LIFE+ CEMs - Circular Economy Metrics

LIFE12 ENV/UK/000966

Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version  

Contact details:

Contact person: Jo Bootle
Tel: 441983296463
Email: jo.bootle@ellenmacarthurfoundation.org

Project description:


The economy has typically had one fundamental characteristic: a linear model of resource consumption that follows a ‘take-make-dispose’ approach. Companies harvest and extract materials, use them to manufacture a product, and sell the product to a consumer, who then discards it when it no longer serves its purpose. A linear system not only demonstrates a very inefficient use of natural resources, but disposal of a product in landfill means that all its residual energy is lost. The incineration or recycling of discarded products recoups a small share of this energy, whereas re-use saves significantly more energy. The use of energy resources in a linear production model is typically most intensive in the upstream parts of the supply chain - i.e. the steps involved in extracting materials from the earth and converting them into a commercially usable form. In contrast, a circular economy is an industrial system that is restorative or regenerative by intention and design. It replaces the ‘end-of-life’ concept with restoration, a shift towards the use of renewable energy, and it aims to eliminate waste through the superior design of materials, products, systems, and business models.


The objective of the LIFE+ CEMs project was to demonstrate that the concept of a circular economy offers a practical alternative to the traditional waste-generating and resource-inefficient linear approach. Specifically, it sought to design and develop web-based tools to enable European businesses to measure their effectiveness in moving towards the circular economy. Key aims of the project were to develop product-level and company-level metrics and online tools for measuring the circularity of individual products and particular companies, respectively; and to demonstrate that the product-assessment tool and related metric can deliver real performance improvements in practice. The aim was to conduct pilot studies with participating companies, and to identify actual and projected environmental and economic performance improvements using a set of key performance indicators (e.g. for savings in waste, energy and costs).


The LIFE+ CEMs project designed and developed web-based tools that enable European industries to measure the effectiveness of their move towards a circular economy, for instance, in terms of increased use of renewable energy, reduced use of raw materials, and elimination of waste through improvements in design of materials, products, systems and business models. The project developed the necessary metrics, and a set of performance indicators for the product-level tool.

The project developed a methodology to measure how well an individual product or a company performs within the context of the circular economy. It produced an open source publication of the two methodologies (including technical specification and spreadsheet models), and developed an online tool for calculating the product-level circulatory metric. It engaged with a range of stakeholders across all sectors, including regulatory bodies, business and investors, academic institutions and NGOs, thereby gaining valuable feedback and an increased understanding of the application of the tools created.

The project outputs will assist the commercial sector in achieving resource efficient and sustainable development. As a result of testing the tools, participating companies have been able to identify changes to the design of their products that are feasible and would result in increased "circularity" and therefore environmental benefits. These benefits were identified using six Key Performance Indicators (KPI) developed by the project. These are defined in the project’s environmental KPI report, with results presented in terms of absolute values and percentages. KPIs were grouped within a Material Circularity Indicator (MCI) tool and the Granta MI CO2 calculation tool. Benefits included measurable reductions in waste production, virgin material usage, and embedded carbon. For example, for a case study of small WEEE appliances, reductions of around 0.5 kg of virgin feedstock, >1.5 kg of waste to landfill/incineration, and >10 kg of embedded carbon per product were calculated.

The project contributes towards European policy such as the EU Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe and the EU 2020 Strategy. Indirectly it may contribute towards the Roadmap for moving to a Competitive Low Carbon Economy and, through its economic benefits, to the aims of the Industrial Policy for the Globalisation Era. It is expected that, following implementation by organisations in the business sector, the project outcomes will support the forthcoming EU waste strategy that is expected to include a commitment to a more circular economy.

Project outcomes and findings were widely disseminated across traditional and new media. The project team will continue to advance the development of the tools, in collaboration with relevant stakeholders.

Economic benefits of the application of the circular economy metrics and tools should arise from improvements in the circularity of products. The tools will enable companies to capture additional value from their products, make potentially significant cost savings in raw materials, reduce manufacturing costs, increase component reuse, and reduce the costs of disposal. These commercial advantages can influence economic growth and its associated benefits. Social benefits are likely to occur as a result of the economic growth and include the potential for job creation.

Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Communication Plan (see "Read more" section).


Environmental issues addressed:


Environmental management - Circular economy and Value chains


environmentally friendly product‚  modelling‚  indicator‚  environmental performance‚  environmental assessment‚  resource conservation

Target EU Legislation

  • Waste
  • Directive 2008/98 - Waste and repealing certain Directives (Waste Framework Directive) (19.11.200 ...
  • COM(2015)614 - "Closing the loop - An EU action plan for the Circular Economy" (02.12.2015)

Natura 2000 sites

Not applicable



Coordinator Ellen MacArthur Foundation
Type of organisation NGO-Foundation
Description The Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF) promotes sustainable development, economic growth and regeneration through the promotion, preservation, conservation and protection of the environment, and the prudent use of resources. It also works to educate the public and promote research around sustainable development.
Partners Granta Design Limited, United Kingdom


Project reference LIFE12 ENV/UK/000966
Duration 01-JUL-2013 to 30-JUN -2015
Total budget 381,780.00 €
EU contribution 190,889.00 €
Project location North(United Kingdom) Yorkshire and Humberside(United Kingdom) East Midlands(United Kingdom) East Anglia(United Kingdom) South East (UK)(United Kingdom) South West (UK)(United Kingdom) West Midlands(United Kingdom) North West (UK)(United Kingdom) Wales(United Kingdom) Scotland(United Kingdom) Northern Ireland(United Kingdom) Gibraltar(United Kingdom)


Read more:

Brochure "Circularity indicators: An Approach to Measuring Circularity: Project overview" (1.29 MB)
Project web site Project's website
Publication: After-LIFE Communication Plan After-LIFE Communication Plan
Publication: Case study "Circularity indicators: An Approach to Measuring ...
Publication: Guidelines-Manual "Circularity indicators: An approach to Measuring ...
Publication: Layman report Layman report


Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version