Rethinking and redesigning a company’s business model to better integrate Circularity and Sustainability

Sustainability screening is the first step to any use of the Circular Canvas. You can however decide to go further with your students. Students can use the Circular Canvas to identify areas of improvement of existing businesses and provide recommendations on what the potential Business Model of a company could be in light of their analysis. Several of the classes we are currently working with are using the CIrcular Canvas as part of a term-long corporate project.

A group of 3-5 students chooses a small or medium-sized company it would like to work on. To put students in a real-life business setting, the exercise requires students to contact the company they will be working with.

A. Preparation

Students read the Circular Canvas PDF to get familiar with the tool prior to using it in class. At the beginning of class, the teacher should ensure students have a good understanding of how the tool can be used to assess the overall business model of the company students will be working with, and how to analyze the company’s overall impact.

Students should ensure they can easily contact and get an interview with one of the company’s top-management employees.

B. Circular Canvas A - Understanding the company’s current business model

Students should look for publicly available information to start filling in the Circular Canvas. The canvas is a roadmap which helps students grasp the key elements which form part of their company’s business model ecosystem. 

Filling in diligently the Circular Canvas is key, as the information collected will form the basis of students’ analysis. If some parts are missing, students can contact the employee they will be interviewing to fill-in the missing parts. 

Showing the first Circular Canvas to the company prior to obtaining in-depth information can be interesting, as this will show them how external people arrived at a mapping of their current business model based on publicly-available data.   

Business model

C. Competitors’ and Industry Research

After the Circular Canvas is filled, students should perform a first analysis deriving what elements of the business could be improved. Is the company’s mission aligning with its value proposition? Can the negative impact of the company be mitigated? Can the current resource mix of the company be optimized? Does the company have stable cash inflows and outflows? Could it potentially find additional revenue streams?

On top of asking themselves those questions, students should perform an industry analysis to be able to understand what are the current trends, threats and opportunities. A SWOT analysis could be a great tool to use in tandem with the circular canvas for this particular step. 

Students should also develop a competitor mapping, and be able to grasp what competitors are doing with respect to the different Circular Canvas categories. The competitor and industry analysis, combined with the information derived from filling in the Circular Canvas, will set students on the right path towards identifying areas of improvement for their company.    

D. Guided Interview

Based on the opportunities identified and the company information gathered, students then prepare an interview for their pre-arranged meeting with the company’s CEO, Corporate Sustainability Officer or Environmental Manager.

During the interview, students should explain how they performed their analysis, and then arrived at potential areas for improvement. They should ask for the employee to share with them the current areas of improvement they identified internally.