• Circular Economy

    Circular thinking addresses the need to sustainably meet the challenges of the modern world, doing more with less, and maximising finite resources whilst reducing negative impacts. 3Keel works with organisations of all sizes and sectors to help them understand and implement the activities required for transition towards more circular systems and liberate the benefits.

Circular Economy


Alex Hetherington

Principal consultant

Transitioning to a circular economy requires us to move away from the linear ‘take, make, use, dispose’ model to a more circular system where resource use is minimised, value is retained within the system and waste is viewed as a resource.

Trying to do the right thing and improve environmental sustainability performance can be challenging. Sometimes a simple change designed to improve a product or service can have adverse impacts elsewhere in the life cycle or within different environmental spheres. What looks obvious can have a range of unintended consequences that are important to understand if we are to make the optimum choices.

Our Circular Economy practice uses a wide range of different tools, techniques, skills and expertise to address cross-cutting themes, help our clients navigate the complex issues, and plot the optimum way forward to bring about lasting change. With collaboration a key characteristic of circular economy thinking, it is no surprise that this work often overlaps with our other practice areas.

Here are some of the tools and techniques used by our Circular Economy consultants, analysts and programme managers to help clients bring about change.

LCA and footprinting

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and footprinting are invaluable techniques to assess the true environmental performance of systems by assessing their impacts across the entire life cycle. Using this whole-life view not only determines the environmental credentials of a product or service, but also provides insight into system hot spots, enables targeted improvements, facilitates balanced decision making, and prevents unintended consequences. With in-depth knowledge of the relevant techniques and standards, 3Keel’s Circular Economy and Climate Change teams have a wealth of experience in completing the full range of LCA and footprinting studies. This ranges from rapid footprinting, hot spot tool creation and internally facing LCAs, to Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) and LCAs for public disclosure.

Sustainable packaging

Used correctly, packaging plays a vital role in protecting, storing and promoting products at all stages of their life cycle, thereby reducing waste and associated emissions. However, there is no doubt that surplus packaging causes significant environmental issues. These include excessive use of resources and wide-ranging pollution through use of non-recyclable materials and formats, inadequate collection and recycling infrastructure, and mismanaged waste streams. Coupling our in-depth knowledge of materials, recyclability and end-of-life solutions with effective analysis techniques, 3Keel’s team helps organisations improve their packaging sustainability. Packaging portfolio assessments, recycling landscape reviews, supplier engagement, and horizon scanning are some of the tools we use when working with companies to develop sustainable packaging policies and create roadmaps to drive change.

Evidence-based target setting and strategy formulation

The business adage that ‘If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it’ is as key for sustainability as for other business functions. At 3Keel we believe in evidence-based decision making and target setting, and we work closely with clients to ensure that their sustainability strategies and targets are both meaningful and realistic. The key to this is establishing impact profiles, focus areas and baseline metrics from which improvement targets can be set and glide paths to achieve the strategies can be established. We are able to help at each stage of the journey, from using sustainability workshops to build understanding, through generating the baselines using company data, recommending targets and advising on strategy development.

Programme management for collaborations and coalitions

To accelerate the transitions required to move to a circular economy, collaborations and coalitions play a vital role in driving meaningful and lasting change. 3Keel purposefully pursues collaborations and we are highly accomplished at both convening and managing multi-stakeholder projects involving the full range of activities from cross-industry strategy setting to the practical implementation of circular systems. Notable projects include the recently launched BRC Climate Roadmap, the Landscape Enterprise Networks (LENs) programme and the ground-breaking, pre-competitive coffee pod collection and recycling scheme ‘Podback’. As the scheme managers for Podback, 3Keel have been instrumental in developing and maximising the effectiveness of the collaboration between the founding members and all partners, combining practical knowledge, programme management, and on-the-ground implementation skills to develop the end-to-end solution.

“As the Nestle lead for the recycling collaboration ‘Podback’, I have worked with 3keel throughout the programme from the early scoping stage to the final stage of delivery. Throughout the different stages 3Keel have added value bringing the outside-in, providing challenge to our thinking, mediating between parties on complex and political decisions and excellent project management support. I would thoroughly recommend them as a partner if you are about to embark on this type of initiative.”
Julia Gallacher, Corporate Communications & Sustainability, Nespresso UK & ROI

Want to know more about our circular economy practice area?

Contact Alex Hetherington for more information. Or phone our office +44 (0)1865 236500 and speak to one of our colleagues.

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