Well this is quite hard; not in a ‘It’s not you, it’s me’ kind of a way but more because knowing what to avoid when trying to set up a circular business model means we’ve been involved in a few which have not worked out; which is a bit galling given QSA’s raison d’être is to implement SUCCESSFUL business models. When they fail we take it personally and it’s a kick in the teeth. The reasons they fail usually fall into a few main categories.

Well… here goes:

Who to partner with?

Do you need to partner? When do you need to partner? It is important to carry out a capabilities gap assessment on what you currently have in your armoury and what you need for a circular business model; for some companies this will be very little, for others big chunks will need to be outsourced. If you are outsourcing – remember it is not just a transactional relationship, it is a partnership – they will be engaging with your customers on your behalf: the relationship has to be tip top!

Qualifying the partner’s capabilities is vital. We’ve seen some businesses opt for a favourite or incumbent supplier only to discover too late that this supplier doesn’t have the right capabilities at the right scale to deliver their promises.

Too slow to make a decision or lack of inertia

Traditional manufacturing based companies may find it really difficult to transition to a circular model: they are linear by their very nature. Having said that, the ability to make a decision is also centered around the mindset of the company. As part of our process in developing circular models we always ensure people across the business are involved in the process (although decision by committee is also an issue, see below) – getting buy in and enabling people to take ownership and understand the benefits from their point of view are key.

There’s great value in taking decisions rapidly, trialling a range of options and learning from them. We see too many businesses trying to focus on “the right trial” and being disappointed when it doesn’t work as they expected: the whole point of a trial is to gather data to inform better decisions. So more trials are beneficial. You need to be able to adapt and improve as a result of the new information you receive.

Loss of a champion

Having a champion for any change project is really important and they need to be of requisite seniority. Having Board level commitment to the project is essential to its success and ability to be embedded into the business offering. It is also important to have a deputy champion earmarked or explicitly waiting in the wings…

We once had a meeting where the champion for the project was escorted off the premises during one of our progress meetings. I hasten to add it had nothing to do with our project!

Decision by committee

If no one is willing to put their head above the parapet and make a decision, then you don’t have a champion. Decisions need to be made, and tough ones at that. You need good leaders – and we don’t mean that’s just in senior management roles: across the whole project.

Cultural barriers within a business

Specifically, being risk averse is a major problem. For a linear business, the risk can seem daunting, but we often say innovate or die. A little brutal maybe, but change is required (you don’t see anyone standing still in the middle of a 100m sprint, so why should a business stand still in a dynamic and constantly changing market?).

Your first circular model can be quite basic to start with – there are entry points for all industries (for example repair in the fashion/retail industry) but this builds confidence and then more circular opportunities will become clearer. It’s also important to test – test on a small geographical area/group of customers – test and refine (and test again) and then go live – it can and should be refined and honed as learning is gathered. You do not need to launch with the most perfect circular model ever to have been launched.

The changing face of business

Do you need to pivot? 2020 & 2021 is testament to this – I am not sure I need to say much more on this one.

Many of these pitfalls are interlinked; for me the level of ambition and culture are clear driving forces that dictate other issues or mask tremors in a faltering business.

BUT don’t feel despondent! Learn from the pitfalls above; understand that implementing a circular model will require patience and perseverance and you will need to get buy-in from all parts of your organisation. We have developed an online platform to guide you through the steps to implement a successful business model.

And there is light at the end of the tunnel, companies tend to overcome many of these issues and know that circular business models are the future to the success of their business and we have reengaged with many of the companies when a model was halted for one of the reasons listed above.

Phew, it’s not me or you!

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.