Jarno Laitinen, Head of Resource & Waste Management, Environment & Health, Finland

June 26, 2024

New ISO-59000 standard family: A global framework to help the transition to a circular economy

2024 seems to be the year of the circular economy when it comes to legislation supporting the shift. Until now, the European Union has been the source of many of the initiatives, but the publication  of ISO 59000 aids the global adoption of the circular economy. 

recycling, Pattern, Waste Recovery, pile, view of flattened  plastic packaging,Large Pile of Squashed Plastic For Recycling
Plastic prepared for recycling
On 22 May 2024, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) published a new family of standards to guide the transition to the circular economy. The standards mark the first set of international definitions and rules for the circular economy. Organisations from more than a hundred countries were involved in their preparation.
As an economic model that maintains resources in circulation by recovering, retaining or adding value, a circular economy promotes sustainable development and significantly aids decarbonisation efforts. The newly published standards are a significant milestone, providing a common global understanding of the definition of circular economy, business operations according to the economic model, and its monitoring and evaluation.
“Thanks to the standards, an increasing number of companies, regardless of industry, size or location, now have access to guidelines to develop their business in accordance with the circular economy,” says Jarno Laitinen, Head of Resource & Waste Management, Environment & Health, Finland. “Our circular economy experts are eager to assess what the standards mean for our clients’ businesses and are already familiar with published and upcoming ISO standards.”
Promoting the circular economy through six principles
ISO 59000 divides the circular economy into six primary principles. The first principle is systemic thinking, according to which the environmental, economic and social impact of operations must be considered. Other principles include value creation through resource-efficient solutions, value sharing, ensuring resource availability, resource traceability along value chains, and protecting and restoring ecosystem sustainability and biodiversity.
The standard presents a wide range of activities that organisations can use to promote the circular economy. These include:
• Rethinking products and services, product design and procurement, process optimisation, and industrial symbiosis,
• Reuse, maintenance, repair, and sharing,
• Refurbishment, remanufacturing, recycling, material and energy recovery education, research, innovation, behavioural change, cooperation, policy, finance, and digitalisation.
Guiding the transition
The transition to a circular economy model may be challenging or even impossible without restructuring business models and value networks. ISO 59000 tackles this issue by identifying where change needs to be made and areas for improvement. The standards also provide support for measuring and assessing circularity performance across entire organisations, advising the measurement of renewability, reuse, and recycling of resource flows and the lifecycle as a whole.
The indicators and methods presented can be supplemented with other methods to assess the effectiveness of the circular economy and the sustainability of operations, the most relevant being Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). At the end of 2023, work started at the European Committee for Standardization to complement ISO 59000.
“The published standards support the circular economy theme of the Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) and will be very relevant for measuring progress on circularity in the context of ESRS E5 or the Circular Economy Taxonomy,” says Ferdinand Zotz, Principal, Environment & Health , Germany. “Our sustainability reporting specialists have methods and tools to support the formulation and implementation of companies' circular economy strategy. Our hope is to help clients see the standards as a business opportunity rather than a compliance exercise”.

Our circular economy experts are eager to assess what the standards mean for our clients’ businesses and are already familiar with published and upcoming ISO standards.

Jarno Laitinen
Head of Resource & Waste Management, Environment & Health, Finland

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    Head of Department

    +358 44 3558236

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    Principal, Circular Economy and Resource Management

    +49 89 978970141

    Ferdinand Zotz
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    Global MarComm Lead

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    Debbie Spillane