UNDRESS Circularity

Undress is a major collaborative industry project to assess the impact of circular business models

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Circular business models gain in popularity, but their impact is hard to quantify – this project innovates an aligned assessment

Circular economy business models in the electronics sector such as rental, second hand and repair are rapidly gaining importance as they aim to reduce resource consumption by optimizing product use. However, it remains difficult to quantify the actual positive impact of these models and there is currently no standardized approach.
The „Undress Project“, implemented and led by Circularity in collaboration with Systemiq and Fraunhofer IZM and 12 industry partners, and supported by Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt and Deloitte, sets out to develop a methodological framework and practical guide to assess the environmental impact of circular business models for the case of consumer electronics. This project will provide much-needed key insights for the transition to a truly sustainable circular economy, with the electronics sector leading the way.

The Situation

As the circular economy transition gains momentum, companies across industries are increasingly setting up new circular business models. Product-as-a-service, second-hand products, refurbishment and repair offerings are rapidly growing, aiming to optimize the use of products to reduce resource consumption. This development is further accelerated by the increasing regulatory push, such as from the EU taxonomy and policies to enhance repair.

The Challenge

However, the actual positive impact of circular models remains difficult to quantify, creating uncertainty for all stakeholders. Currently, there is no aligned approach and methodology to assess potentially avoided emissions, resources saved, and waste prevented from changes in the way users access and use the products. Limited transparency about product flows and industry dynamics, lacking data and limited insights into user behaviour further complicate the assessment

The Goal

“Undress Circularity” brings together key industry stakeholders to develop a methodological framework and practice guide to assess the environmental impact of rental, repair and second-hand business models. This project will thus deliver urgently needed key insights for the forthcoming of a truly sustainable circular economy transition, the electronics sector being a flagship case example.

The project involves key stakeholders of the circular economy ecosystem

Four key innovations underscore the strength of the project

Designed for Practitioners

The project has a focus on providing clear steps for practical use and empowering industry practitioners to assess and optimize their business models

Based on Real Industry Data

12 core industry partners bring in proprietary data to support the creation of a framework based on actual flows and create unique insights into the actual implementation of circular business models

Built Jointly with Relevant Stakeholders

Industry partners contribute deep industry experience and ensure practical relevance; a diverse group of associated partners ensure alignment with ongoing regulatory, standardization and assessment processes

Focused on the Use Phase of Products

The project provides insights into the impact from changes in the access and use of products induced by different access options, thus complementing current impact assessments focused on product carbon footprints (PCF)

The consumer electronics segment in Germany is used as core case

Consumer Electronics

To assess different use patterns, the project focuses on frequently used devices (e.g., smartphones, laptops) and in-frequently used devices (e.g., gaming consoles, cameras) Both, the use of devices in the B2C context (individual users), and the B2B context (business users) is examined.

German Market

The project sheds light on changes in the access and use of electronic devices induced by rental, second hand and repair business models in Germany. It includes relevant aspects of the typical life journey of devices beyond Germany as relevant parameters to the overall impact assessment (e.g., design and manufacturing; export and end-of-life).

The central framework and methodology of the project is set up to be replicable for other industries and regions.

All results will be published in two main reports

Developed based on real data and industry insights, the project results are made publicly available in two reports: Market & consumer behaviour report (Q3 2024), and as key result, an industry report (Q1 2025), including:

  • Practical, step-by-step guide to assess the impact of particular circular business model options

  • Latest data on consumer behaviour on access options and device use for individual users (B2C) and in the business context (B2B)

  • Industry system map and key insights into industry dynamics and actors 

  • Unique insights into circular business model practices and actual product flows across lifetime

  • Concrete case studies from pioneering companies to make results tangible

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