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The push towards material efficiency – standards and policies

As the momentum behind the circular economy grows, policies and standards are being updated and developed to meet the increasing demand for evidence of sustainability credentials, creating an ideal marketplace for businesses with a commitment to the circular economy.

ISO 20400 is the world’s first international standard to provide guidance on delivering sustainability through its procurement and supply chain  The aim is to ensure that sustainability is considered across the entire procurement process and is designed to be applicable to any organisation or business regardless of size, location or sector.

The standard defines sustainable procurement as: “Procurement that has the most positive environmental, social & economic impacts possible over the entire life cycle” will allow companies to demonstrate that sustainability is integral to their operations and success.

This is a guidance standard not a requirements standard like ISO 14001. This means an organisation cannot be certified for compliance but can be evaluated and/or advised by a competent third party.

For more information on the standard, please visit the BSI website or visit for an explanation of the standard.

Other policies and guidelines such as the EU Eco-Design Directive, focus on the material efficiency of goods, promoting longer use of goods to keep them from landfill.   It is expected that a subset of this, The Material Efficiency Standards (a set of 10 ideals defining how energy products are produced) will be available in March 2019.  The Standards will continue to drive progress directly relating to the eco-design of products, ensuring they are durable, upgradeable and most importantly designed for reuse and remanufacture.

Once implemented, these frameworks could potentially create a regulatory environment that places eco-design and the circular economy at the heart of product design and manufacture.

Speaking at the edie Live event, Susanne Baker of TechUK, noted that trends within the smartphone sector are seeing consumers opting for longevity of a product and a corresponding increase in the market in privately sold or traded products rather than recycling (41% vs 7%)

Companies that can harness the new legislation and guidance to ensure their products are durable and designed for reuse will be bets placed to take advantage of the thriving aftermarket in used smartphones and other WEEE.

SIR is developing a set of guidelines allowing companies to quickly assess a products suitability for reuse and or remanufacture at the design stage, to find out more or to be involved in the pilot study email us @