IDEO and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation have released the first design thinking guide for the circular economy. Created to drive awareness of the circular economy, the practical guide encourages innovators, entrepreneurs and corporate change-makers to ask new questions about value creation and long-term business health, and apply circular principles to their own organisations.

The Circular Design Guide taps into an emerging business appetite for a restorative and regenerative approach that delivers sustained prosperity; an alternative to the increasing costs and risks associated with a ’take, make, dispose’ linear economy. Such risks include price volatility, resource supply constraints and increased regulation. Organisations can also apply the methods in the guide to seize the opportunities of a connected citizen and digitised economy.

Though design is central in the transition to the circular economy, the shift is complex and cannot be achieved with traditional design methods alone. The Circular Design Guide delivers a new approach, introducing users to circular economy concepts as well as design thinking techniques updated for this new economic framework. It comprises 24 methods, as well as video interviews with designers, worksheets, case studies, and links to helpful technical tools.

Design is integral in the shift to the circular economy. There’s only so much we can do with products, services and systems based on the ‘take, make, dispose’ model. By re-thinking and re-designing, we can accelerate the transition to a new model that doesn’t just ’eke out resources a bit longer’, but is restorative and regenerative by design. It’s a new driver for innovation, and across our Global Partners, CE100 network, New Plastics Economy initiative and beyond we’re seeing organisations eager to embrace this new vision. With the Circular Design Guide, it’s easier than ever to get started.
– Ellen MacArthur, Founder, Ellen MacArthur Foundation

The guide also supports complex circular challenges such as re-thinking global plastics flows, also on the agenda at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos. This involves a wide range of stakeholders and a fragmented value chain – here, the guide can act as a central, neutral resource on how to design for the circular economy. As such, participants in the New Plastics Economy initiative are already using it to redesign plastic packaging and the systems needed to manage it after use.

Transitioning to the circular economy is one of the most important design challenges of our time. For designers, it means rethinking traditional approaches and retraining in circular principles. This guide was created to provide the tools needed to move from ideas to action, creating solutions for the circular economy that give businesses a competitive edge and are regenerative for our world.
– Tim Brown, CEO, IDEO

The Circular Design Guide launches today at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, with a gathering at the ICEhouse™ seeing presentations from ARUP Chairman Gregory Hodkinson, NIKE COO Eric Sprunk, IDEO CEO Tim Brown, Andrew Morlet and Ellen MacArthur.