The Guidance Tool is a 10-step process framework to implement Circular Economy and Sustainability principles in the business model. As such the framework also provides the basic structure for the modular course.

It builds on Circular Economy Readiness levels which were defined by the CircularStart consortium on the basis of the well established Technology and Market Readiness Levels (TRL, MRL). Similar to the TRLs which estimate the maturity of technologies and MRLs which describe the process for entering the market, the CERLs provide a typical process from generic (e.g. identifying a relevant circularity strategy) to specific (e.g. implementing a circularity communication strategy). Ideally the CERLs are followed in parallel to the MRLs and TRLs.

For example, if your current business idea qualifies as TRL 4, having a small scale prototype, the corresponding CERL would encourage you to analyse in parallel the circularity of your value chain. To do so, the previous the CERLs from 0 (Understand Circularity) to 3 (Define a Circular Value Proposition) provide the necessary foundation.

 Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs)
Market Readiness Levels (MRLs)Circular Economy Readiness Levels (CERLs)
Understand circularity
Basic Research Basic Research
Relate to circularity
2Technology Formulation Needs Formulation
Analyse existing circular solutions
3Technology Validation Needs Validation
Define a Circular Value Proposition
4Small Scale PrototypeSmall Scale Stakeholder CampaignAnalyse the circularity of your value chain
5Large Scale Prototype Large Scale Early Adopter Campaign
Specify the circular value chain
6Prototype System Proof of Traction
Analyse the Circularity Performance
7Demonstration SystemProof of Satisfaction
Improve and Validate the Circularity Performance
8First of a kind commercial system
Proof of Scalability
Communicate Circularity
9Full commercial applicationProof of Stability Maintain Circularity

The contents of the CircularStart online course cover all 10 steps. For this purpose the CERLs are grouped into 4 modules: Ideation, Integration, Validation and Implementation. The following table provides guiding questions which are treated in the referenced sections of the course. By browsing through the questions you can see which contents of the learning program are most relevant for you at your current development stage. However in all cases we encourage you to go through the learning program from the beginning, as the contents are designed in a progressive manner. The table also highlights certain business model elements (as defined in the commonly known Business Model Canvas, BMC) which particularly come into focus in the related course modules.

 CERLGuiding QuestionsRelated UnitsBMC focus
Course Module
0Understand circularity
Which Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) exist?
What is a Circular Economy and why do we need it?
What are the drivers and enablers of a Circular Economy?

Unit 1
Unit 2
Unit 3


go to the course
1Relate to circularity
How do Circular Economy and SDGs relate to your idea?
Other than economic value, does your activity also create environmental and societal value?

2Analyse existing circular solutions
What kind of circular business models and strategies can be distinguished?
What are the economic opportunities and financial implications?
How can the circularity and sustainability of business models be analysed and measured?
Unit 4
Unit 5
Unit 6
3Define a Circular Value Proposition
How are you able to provide circularity to your customer segments?
How can you design a Value Proposition, which includes strategies which narrow, slow, close and/or regenerate resource flows?
Unit 7
Unit 8
4Analyse the circularity of your value chain
What is a circular value chain and how can it be assessed?
With which strategies can a circular value chain be achieved?
What are the key activities making your value chain circular?
What role could reverse logistics play in your value chain?
Unit 1
Unit 2
Unit 3
Unit 4
Unit 5


go to the course
5Specify the circular value chain
How can you identify, prioritize and integrate additional stakeholders needed in order to make your value chain circular?
Unit 6
Unit 7
6Analyse the Circularity Performance
How can you identify relevant circularity and sustainability indicators?
How can you use the CircularStart Assessment Tool to measure circularity?
Unit 1
Unit 2


go to the course
7Improve and Validate the Circularity Performance
How can you continually improve and validate the circularity and sustainability performance? Unit 3
8Communicate Circularity
What are the benefits of communicating circularity?
How can you best communicate your circular approach to customers?
Which tools and standards exist for communication?
Unit 1
Unit 2


go to the course
9Maintain Circularity
How can you maintain, monitor and improve the circularity efforts over time?
Unit 3
Unit 4