ProCirc project: grand ambitions more than fulfilled!

Published on: 27 February 2024, 10:00 hrs - Latest update: 27 February 2024, 10:20 hrs

The purpose of the Interreg North Sea Region ProCirc project was to develop knowledge and understanding of how circular procurement can contribute to a reduction in the use of raw materials, waste and CO2 emissions in various sectors.

Throughout the project, more than 30 circular-procurement pilot projects were initiated in a range of sectors, including initially construction, IT and office furniture.

The project spanned 4.5 years, during which 11 organisations from 6 countries were jointly able to acquire substantial experience. Lyke Bosma, senior consultant at Rijkswaterstaat's Bureau Brussel has taken the role of project manager upon herself for the ProCirc project.

Could you tell us about the ProCirc project, and the role you played in it?

Bosma explains: 'the ProCirc project highlighted promotion of circular procurement in a wide range of organisations. We wanted to give buyers the opportunity to learn about and experiment with circular procurement practices. As project manager, I was responsible for coordinating this initiative, and I ensured that those involved were on the same wavelength.'

What were the biggest challenges during this project?

'One of the biggest challenges, without doubt, was the impact of COVID-19. It forced a considerable change in our plans, not least because we had planned many face-to-face workshops, which we had to convert into digital work sessions. Switching to an on-line environment revealed itself to be a highly successful format during the project, as many buyers have packed appointments diaries. 

'It was also interesting to see how committed the buyers were; I noticed that everyone was really motivated.'

What successes have you achieved with the ProCirc project?

'The biggest success story was the dedication and commitment of all partners throughout the project. Despite the challenging circumstances, we even managed to achieve more than initially promised, clocking up 32 pilot projects. It was really great to watch the process unfold.'

Why was it so important to monitor the impact during the ProCirc project?

'Monitoring was an important aspect of the programme; we didn't merely want to give circular procurement a boost, we also wanted to measure the impact it had on CO2 emissions, waste reduction and materials use. It offered insights into our progress and showed where there was room for improvement.'

Which challenges came to the fore when the impact was monitored, and how did you go about tackling them?

'Obtaining standardised data, particularly in complex supply chains and with framework contracts, proved a challenge, so we had to make assumptions and estimates. We worked together with the pilot projects to create awareness, gather more data and develop methods that made it possible to measure the impact of circular procurement as accurately as possible.'

The development of new business models is another aspect of the project. What did you learn about that?

'My colleague Monica Sánchez Groeneweg dealt with this. We looked into the question of how you can 'put circular procurement out to tender in the market'. One important lesson that we learnt is that we don't all speak the same language.' 

'This may lead to a situation in which companies fail to submit tenders for projects, or don't stand out to buyers, although they would be a good fit. So, to bring the 2 worlds closer together we developed a step-by-step plan.'

What was the most significant lesson that you learnt during this project?

'One important lesson was that circular procurement isn't the sole responsibility of the buyer. It needs an organisation-wide approach, rather than just being a matter for the procurement department. In the case of procurement of pushchairs, for instance, we saw that we needed to make internal changes so that we could act in a more circular way.' 

'The way that the organisation responded to that was a real textbook example. Read more about this pilot project here.'

What form do you see circular procurement taking in light of the ProCirc project?

'Although the project has been completed, its impact continues to resound, even after the pilot phase. The ProCirc project has given us valuable lessons and insights that can be used as a guideline for future initiatives in this field.'

Do you want to learn more about the project results?

'The experiences have been translated into recommendations and guidelines, while tools and methodologies have been developed and we have built up solid transnational networks. 2 'Joint Statements of Demand' (JSDs) have been launched to emphasise the impact of the project on the formation of a more circular economy.'

'A draft version of a 3rd JSD has been scheduled for publication. We have also drawn attention to inclusion of the value chain, which is why we have developed circular business model route maps for SMEs and large-scale businesses,' concludes Bosma.

Ready to get started yourself?

Check our step-by-step plan.

ProCirc is an Interreg North Sea Region project, funded by the European Union.