Life Cycle Thinking and Circular Systems

Our approach to sustainability is embedded in life cycle thinking, circular systems, and simultaneous global and local perspectives that encompass environmental, social, and economic value. We work with organizations to broaden the scope of their sustainability efforts to a holistic view of their role in moving towards a world where all living things flourish. We seek to understand where organizations are in their understanding of sustainability and how to best move forward.


Conventional views of sustainability are as a set of attributes—Does a product have recycled content? Is it recyclable? Is it over-packaged? Does it have any safety issues? We educate, encourage, and persuade leadership and organizational influencers to see beyond attributes to a view of an entire life cycle and to embrace the potential for a prosperous world that maintains the health of our planet’s ecosystems. 

Applied to products, life cycle thinking asks us to understand products and services from the origins of raw materials to the end of useful life. In doing so, BWE seeks to understand the environmental and social ramifications of inputs and outputs at every stage of the life cycle:


  • Resources from the earth including air, water, minerals, ores, fossil fuels, biologicals, and more

  • Materials such as chemical intermediates and products, refined metals, and synthesized bio-based substances

  • Energy including electricity and thermal and raw materials that embody that energy



  • Products and by-products

  • Unwanted emissions and wastes

  • Long lived substances that may have hazardous or toxic characteristics


We use a variety of tools further analyze inputs and outputs to evaluate consequences such as human and eco-toxicity and climate change. We organize this information by life cycle stages to gain insight into opportunities for improving a product’s sustainability performance. 


Complementing BWE’s life cycle perspective, is our strong belief in the value of creating and maintaining products and materials within circular systems. We have extensive experience with designing, building, and evaluating circular systems for products that include apparel, footwear, electronics, and packaging. These systems include:

  • Design for long life, repair, refurbishment, remanufacture, and recovery of materials

  • Systems for repair, recommerce, and material recovery and recycling

  • Analysis of the environmental and social benefits and costs of circular systems

  • Circular system program development and implementation


This calls for new thinking and innovations in the systems that we currently take as givens. Supply chains have developed to deliver raw materials to manufacturing sites and final products to customers who use them and typically discard them at the end of their useful product lifetime. We need to develop the infrastructure that maintains the value of products useful life and recovers materials to be used again and again without the burdens associated with virgin material production. BWE is committed to helping companies build an innovative infrastructure and the products that will define a circular economy.