Formulate ambitions & call for proposal

To ensure successful circular procurement project it is important that the cooperating parties have matching ambitions. The starting point is a clear definition of your own ambition for the procurement project. This also includes an assessment of your specific needs: what are you really hoping to achieve? For example, do you need new office chairs or good office chairs (that need not necessarily be new)? Or, do you need lamps or do you need lighting? Thinking in terms of the deeper needs of an organisation reveals more opportunities for circular solutions.

Circular ambition and strategies

High performance with regard to the circular economy starts with defining a clear ambition for your procurement project. Build on the ambitions and policies of your organisation and refine them for the product group you are procuring. For instance, are you aiming to reduce the use of raw materials, or do you want to maximise the value of residual flows?

CircularIQ has developed a model to support this process. This model – illustrated in the figure below – represents five possible circular objectives for procurement projects (A to E). A choice for one or more objectives leads to various possible strategies (for example A1 to A5). Find an objective and a strategy that fits the product group you want to procure. On the basis of these objectives you can measure the impact of your procurement once the contract has been awarded.

Five possible circular objectives, including possible related strategies, as defined by CircularIQ. Source: CircularIQ (2018)

Five possible circular objectives, including possible related strategies, as defined by CircularIQ. Source: CircularIQ (2018)

Functional vs. technical specifications

A lot of calls for proposal are mainly based on technical specifications with the client dictating the required product specifications. If you want to make your specifications more functional, you must begin by thoroughly exploring the deeper needs of your organisation. The use of functional specifications opens up opportunities to reach innovative and often more circular solutions. These innovative solutions were not prescribed but they do better fit the client's needs.

For example, in your search for a healthy office environment you can either opt for a technical specification (“an office of 2,500 m2 with measures X, Y and Z”) or use a functional specification (“a healthy working environment for 500 employees”). Functional specifications allow contractors to include the most recent developments and use their own creativity to fulfil the client's needs.


  • Formulate a circular ambition that fits both the product group and the policies of your organisation.
  • At the start of the procurement project determine the deeper needs of your organisation instead of the derived product request.
  • Functional specifications better fulfil the needs and at the same time allow you to take advantage of the market's knowledge and innovative potential.
  • Functional specifications are not sacrosanct! When dealing with an immature market or a simple product, technical specifications with due regard for circularity may provide the necessary guidance for market players.

Inspiring examples

Background information

Suggestions and/or additions?