Circular procurement REBMs process



“In 10 years, circular purchasing will be the norm.”
Sandra Koolbergen, Buyer, Utrecht Province



By the end of this stage you will have:

  • Understood the need for circular procurement and how it fits the procurement strategy and wider organisational goals e.g. contributing to sustainability and a more circular economy.
  • Scoped the potential for resource efficient business models to meet your procurement needs.
    Scoped a high level specification for the procurement project.

In the public sector, procurement can help achieve multiple policy goals, notably those encouraging:

  • greater resource efficiency;
  • growth through the circular economy;
  • innovation; and
  • realising social benefits such as creating jobs.

How to guide

Step One

Understanding and defining business needs
The first stage of any procurement process is to understand and define the business needs.

Check how the procurement aligns with the relevant procurement or category strategy. Can the procurement influence the use and disposal phases?

REBus pilots have shown that circular procurement practices require the purchaser to examine how the goods and services will be used and disposed of, as well as how they are sourced.

How each procurement contributes to the organisational need is a function of the ambition of the organisation; the category of product and/or service, the size (e.g. volume and value) and the availability of resource.

Challenging the organisational need can identify opportunities for waste prevention and reducing wastage. For example, is the requirement about purchasing vehicles or enabling mobility? Do you require lighting equipment and fittings or simply light?

Step Two

Project sponsor and champion
Circular products need circular clients. As with all changes to ‘business as usual’, it is helpful to have a sponsor and a champion. Some of the REBus pilots have called them ‘intrapreneurs’.

These are people willing to:

  • challenge the way the procurement was implemented last time;
  • set the level of ambition; and
  • motivate the relevant stakeholders in the procurement process to think of better ways to fulfil the need.

Step Three

Internal collaboration
Internal collaboration is important at all stages, especially the initial scoping stage. Invite key colleagues including budget holders, procurement practitioners, policy and other relevant external stakeholders, to agree the potential scope. Engaging internal stakeholders at this early stage can support the change process where stakeholder buy-in is required.

Step Four

Developing the evidence base
Begin to develop the evidence base. Explore what evidence is available internally and externally to help inform the procurement choices.

Depending on the available time, this step will enable the procurement team to identify what alternatives to the linear model of purchase-use-dispose are potentially available to them in the current market. For larger projects e.g. construction and infrastructure, alternative methodologies for impact assessment and evaluation may be required.

This step will help identify whether re-use or refurbished items can be considered as alternatives to new items. It can also help identify the types of resource efficient business models to consider.

Step Five

Prepare a high level specification
The next step is to prepare the evidence-based high level specification that can be tested externally as well as internally, where time permits. This will articulate the level of ambition e.g. to procure more circular products and services already available on the market or to encourage the market to develop more circular products and services.



Resource efficient business models are important mechanisms in helping clients and products become more circular. Procurement needs to consider how products and services are used and disposed, as well as how they are sourced, in order to deliver the benefits of a more circular economy.

Case Study examples

Most of the REBus circular procurement case study examples are relevant to this stage, for example:

  • UMC Utrecht Medical Centre, the Netherlands
  • Rijkswaterstaat Stewards Workwear, the Netherlands
  • Rijkswaterstaat & Dutch municipalities construction works, the Netherlands

The case studies will be published on the REBus website as soon as they have been completed.