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Relations within circular business models

Research project
Active research
Project period
2020 - 2022
Project owner
Department of Business Administration, School of Business, Economics and Law

Short description

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.

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 fulfilment of Sustainable Development Goals.

Stål, H. , Bengtsson, M. , Manzhynski, S.  Making hash out of an elephant. Public private Circular business model development . Full Paper.  New Business Models (NBM) 2021, Halmstad, June 9-11

Corvellec, H., Babri., M., Stål., H.I., (Forthcoming) Putting Circular Ambitions into Action: The case of Accus, a small Swedish Sign Company. In Brandão, M., Lazarevic, D., Finnveden, G, (Eds.) Handbook of the Circular Economy. Edgar Elgar Publishing Ltd. Related link 

Babri, M., Corvellec, C., & Stål, H.I (2020) Material Affordances in the Circular Economy. Full paper. 36th European Group of Organization Studies (EGOs) 2020 Colloquium, Hamburg, July

Babri, M., Corvellec, C., & Stål, H.I. (2020) Material engagements in organizing sustainably – a politics of affordance for the Anthropocene. Extended abstract. 15th Organization Studies Workshop. Chania, Crete.

Manzhynski, S., Bengtsson, M., & Stål, H.I. (2020) Dealing with the coopetition for sustainability paradox. Short paper. 36th European Group of Organization Studies (EGOs) 2020 Colloquium, Hamburg, July

Manzhynski, S., Bengtsson, M., & Stål, H.I. (submitted) Knowledge sharing for corporate sustainability – a system dynamics approach. Full paper. 80th Academy of Management (AOM) Meeting, Vancouver, Canada

11 June 2021: New Business Models research conference (online). Herman Stål presented To cut up an elephant - Public-private circular business model development.

18 March 2021: LUCSUS Seminar: When corporations preempt environmental policies via market-based activities: The case of take-back systems at Swedish apparel retailers – with Hervé Corvellec, Department of service studies, Lund University

18 November 2020, Hervé Corvellec presented "The Circular Economy: Principle, Critics and Consequences for Services"  Departing from his research Hervé Corvellec presents key principles of the circular economy, as well as the critics that can be directed at it, insisting on service dimension and consequences.

External project members

Maira Babri Senior Lecturer, Örebro University School of Business

Hervé Corvellec Professor, Lund University