Circular economy: working and learning together

25 August 2020 - Published by Eric Boessenkool
Meet Joan Prummel, Strategic Advisor for International Circular Development for the Dutch Rijkswaterstaat (RWS). Joan is involved with ProCirc from the start and together with different colleagues he transformed some basic ideas about circular development and procurement to a solid project proposal. In this article he talks about his ambitions for the ProCirc project and his ideas about the future of circular procurement and circular economy.

My name is Joan Prummel and I work for the Dutch Rijkswaterstaat as Strategic Advisor for International Circular Development. Together with international colleagues we support and guide public and private organisations in Europe and beyond to set their ambitions, policies and operations, aiming at a more circular organisation by implementing circular economy, often using procurement as a strategic instrument to influence the market and the value chain. I have been stimulating circular economy for over ten years now, setting up experiments and developing and sharing the insights that come from these. Procurement appeared to be a very powerful and relatively easy to use instrument that every organisation can use.


I am involved with ProCirc from the start, together with my colleague Cuno van Geet and Sofia Aivalioti and Jesse Renema (Bax&Company) we transformed some basic ideas about circular development and procurement to the a solid project proposal. My main intention was to create a project that would demonstrate some of our 'big ideas': circular procurement is about learning through practical experience; learning in peer networks is more effective and faster; procurement is a strong lever for circular economy; circular procurement creates real impact. I think we managed to put these ideas in the project setup.

Chaperone for the future

Challenging in ProCirc, and in any other project, is how to share and disseminate the knowledge, tools and experiences we gain with future audiences. As long as the project runs people will know how to find us and we will share through workshops and presentations. But when a project ends the outcomes will only be saved on the website and with the participants. We need to somehow make sure that the ProCirc outcomes will remain available. That's why I introduced the idea of an international circular procurement platform or network. We want to set up an umbrella-like platform to keep outcomes of temporary projects and learning networks available and findable. That will ensure the safekeeping of our precious findings and tools for future use and improvement. It will also help future projects and initiatives to start where others left off, instead of starting from scratch over and over again. A platform like this will make an inventory of what has been done (the common start of most projects) much easier and more complete. The working title of the platform is C-PRONE, acronym for Circular Procurement Network and it can be pronounced as 'chaperone' which in many languages means something like friendly and supportive companion.

Impact and opportunity

The impact of ProCirc is also very concrete and specific. We aim to reduce raw materials, waste and CO2 emissions. Every circular purchase in the ProCirc pilots contributes to these aims and creates real circular impact. Every awarded supplier works from a circular business case and will make money in a (more) circular way. The impact of circular procurement on circular economy is direct and one-on-one and so is the impact of ProCirc.

A project like ProCirc will also have impact in other ways. The project impacts the participants for instance. The ideas and outcomes will, can and should change the way we procure and the way we look at our organisations. The big opportunity is that we learn to understand that circular procurement is not about procurement but about circular economy. Procurement is a lever to initiate systemic change towards circularity. Collaborating in ProCirc teaches us how to implement circularity on a broader scale in everything we do.

And last but not least the impact is also personal, we work and learn together for a couple of years, share and discuss brilliant and less brilliant ideas, we get to know each other and appreciate each others company. Every international project is the promise of opportunities. Opportunity to learn, opportunity to create impact and opportunity to meet new people. That's why I always look forward to start a new project: I'll make new friends!


 Joan Prummel's LinkedIn


Photo by Clinton Martel on Unsplash