning environment that is conducive to learning and to show respect and dignity to other persons and to property.
  • Contact or communicate with CEA administrators and other personnel in a respectful, positive manner.
  • Behave and communicate on and off the Platform in accordance with the principles of Circular Economy, social responsibility, and inclusiveness.
  • Help ensure all CEA members and personnel have a positive experience in all interactions with you.
  • Appropriate behavior we encourage is as follows: communicating and interacting with respect; demonstrating empathy and sensitivity; giving constructive feedback; acting in accordance with the principles of inclusiveness, that is, showing respect for other norms, cultures, life preferences; promoting the values and principles of Circular Economy, social responsibility, and sustainable development.
  • Maintain behavior free from all forms of bullying, harassment, and discrimination.
  • Other forms of inappropriate behavior that will not be tolerated include dangerous, inciteful, or hateful speech; harassment or intimidation; threats of violence; intentional disruption of online discussion, webinars, conference, or other events; retaliation; influencing or encouraging any of the above.
  • We are a learning community, united around the principles of Circular Economy. As such, we encourage experimentation, a growth mindset, and tolerance for failures, mistakes, or lack of understanding.
  • Despite our shared values, disagreements and misunderstandings are bound to occur in a community as diverse as the Community. In the event, have a calm discussion, ask for clarification, and don’t assume that someone is intentionally being offensive.
  • Please get in touch with the site administrators to report any conduct, posts, activity or content that you do not believe is in accordance with this Code of Conduct. We encourage the Community members to report any incidents that violate the Code of Conduct. The CEA team will respond in a timely manner, and the member who violated the Code of Conduct will be contacted directly. Please use the Contact Us link to report any breaches.
  • Please protect your own and other people’s privacy. Please be mindful not to post or otherwise share your own or other people’s personal information publicly online.
  • Unless otherwise stated, all content posted on the Talent Learning Management System is private and is not searchable online.
  • Unless otherwise stated, all content posted on the Community platform is publicly visible and searchable online.
  • If you delete your CEA Community account, you can request that your Community posts and private messages be removed or anonymized.
  • The website administrators may delete activity, comments, posts, and equivalent that do not adhere to the CEA Code of Conduct.
  • In the event of a breach of the Code of Conduct, we either issue a warning, announce an account suspension or, in the event of a grievous violation, we may announce account expulsion and removal from the platform and the Community.
  • If you are part of the Community, we share the same principles. Let’s share the responsibility for creating a positive dynamic on the Platform.

Code of Ethics 

Certified Alumni, members of the Community, as well as candidates for Circular Economy certification are strongly encouraged to uphold the highest standards of ethical norms in line with Circular Economy principles and values:

  • Act with transparency, honesty, integrity, and make the interests of society and the environment a priority, avoid any known conflicts of interest, and aim to create value for all stakeholders.
  • Promote the circularity and sustainability of the systems regulating economic life according to the principles of “people, planet and prosperity”.
  • Act with respect for others and the environment and practice their professional activities in an inclusive and non-discriminatory manner that upholds the values of equity, equality and tolerance.
  • Exercise their leadership and decision-making skills in the pursuit of establishing a culture of equity, diversity, and inclusion in the workplace and in society.
  • Act in a way that furthers the integrity of the discipline of Circular Economy and its representatives.

The code of conduct is regularly reviewed to reflect necessary adaptations that emerge from input received through our CEA members’ reporting or by changes to the prevailing regulatory framework.

Effective as of: 1 March 2022

Last revised: 28 February 2022

More detailed information can me found in the General Terms and Conditions and the Certifications Terms and Conditions.


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