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Relations within circular business models

Research project The purpose of this 3 year project is to identify and explain the changes in relationships among value chain actors that a transition to circular business models imply.

We will explore successful, unsuccessful and ongoing attempts at closing material loops. We will also develop a freely available role-playing game to diffuse our results.

Head of project

Herman Stål
Associate professor
E-mail
Email

Project overview

Project period:

2020-01-01 2022-12-31

Participating departments and units at Umeå University

Umeå School of Business, Economics and Statistics

Research subject

Business administration

Project description

The circular economy has, in recent years, emerged as a strategy to address Sustainable Development Goals. The key idea of the model is to replace linear flows of take, make and dispose, with circular ones that close the material loop and preserve the value of goods beyond single uses. The purpose of this 3 year project is to identify and explain the changes in relationships among value chain actors that a transition to circular business models imply. Applying Actor Network Theory, we adopt an understanding of relationships that stresses not only social, but also material, dimensions, and ask: What changes does a transition towards business models aimed at closing material loops imply for the relationships among value chain actors? Why does transition imply these changes? And what are their consequences? We plan one work package with qualitative case studies of ongoing, failed and effective attempts at closing material flows (e.g., take-back systems and recycling). We also plan a second work package to develop an open-source role-playing game for practitioners to disseminate our results. Our intention is to better explain barriers to circular business models, so that entrepreneurs, managers and policy makers can anticipate and mitigate these barriers, but also to point out both positive and negative consequences that a circular future may entail for value chain actors and thereby for the fulfillment of Sustainable Development Goals.