PLM and Circular Economy

Summary & Goals

The goal of the Circular Economy (CE) is simple: keep products and their component materials in use for a longer period of time before they are discarded or put into the trash. CE provides a vision that can inspire then motivate industries of all types to design and manufacture their products in smarter, far more sustainable ways. As a result, short-term living standards are not harmed by CE, as some may worry, but instead they are sustained for the long term due to reduced extraction of the planet’s finite resources with less impact on the environment.

The need for transitioning away from the current “Take, Make, and Dispose Linear Economy (LE),” which was based on thinking that evolved largely from the 17th century, has become ever more apparent in recent years. This is especially so given the projections of population growth where by 2030 the size of the global middle class will be double that of today.

Economists, scientists and politicians alike have failed to articulate a viable sustainable solution based on legacy LE thinking for how to meet the world’s ever-increasing demand for food, products, energy, mobility, and housing along with all the raw, processed, and manufactured materials required. Citing the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the leading NGO that is advocating for a CE, “We need to rethink the system as we know it.”

The implementation of CE requires a focus on minimizing waste. However, absolute waste can´t be found in nature. The concept of waste is a human construct that runs counter to the innate efficiencies of natural ecosystems. As waste does not have value – though it does have externalized risks and costs – it should be avoided. This can be accomplished by applying business models that capitalize upon reuse, life extension, repurpose and remanufacturing products and materials back into a looping regenerative cycle again and again.

“We deplete natural capital to produce manufactured capital, and then we massively underutilize that same manufactured capital for which we have paid so dearly.” – Stuchtey et al. (2016).

Product Lifecycle Management strategies typically focus on improving multidisciplinary digital collaboration across the enterprise and value chain from the ideation stage of a product concept, through its engineering design, virtual prototyping, production, maintenance and finally end of life. PLM-enabling software solutions, when correctly implemented, can enable this strategy across individual departments and global-spanning business units. Thus, the foundation created by PLM has tremendous potential to be extended past original use and deployment of a product or asset to address the needs of a circular economy. Equally important is that PLM processes can be prepended to influence design decisions at the very front end to improve downstream disassembly, repairability, upgradeability, and reusability of a product or a complete system.

With that background, the PLM Green Global Alliance theme group on the Circular Economy, led by Hannes Lindfred, aims to gather knowledge, share examples, perform research, and discuss insights on the role, potential and value of PLM strategies and solutions in supporting the Circular Economy.  In doing so, we hope to help reverse these disturbing numbers cited by the McKinsey Center for Business and Environment and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation:

  • 80% of all consumer products in Europe ends up in landfill after one use cycle
  • 30% of all produced clothes are never sold, and another 30% leaves the store with a discount
  • Packaging accounts for 40% of all plastics used globally. Since most packaging is only used once, an estimated to 100 billion dollars is lost to the economy, yearly
  • 10-15% of all material becomes waste during the construction of a new building
  • 30% of all food is wasted throughout its value chain

Theme Moderator

Hannes Lindfred, Business Development Executive

Focus & Objectives

As the Circular Economy is itself an innovation, it provides an opportunity to innovate business models and reimagine how we consider something to be a product, a service, or a product as a service. Similarly, a more circular way of thinking requires different expectations when it comes to Information Technology systems, including PLM, that support the enablement of these new business models and execution of their commercial strategies.

The reality today is that most IT systems and software supporting revolutionary products and disruptive business models are still being developed and implemented with a linear mindset. Few solution providers and system integrators have yet focused sufficiently enough to build an adequate knowledge base to execute a linear-to-circular transformation for themselves or their customers.

Accordingly, the main objective within our theme discussion group is to provide a support network for PLM professionals who seek to overcome the legacy linear economy mindset that may be systemic in their jobs, products, employers, or industries. We hope to incite the development and use of road maps for employing both existing and new PLM technologies to implement CE principles and best practices.

More specifically, we wish to focus on the role and value of PLM in addressing the four tenets of CE: Maintain, Re-use, Remanufacture, and Recycle. This will also include appreciation of their underlying elements which include the Performance Economy, Cradle-to-Cradle Design, The Industrial Ecology, Natural Capitalism and Biomimicry.

Agenda & Activities

We will be pursuing our objectives using a plan composed of elements selected from: topical discussion groups, virtual roundtables, publishing articles and blog posts, book reviews, recorded interviews, industry surveys, conference presentations, webinars, and cooperating with other organizations and alliances. To follow our progress, or better yet join us, send an email to

Announcements & Updates

Check back soon as we announce activities for 2022, or register HERE to receive our news updates.

Invitation to Participate & Collaborate

To participate in our PLM and Circular Economy discussion group, we invite you to first join the PLM Green Global Alliance LinkedIn Group at then contact our moderator Hannes Lindfred.

References & Resources

Here we have started creating a curated list of featured case studies, white papers, blog posts, presentations, webinars, and recorded interviews on the role of PLM-enabling technologies in manifesting a circular economy. We invite you to send us resources and examples you have come across in your own work, company, industry, or country to

Aras Publishes Circular Economy White Paper - The PLM solution provider Aras has announced availability of the white paper "The Circular Economy as a Model for the Future." The paper authors write "Awareness of sustainability is growing. Today’s consumers are often making an extra effort to purchase products whose suppliers produce them in an environmentally friendly way,… Continue Reading
Discussing Sustainability with PLM Solution Provider SAP - The PLM Green Global Alliance recently hosted its first in a series of panel discussions and interviews that will explore sustainability topics with enterprise PLM solution providers. These forums will extend our recent article on the Intersection of PLM and Sustainability where we next hope to learn about examples of… Continue Reading
The Circular Economy Can Help Save The Planet - From a recent World Economic Forum article "The circular economy can help save the planet if we start innovating now – Transitioning to a holistic circular economic model is critical to reducing environmental degradation and prioritizing biodiversity and nature, while also delivering on future competitiveness. In a circular economy, waste is… Continue Reading
Circular Economy Crucial to Achieving Paris Climate Goals - From a World Circular Economy Forum + Climate press release: "The circular economy is crucial to achieving the Paris climate goals - If we are to achieve the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, the world needs to transition to a circular economy. A circular economy will reduce greenhouse gas… Continue Reading
Resourcing the Energy Transition - PLM Green Alliance moderator Bjorn Fidjeland recommends reading the KPMG report on "Resourcing the energy transition: making the world go round" which explores the transition to renewable energy, a growing dependence on natural resources other than oil, and the crucial link to the circular economy. From the KPMG website "A… Continue Reading
PLM and Product Design for a Circular Economy from Infosys - In this whitepaper on "PLM and Product Design for a Circular Economy" from Infosys the authors write: "In order to achieve the building blocks of a circular economy, there are two broad initiatives that equipment suppliers should adopt for product development in its evolution to match industry needs. Product Lifecycle… Continue Reading
Low Carbon Circular Economy - This Think2030 paper on "A Low Carbon and Circular Economy" looks at the opportunities for the circular economy to reduce the EU’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with three of its most carbon-intensive sectors: the built environment, mobility, and food, and makes recommendations for policies within the 2030 time horizon… Continue Reading
From Linear to Circular - From Linear to Circular is one of Ellen MacArthur Foundations' flagship learning programmes aimed at postgraduate students and professionals at the start of their circular economy career. It is a fantastic opportunity if you want to bring greater purpose to your work or research and want to become a circular… Continue Reading
How the Circular Economy Tackles Climate Change - Completing the Picture: How the Circular Economy Tackles Climate Change - From the Ellen MacArthur Foundation "Completing the Picture highlights the indispensable role that the circular economy plays in tackling the climate crisis. It aims to demonstrate how circular economy principles and strategies significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions." Read this… Continue Reading
Rebooting PLM for a Circular Economy - "Rebooting PLM for a Circular Economy - Product lifecycle management needs a reboot. Growing concerns about sustainability, combined with recent technology advances, have driven the need to redefine product lifecycle management (PLM)."  Read more in this Forbes Council Post from Jeff Kavanaugh. Continue Reading
PLM for Sustainable Manufacturing - PLM and Sustainable Manufacturing - PLM Green Alliance theme moderator Lionel Grealou introduces the connection between PLM and Sustainable Manufacturing in his recent blog post. Continue Reading
Redefining PLM in a Circular Economy from Tata - In this whitepaper on "Redefining Product Lifecycle Management in a Circular Economy" from Tata Consultancy Services the authors write that "Companies can move to a circular economy by implementing the 5R approach (reduce, reuse, repurpose, remanufacture, and recycle). This shift will drive sustained growth, and impact how Product Lifecycle Management… Continue Reading
Circular Economy and PLM from Technia - In this article on the Circular Economy and PLM from Technia the author writes "At Technia we are looking into developing the PLM tools that will enable companies to switch to a fully circular approach...PLM systems should serve as a major help for companies looking to switch to a circular… Continue Reading
Will the Circular Economy Save the Planet? - What is the "Circular Economy" and what is its role in the production of durable consumer products? Read more in this timely article on "What is the Circular Economy" from Sierra Magazine. . Continue Reading