Definition of Circular Economy

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A uniform definition of Circular Economy is required because branding of the companies and initiatives involved need reliability and a communicative basis.

There are some approaches and definition attempts. Here are a few examples, afterwards we at nice have created a structured and summarized definition, feel free to send us comments and remarks.


  1. Circular Economy is a system in which the production of materials and goods generates a minimal amount of resource consumption and waste, emissions, and energy waste.
    It is a holistic sustainability strategy, already existing worldwide in its beginnings, to be embedded at both the corporate and societal levels, starting from product design and extending through production, marketing, sales, as well as customer, supplier, and partner management.
  2. This is achieved firstly through ideally complete design of products and goods for reusability, ideally up to 100%. Until this goal is achieved, partial solutions should be accepted and positively presented.
    Secondly, loops are closed by considering the subsequent use of products or goods at the time of their introduction into circulation (circular thinking and action).
  3. A purpose can be extended for a long time or distributed among as many users as possible, such as through rental and sharing. Through take-back and resale models like refurbishment or second hand.
  4. Innovative forms of use, such as foregoing the transfer of ownership by simply granting temporary usage, promote traceability and take-back rates and have positive effects on company balance sheets (increasing assets).
  5. Various uses of a material or good can follow during or after the product lifecycle, such as re-use (second hand), refurbishment, or recycling.
  6. This ideally allows for consumption that aligns with sustainability goals, particularly UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12 (ensuring responsible consumption and production) because in the Circular Economy, ecology and economy are no longer in competition.
  7. The use of toxic substances or those with known negative effects on living beings and the environment is excluded. Trade-offs (example: recycling polyester saves emissions due to reduced production effort, but microplastic pollution is significantly higher due to shortened fibers) occur repeatedly and must be dealt with constructively and transparently.
  8. Used energies must be as green as possible.
  9. Fairness and the avoidance of social injustices along the entire supply and disposal chains must be kept in mind and accordingly included in metrics and certifications.
  10. Natural systems must be protected or regenerated.
  11. Greenwashing must be avoided as it leads to deception and loss of trust.

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We, nice network initiative circular economy e.V. (Club seat: Germany), process personal data for the operation of this website only to the extent technically necessary. All details in our privacy policy.