While many businesses struggle to recover from the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve spotted some interesting signs that companies with circular and sharing business models may be more resilient to major impacts. What can we learn from them?

Here are a couple of examples:

Co Cars

Operating a car and e-bike sharing model in South West England, Co Cars was affected by a loss of trade during lockdown. In the immediate aftermath, the network was suspended, and the fleet stored securely, resulting in zero revenue generation.

However, because Co Cars’ model focuses on helping customers get flexible access to convenient transport options, they quickly pivoted to supporting key workers. During lockdown, they provided free transport to health sector employees and neighbourhood policing teams then, as lockdown eased, evolved this into paid hire packages.

As soon as restrictions were lifted, Co Cars’ asset fleet – with the necessary hygiene controls in place – was ready to redeploy. This meant it could quickly get up and running again and start generating income. Car club new memberships rapidly reached pre-Covid levels whilst usage e-bike fleet increased massively due to those who had taken up cycling during lockdown.

Co Cars is now interrogating pre and post Covid usage patterns to develop a product portfolio best suited to our ‘new normal’ world.

Clothing recommerce platforms

Over the last couple of years, peer to peer ‘recommerce’ platforms selling ‘pre-loved’ fashion have experienced exponential growth – and lockdown only seems to have accelerated the process. For example, in March 2020, Depop alone recorded a 65% increase in sales and 74% increase in app traffic compared with March 2019.

In fact, many recommerce operations fared better during lockdown simply because they didn’t have to shut down then restart complicated international supply chains. Instead, they feed directly from existing clothing assets in the “national wardrobe”. Not only did this mean they could continue to trade during lockdown but, due to the ongoing economic uncertainty, many customers are tightening their spending budgets and turning to pre-loved as an affordable way to update their wardrobes.

Compare this with many of the larger clothing brands who had to try and quickly cancel large forward orders from their Asian supply chains. They are now are struggling to recover full capacity as they are hit by a drop in consumer spending and resurgence of the pandemic across the fast fashion producing heartlands.

What do these examples have in common?

Both Co Cars and recommence are driven by online platforms, meaning they are remain widely accessible to their customer base, even when lockdowns are in place. They also extract unused value from the assets that they, or their customers, are already holding.

Furthermore, they rapidly flexed their offers as the customer behaviour and market requirements changed; with a reduction in consumer demand for ‘new’ aligning with lower-impact options that meet customer needs.

Can you be more resilient with a circular business model?

We believe circular business models deliver better resilience for most businesses because, designed properly, they focus on real customer needs, not simply ‘selling stuff’.

We know it can be challenging to set up some of these models. For example, funding an asset fleet or developing a recommerce user base. But, over the longer term, a circular model with the right proposition that gets more value from assets will be more profitable.

As we continue to navigate new lockdowns and extended measures across the globe, keep an eye on linear and circular businesses and see which remain in business and continue to grow their profitability during this sustained threat to their resilience.

Who we are

QSA Partners is a specialist team of circular economy and sustainable business experts with extensive experience in fashion and consumer goods. We have worked with many designer and high street brands including adidas, Farfetch and Ted Baker. We believe that better business models – whether based on sustainability or circular economy principles – help our clients stay relevant, grow market share and open up different markets in this rapidly changing world, providing business resilience against the impacts and risks of climate change. Find out more about our services or contact us to see how we can help your business benefit.

Jennifer Decker/

I enable businesses to reduce their business and product impacts from setting out a sustainability strategy to supporting the delivery of circular business models. Businesses I have supported include High Speed 1 Ltd, Cotton Incorporated, Argent, Heathrow Expansion, Northern Trust Bank, EDF New Nuclear Build, EY, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Defence.

I specialise on working within an organisation which has included my tenure as sustainability specialist at EDF New Nuclear Build and at WRAP developing their Textiles 2030 agreement and produced their 2030 circular textiles pathway working with the major retailers, reuse & recycling businesses and charities.

Prior to QSA, I was an associate director at Mace Group where I enabled built environment clients to deliver their carbon reduction programmes and sustainable construction strategies by setting measurable KPIs and targets; creating tools to monitor; embed performance standards in procurement and communication.

Previously, I led the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan at WRAP setting the 2020 targets, strategy and implementation for the UK clothing industry.

Kristina Bull /

I led our project with Laudes Foundation and ReLondon on the Circular Fashion Fast Forward project that saw us develop circular models with adidas; FW and Farfetch as well as lay the foundations for Ted Baker’s work in this area.

I am leading the development of a fibre specific recycling programme within Europe which will be launched in early 2022.

I am an apparel durability expert with track record of change implementation at Whistles, ASOS, COS and worked with WRAP and John Lewis to produce a durability and quality guide for brands.

I have advised low carbon, resource efficiency and sustainability strategy development at Heathrow and High Speed 1 Ltd, and continue to lead the support work for HS1 through to their participation at COP26 in November 2021.

Before QSA at WRAP I delivered the market engagement and recruitment drive for the WRAP Halving Waste to Landfill agreement in the built environment sector.

Gerrard Fisher /

I have a strong track record in sustainability with a wide range of clients. My original background is in process and chemical engineering so I’ve been in to process and resource efficiency since graduating a long time ago!

I’ve supported circular business model transformation in companies such as adidas, Argos, ASOS, B&Q (Kingfisher), FARFETCH, FW, Samsung, MuJo Fitness and more: I led a team that created WRAP’s original circular business model project called REBus.

I have extensive experience working with electrical and electronic products, and I worked with many major global brands on improving design for durabiltiy and repairabilitly. Examples of projects I led include:

  • Groundbreaking research into the nature of mercury hazards in flat-panel TVs (leading to industry voluntary labelling)
  • Creation of design guides for retail buyers so they could improve the durability (and reduce warranty costs) of their own-brand products.
  • Delivery of communication campaigns that increased e-waste recycling collections by over 40% in target areas.

Through my past work at WRAP and beyond, I’ve also advised a range of governmental and NGO organisations on resource efficiency, ecodesign and circular economy including Defra, BEIS, Zero Waste Scotland, ReLondon and Oxfordshire County Council. I provide technical advisory and independent expert advice to UKRI, the European Commission, the US Government’s Department of Energy.

I get a kick out of helping businesses understand and meet their customers’ needs better - whether that’s through better business models, better product design or better communication and transparency.

This has also led me to take an interest in privacy and data management - which can be a big barrier to people reusing and recycling some of their old electrical stuff. As a result, I set up a business called Astrid to provide cost-effective privacy advice to small businesses so they can better protect their customer information.

Mark Hodgson /

I specialise in the innovation and proposition development of new customer orientated, commercially driven circular and sharing business models to market. I have a particular experience of working on circular models with sectors that are impacted by the change in lifestyles, consumption, digital mobility, electric infrastructure and NetZero, have on place. Examples range from retail; IKEA, adidas, B&Q, ASOS, FarFetch, developers and OEM’s; Landsec & Samsung, mobility; Riversimple, HS1 & Co Cars and authorities; Oxford County Council and Exeter Velocities/Exeter City Council. Across all of these, I have helped deliver the propositions, services, operations and infrastructure to enable deployment.

As a founder and ex-director of a multi-modal shared e-mobility provider of EV cars, e-bikes and e-cargo bikes, I have first-hand experience of the impact and change these business models can have on people and place, through working with clients, local authorities and housing developers.

I understand what processes and techniques to apply, how to encourage growth and change mindsets, and how to build a customer-focused, commercially viable business model that delivers circular and environmental benefits. My background is business development, technology and markets having worked for international companies to local SMEs. I've worked in a wide range of projects from global business propositions, sales as a service, sharing and circular business models, ‘low carbon’ LEP economic strategies, climate change adaptation, renewable energy, clean tech sector development and public sector partnerships to technical research, international development and project delivery management.

Being a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and geographer at heart I've worked on sustainable development projects and film productions in locations in Africa, Asia and Europe.