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Published: 18 May, 2021

RiseB thesis prize is awarded to students at Lund University

NEWS RiseB’s annual thesis prize in sustainability and business ethics is awarded to Olivia Johnsson & Annique Snel, School of Economics and Management, Lund University. They receive the scholarship worth 25000 SEK for the MSc thesis: “The Incompatibility of Two Systems. A qualitative study on incumbent firms and small entrepreneurial companies’ attempt to transition from a linear to a circular economic system”. This is the second consecutive year that the prize goes to students from Lund University.

Text: Maxim Vlasov

This year was marked with a record-high number and quality of nominations, which made the jury’s task very challenging. RiseB received nominations from 15 different institutions with business and economics education all around the country.

The winning thesis

The winning thesis demonstrates high theoretical and practical relevance by offering a nuanced and critical analysis on the role of businesses in transitioning to a circular economy. The authors conducted a comparative study of an incumbent firm and small entrepreneurial companies in the furniture and related industries. The study reveals that the adoption of circular business models by these firms is full of conflicts between the traditional business thinking and the logics of circularity and regeneration.

-We both have had a passion for the subject for a while now, and knowing that our efforts are valued this way makes us feel very proud. This encourages us to continue applying nuanced, but critical thinking in our future endeavours, as winning this prize shows that it is appreciated and much needed in order to advance the sustainability agenda. 

The thesis contributes to a better understanding of mental and institutional barriers faced by individual circular initiatives that still have to operate by the rules of the current economic system. Johnsson and Snel conclude that transition to a circular economy cannot be driven by companies alone, and that there is a need for systemic change on the level of governments, consumers and financial institutes. With its originality, academic quality and rigour, the thesis broadens the debate on circular economy and on the different kinds of future it can create.

-We came in contact with the circular economy when we went on inspirational evening seminars in Lund. The critical perspective grew during the process, as we interviewed people and read more and more about this novel idea. Following the course ‘Reimagining-capitalism’, taught by our supervisor Ester Barinaga, gave us the confidence to think outside of the box and to challenge the status quo.

Thesis supervisor: Ester Barinaga, Professor (Lund University)

Thesis can be accessed and downloaded at LUP Student Papers

Honourable mention

The jury also gives honourable mention to the second and third place runner-ups: Erica Damsten and Lee Hasselgren (Umeå School of Business, Economics and Statistics) and to Jana Shawkat (Södertörn University) for their high-quality theses. 

Important collaboration

The prize, which is handed out as a scholarship worth 25000 SEK, has been made financially possible through RiseB´s collaboration with Umeå Energi.

- Umeå energi wants to be a positive force in sustainable development of the Umeå region. With this scholarship, we want to encourage students in business administration to deeply engage in sustainability.

The jury

RiseB expresses sincere gratitude to this year’s jury that consisted of Herman Stål (University of Gothenburg), Maria Ehrnström-Fuentes (Hanken School of Economics) and Susanne Arvidsson (Lund University).

Read more about the thesis prize and the criteria underpinning the jury’s decision at RiseB’s homepage. The nomination of theses written in 2021 opens this autumn.