How to build a business model with positive impacts? The Circular Canvas

· shape your business model ·

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Meeting today’s challenges, about climate change or about the rising of inequalities, requires changes in the way we think. Circular and regenerative economy has been identified as a promising way to address such issues.The Circular Canvas by Circulab helps you shape your business model to suit the circular and regenerative economy. It is an efficient method to reshape your business so as to make your organization sustainable both economically and environmentally. 

« Change » can appear as a portemanteau word, vague and overused in eloquent speeches. « Change is the law of life » according to John F. Kennedy. What are we talking? And how to implement the desired change?

To initiate change in the way we work, we need a method and the Circular Canvas can provide one. Our capacity of evolution is severely tested nowadays, notably by the pandemic and climate change issues. New questions occur as you are shaping a business model in a changing world.

Rebuilding the way you work can seem accessible without a method, but it is unsure and will take longer. The Circular Canvas is designed to help you reshape your organization to match the goals of the regenerative and circular economy. It is inspired by the well-known Business Model Canvas created by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur in 2010. Since 2014, Circulab has provided and improved this tool, aiming to spread systemic thinking and apply its principles to economy. Seeking durability for your business implies to understand the whole system surrounding it, to stress your strengths and weaknesses and also to redefine your goals. The Circular Canvas is designed to help you do so efficiently. 

What is a business model?

A definition of a business model

A business model reflects the purpose of your organization and the value you wish to create. It summons every resources your business relies on or could rely on, human, financial or material. Starting from its business model an organization assesses its way of operating, readjusts its strategy and implements changes. 

The Business Model Canvas focuses on the product 

The Business Model Canvas contains 9 components to help you estimate the financial viability of your idea. It is largely used and recognize, but its focus on the product overshadows the impacts on the environment and the society.

Why is the Circular Canvas an efficient circular business model?

The Circular Canvas reunites circular economy and efficient business models

Circulab designed the Circular Canvas to add a dimension to the way we shape our business model. Our economic systems are currently functioning as linear chains: we extract resources, use them and product waste. Resources are single-used and generate a single stream of income. 

This linear functioning of the economy doesn’t match our current challenges, as we realize resources are limited and waste is unmanaged. To reshape our organizations and make them efficient, we need to rethink the roots of the way we work. The Circular Canvas can help you. 

The aim of this tool is to help you implement systemic thinking in your organization. Finding a balance between viability and ecosystem compatibility can be tricky.  The Circular Canvas helps your understand how your organization creates value, what are your social and environmental impacts, stress test your business model with trends and scenarios. 

How to build a circular business model?

Our tools are available for free on our website, under a Creative Commons license. However, we do recommend you to train with our programs to ensure the best use of the tools. 

Presentation of the Circular Canvas

The upper part describes your impacts and the way you could promote the regeneration of the ecosystem. In the middle, you find the core of your business. The blue part invites you to test the feasibility of your project and the red part indicates the desirability of your proposition. In the lower section you find costs and streams of income generated by your idea to check its viability. 

This tool is particularly efficient when used for a collaborative reflexion. The exchange of ideas, worries and expertise by different stakeholders allows you to deepen your reflexion. Hence, your  business project will be more relevant and robust. 

How to use a circular business model?

In order to get the best of your experience with the Circular Canvas, begin by filling in the « mission box ». Ask yourself : « In my view, what is the purpose of my organization? ». This step can seem laborious if you are not used to this kind of exercise but it is worth your time.

Then, take a look at your resources and partners, actual or potential. Target the skills that are useful for your project. Don’t forget to keep the amount of resources you use to the minimum, you will relieve the environment and your wallet!

Now, you can get to the core of your project: defining your proposition to create value. Answer as precisely as possible the following questions: « what is the product or service we offer? », « Who / what is this experience designed for? », « How is it distributed? », « What is the next use of my product or service? ». These cells depict your choices when it comes to design process and strategy.

Finally, you can address the most challenging part of designing a Business Model with a circular and regenerative mindset. You need to identify the economic and environmental impacts of your activity. Be careful : the impacts are relative, which means that a greenhouse gases emissions will be taken into account as a negative impact, even if you emit less than before. 

Now that you have understood the interest and functioning of the Circular Canvas, you can start using it to design a new project, idea or organization.

If you need further explanations, we do recommend you to join the Circulab Academy training to ensure the best use of our tools. The Circular Canvas is part of a design process that includes other tools: the Partner Map and Value Chain Canvas

If you wish to be supported in your approach, Circulab provides consulting missions for organizations to implement changes. 

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