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Test Step 4

Step 4 Improvement

How can the company reflect the experience gained with TEST in its business strategies and day-to-day operations?


This step outlines the actions a company can take to continually improve its performance through RECP and to expand the scope of TEST with follow-up activities focused on eco-innovation and sustainable development.

With the concept of Plan-Do-Check-Act as its foundation, the TEST approach provides an iterative process to achieve continuous improvement. The completion of all TEST steps secures long-term benefits for the organization in terms of resource efficiency and integrated environmental performance management.

When the company management reviews the results from the previous step of performance evaluation, it can take decisions to consolidate and sustain the TEST experience. This is likely to impact its business model, leading to changes in its core values and strategies regarding sustainable development. This is the ultimate goal of the TEST approach.

The major drivers of this process are stakeholder expectations, both internal and external. An enterprise can increase its economic value by reflecting these expectations at all levels of the management pyramid (from enterprise values, policies and goals, through operational strategies and procedures, to processes and products).

Opportunities for developing partnerships with stakeholders along the supply chain, rethinking the business model toward a more circular one, for implementing a full-scale EMS/EnMS and having it certified, and improving the product life cycle are all actions a company could pursue within the framework of continuous improvement.

While many opportunities for green and circular business models link product design and manufacturing to value chain management , companies (in particular SMEs) may be better able to introduce improvements in their internal production processes first rather than at the value chain level. The latter would require more complex analysis and greater capacity to cooperate with other organizations in the value chain. For this reason, it is best to begin with the TEST approach focusing on production processes. This brings the company not only direct environmental benefits and increased income, but also new skills and new arguments to use in the framing of cooperation with stakeholders along the value chain.

Every company is connected to the other entities in the value chains through flows of materials, energy and water, which are turned into product and non-product outputs. These are the focus of the TEST approach’s detailed analysis. Companies can then use the information they have gathered about these flows to calculate the environmental footprint of their products and undergo a simple life cycle analysis (see step 1.2 of TEST). More often than not, companies are surprised by how much information they have gathered by the end of the first TEST cycle on the impacts of their products over the whole of their life cycle as well as on the opportunities for improving these impacts.

Linkages between product design and manufacturing to value chain management within the circular economy business model


  • Company vision, strategy and management systems
  • Management review
  • Stakeholders expectations
  • Top management reviews the company’s business vision, strategy and management systems, linking them to the results of the TEST experience, aligning to sustainable development goals and new Eco innovative business models.
  • Analyze and adopt possible changes to assumptions, values, policies and strategies driving the business.
  • Take corrective actions to ensure improvement of performance.
  • Discuss possibility of launching a second cycle of TEST by repeating the application on other business units, material/energy flows, setting up new smart objectives, and generating more RECP options and new action plan (steps 1.4 – 1.8).
  • Complete stakeholders mapping and material analysis Initiate dialogue with stakeholders for building partnerships for new circular models.
  • Integration of TEST approach into the enterprise’s strategy, operations and management systems, as well as adoption of new eco innovative models responding to emerging needs in the business environment.
  • Corrective actions are taken for ensuring improvements.
  • Continuous learning leading to continuous improvement of enterprise performance (e.g. identification of new improvement opportunities).
  • Replication of TEST is started in other areas of the company. The design of fully-fledged EMS/EnMS systems for possible certification is completed, building on the core elements already in place.
  • Kick-off of new projects related to LCA and/or product design.
  • Introduction of CSR guidelines from ISO 26000 in support of the adoption of sustainable development codes of conduct.


  • Top management and middle management engagement are required to effectively complete this step of TEST. They are necessary for a proper evaluation, reflection and decision making on new actions for continuous improvement.
  • Top management normally takes decisions at the end of this step on follow-up opportunities for continuing with the full implementation and certification of a management system (the groundwork was laid during the first TEST cycle) and/or the use of other tools for sustainable production.
  • The importance of internal and external stakeholders in determining the success of a company in today’s business environment is growing. Analyzing the materiality aspects from both a company management and a stakeholder perspective (materiality analysis) can reveal important gaps and opportunities for expanding TEST to CSR and circular business opportunities.
  • Implementing new, advanced sustainable production tools requires professional skills that are usually not available in a company. Specialized external assistance can guide the company smoothly through the implementation process and ultimately make the whole process more cost effective.