Understanding the Circular Economy and its Impact on Bidding

With the UK economy targeted on achieving net zero by 2050 and the Scottish Government’s target set at 2045, there has never been a more important time to understand the circular economy. This article will provide actionable advice to ensure you incorporate the circular economy into your bid writing to win more tenders by delivering sustainability and social value.

The Circular Economy

Our current economic model is linear, defined within the Collins English Dictionary as ‘an economic system based on collecting raw materials, using them to create consumer goods, and disposing of resulting waste products.’ This model pays little attention to the environment, viewing the economy and the supply of materials as an open-ended system with infinite materials and no system for recycling. Put simply – we take, make and waste.

Maximising value and minimising waste

First coined by Pierce and Turner in 1989, the Circular Economy views economic theory and environmental issues as inseparable. The circular economy is based on the 3R principle: reduce, reuse and recycle. To explain these principles WRAP, a climate action NGO states that the difference between a Linear and a Circular Economy is that “instead of taking resources from the earth, using them once, and disposing of them in landfill, we keep them in use for as long as possible. We make sure that we gain the maximum benefit from them while reducing negative environmental impacts.”

Isn’t this recycling?

Recycling is a key method of keeping resources in circulation, however, the circular economy goes beyond this and is focused on designing waste and pollution out of products (reduce and reuse). This delivers the maximum value out of the finite resources on our planet.

The Circular Economy and its relevance to bidding

In July 2020 the UK Government published a Circular Economy Package (CEP) policy statement re-affirming commitment to “recycle 65% of municipal waste and to have no more than 10% of municipal waste going to landfill by 2035”. Across the UK waste policy is largely a devolved matter. As such England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have taken slightly different approaches toward policy measures. Despite this, national priorities have remained consistent with a firm focus on driving action towards a more circular economy.

Zero Waste Scotland explain that by adopting a circular economy model and reusing materials across all sectors will maximise the value from our resources and could “save Scottish businesses at least £3billion a year”.

“Four-fifths of Scotland’s carbon emissions are caused by the heat and energy required to grow, make, process, transport and provide goods and materials”

Iain Gulland – Chief Executive, Zero Waste Scotland

As an extension of current sustainable procurement, WRAP explain that ‘Circular Procurement’ goes beyond current procurement practice by “actively contributing to closing energy and material loops within supply chains, while minimising any negative environmental impact or waste creation across their whole life cycle.” To realise the benefits of a circular economy and achieve positive economic, social and environmental impact, public procurement and buyers have already begun to add questions directly relating to the circular economy into technical questions.

Explicitly stated in a recent Scotland Excel tender:

‘The Contractor is required to support the Client’s aims to transition to a circular economy, which also supports the transition to ‘net zero’ emissions as set out in the Scottish Government strategy ‘Making Things Last: a circular economy strategy for Scotland…’’

The example above is common within much of current UK public sector bidding. Those well versed in bidding will know that a significant weighting is assigned to sustainability, in some cases accounting for up to 20% of the quality scores. Bidders that can demonstrate commitment to a circular economy will have the ability to score higher within the quality sections of their submissions.

Example – The Edinburgh Remakery

The Edinburgh Remakery is an award-winning environmental social enterprise committed to diverting waste from landfill, building a stronger community, and promoting a culture of repair and reuse. Their mission is “reducing waste, making valuable practical skills accessible and inclusive, and providing services to support disadvantaged members of our community.” They provide a range of circular economy based services including but not limited to:

  • Free IT disposal service for businesses
  • An online shop selling refurbished tech
  • 1:1 appointment for your broken IT equipment and electronics where their expert technicians will guide you through how to mend your belongings
  • Team building experiences
  • Various workshops to help upskill and empower local communities

Recognised for their contribution to excellence in sustainable development, they won the Queen’s Award in April 2022. They exist to help communities learn repair skills and educate people on the importance of reuse, by refurbishing technology to increase its lifecycle, utility and avoid items unnecessarily going to landfill.

Whilst achieving environmental benefits they deliver a social value legacy, addressing the skills gap in the circular economy through training, development, apprenticeships and work experience.

Partnering with The Edinburgh Remakery to improve your bidding

By partnering with organisations such as The Edinburgh Remakery, you will receive a partner who will create high scoring, evidence based social value and environmental tender responses. The Edinburgh Remakery are immersed within the community and deliver a number of projects. These include providing tech donation boxes located across the city to collect, refurbish and then gift it back to the community to those who need it most. Recipients include vulnerable individuals and groups within the community facing digital poverty and isolation.

The Remakery will provide evidence of the environmental impact and community benefit derived from initiatives that your partnership will be directly contributing to. You will benefit from the range of content including quarterly reports and cases studies that can be weaved into your response to show tangible benefits to the buyer.

In addition to refurbishing tech, The Edinburgh Remakery focus on education around repair and reuse. They offer volunteering opportunities such as work experience and internships to people facing barriers to employment. Through partnership you will be able to demonstrate your role in supporting the provision of work experience, internships and career advice. The evidence and commitments you make will improve your tender response scores.

Beyond the direct social value and sustainability contribution, working closely with a third sector organisation will add weight to your responses. This is achieved by showing you can successfully partner with other organisations to realise shared outcomes and deliver significant value.

Next steps

We encourage individuals and organisations committed to delivering social value and sustainability to contact organisations such as The Edinburgh Remakery.

With thanks to Elaine Brown, CEO at The Edinburgh Remakery