Purchaser Guide for Circularity

April 3, 2024

Circularity is a powerful and immediate sustainable opportunity for our planet and the people who inhabit it. Circular electronic products are designed to stay in service longer, be more practical to repair and reuse, and to be easily recyclable once the product lifecycle ends. Innovative business practices to enable circular value chains and responsible end-of-life recycling and recovery systems are also integral to realizing a circular economy.

Circular products are meant to phase out linear products, or products not designed to be reusable, repairable, and recyclable. Linear product lifecycles can often be described as “take-make-waste” while circular products seek to keep materials in the value chain as long as possible. For example, while a laptop battery may have a limited useful life, the minerals and other materials in that battery can be collected and reused in new batteries or enter the value chains of other products.

Linear products and systems contribute to a variety of environmental and social problems, including:

  • Depletion of natural resources, including precious, critical and rare earth metals,
  • Accumulation of electronic waste, also known as e-waste,
  • Release of hazardous chemicals into our air, soil and water,
  • Product supply chains that contribute to the climate crisis through increased use of energy and GHG emissions,
  • Missed opportunities for jobs in product maintenance and repair, and
  • Enhanced global inequality with disadvantaged communities and countries often bearing the greatest burdens.

Purchasing circular electronic products can help purchasing organizations to:

  • Reduce costs with electronics that are easier to maintain and upgrade,
  • Reduce environmental impacts, including energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions,
  • Meet environmental and social impact goals without having to forgo the electronic tools necessary for the organization to operate,
  • Contribute to the demand for circular product manufacturing, resulting in even greater product availability in future years, and
  • Contribute to the demand for environmentally responsible repair, reuse and recycling, resulting in less raw material extraction mining and processing.

Purchasing circular electronic products presents numerous advantages for organizations that will only grow over time. GEC recommends purchasers view circularity as a high priority procurement issue.

GEC has released its Purchaser Guide for Circularity to help organizations rapidly address the issue. This guide offers purchasers circular procurement questions to ask their technology suppliers and identifies credible supporting documentation suppliers can offer in response. By offering a common set of questions and outlining common documentation for responses, this guide works to create consistency that organizations can leverage in their sustainability and circularity reporting processes.