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The Shift to a Circular Economy: Separating Hype from Reality

Special issue call for papers from Journal of Enterprise Information Management

The Shift to a Circular Economy: Separating Hype from Reality


Do we have a dawn of a new business paradigm? It has been increasingly emphasised that our current linear economic system modelled around a “take-make-dispose” approach is unsustainable. Although the linear economic model has led to significant economic growth since the industrial revolution for over two centuries, as many researchers have pointed out (McDonough and Braungart, 2009; Stahel, 2010; Webster, 2013), this growth was pursued on the assumption of indefinite resources and non-renewable and polluting sources of energy; on the other hand, on the oblivious production of large quantities of waste. Evidence shows that anthropogenic activities are decreasing the capacity of ecosystems to deal with dramatic disruption and change (Malone et al., 2015). The conventional modus operandi and the related management tools that have supported business development thus far seem to be not effective anymore (Reeves and Deimler, 2011; Ries, 2017) as the assumptions underpinning the common business beliefs about running organisations are deeply flawed (McGrath, 2013). Value creation within a supply chain can provide the impetus for organisations to adopt a Circular Economy model (CE), for competitive reasons. Potentially, adopting CE, companies could capture value from using resources that are under pressure and are driven by prices, political and environmental factors.

Circular Economy has emerged as a viable solution and an alternative paradigm to the de facto linear approach where waste is drawn out from the system, resource use is optimised, materials flow at their highest economic value, only renewable energy is used and natural resources are constantly replenished (EMF, 2012). A circular economy instead is believed to be regenerative and restorative by design where inputs and materials are kept in economic cycles for longer at their highest value (via closed loops) and waste is designed out. Waste is actually considered as “input” for further cycles. Therefore, such an alternative economic model is sustainable in the sense that allows decoupling economic growth from resource use (EMF, 2012, 2013, 2014). A CE is an economy that thrives with diversity since it embraces a system view of our economy and by looking at nature, considers diverse systems as resilient and adaptive (EMF, 2012). CE is fast becoming an important agenda for technological, organizational and social innovation as it offers many opportunities, and will enable the world’s societies and economies to become more sustainable (Ghisellini et al., 2016; Bocken et al., 2016). With CE firmly at the peak of the hype curve, all stakeholders (public, policymakers, organisations, NGOs) must be collectively conscious that the concept delivers tangible benefits rather than empty claim of promises. Hence there are some central questions to be explored when it comes to moving towards CE:

•    How can companies begin to make this shift towards circular economy? What did they have to do to get started and what kinds of results are they seeing?
•    What are the environmental implications of circular production systems in terms of energy use, pollution, resource efficiency and waste recovered when compared to a traditional linear production paradigm?
•    What are the potential market dynamics, policy and societal implications that could arise by the implementation of circular production systems?
•    Do new technologies help or harm circular pathway for the organisations?
•    What are the implications of user/consumer behaviour in moving towards a circular economy?
•    Is the Circular Economy compatible with a context of free-market neo-liberalism? What role should be played by central, regional and local governments to favour the large-scale application of such a paradigm in the current European context?

A shift toward CE implies the engagement of the whole economic system, including all stakeholders. Specifically, businesses should generate new ideas and integrate them coherently with processes, methods, tools and solutions through a system vision. There is limited scholarly research investigating business that contributes to the implementation of CE principles at a system level per se such as Waste to Energy (WTE). WTE supply chain could be one viable circular model to solve the energy demand (Pan et al., 2015). CE business models are argued to be essential to generate energy in urban environments too (Pan et al., 2015). Due to increase in urbanisation worldwide, there is a substantial increase in energy and material consumption as well as anthropogenic waste generation. Organisations should integrate different technologies as it acts as advantage in boosting CE and improving resource use efficiency (McDonough et al., 2016). Issues such as waste to landfill, plastic waste, non-renewable energy, food production and chemical fertilisers need to be overcome (Tiwary et al., 2015). There is also a potential need to develop new CE based standard or indeed use and adapt the existing one such as International Organization for Standardization standard ISO14000/1. CE is a way forward for organisations and businesses need to play a very proactive role in it as key stakeholders (Zamfir et al., 2017).  In moving towards Circular Economy, there is a need to innovate as well as thinking about the process and strategy at all levels (Sarkis and Zhu, 2017), and furthermore to educate all stakeholders to engage at grass root levels.

CE has the ability to generate a myriad of opportunities for the betterment of our society, in spite of this, challenges and unfounded assumptions remain. As such, this special issue welcomes conceptual  or empirical in-depth research studies to help separate hype from reality surrounding the concept of circular economy by drawing on any suitable approach (quantitative, qualitative or mixed, cross-industry comparison, structured literature review papers that are quantitative in nature). Some of the indicative topics include but are not limited to the following:

•    Circular value chain Analysis
•    Collabration and formation of new stakeholder networks and partnerships
•    Customers as users and end-of-life care
•    Feasibility study on household plastic waste behaviour change
•    Incentivising consumtion and user behavioural change for a circular economy
•    International Organisational Standards for CE and their adaption
•    Mangerial andy policy implications for a circular econmy
•    New business models that advance practices of circular economy
•    Oppurtunities, Barriers and Risks of circular economy
•    Pressures on scarce resources (e.g. oil, copper, lithium, etc.) as crucial commodities for production and consumption
•    Public awareness and educating the population to engage with circular economy at grass root levels
•    Role of innovation for a movement towards circularity
•    Role of technology in enabling a circular economy approach
•    Servitization, remanufacturing and closed-loop recycling practices for a circular economy
•    Socio-economic and environmental implications of circular economy
•    The circular economy and systemic transformations of consumption
•    The circular economy as paradigm shift
•    Waste to Energy (WTE) and Food waste

Special Issue Guest Editors:

Dr Uthayasankar Sivarajah, School of Management, University of Bradford, UK

Dr Zahid Hussain, School of Management, University of Bradford, UK

Dr Manoj Dora, Brunel Business School, Brunel University London, UK

Submission format and timelines:

Papers submitted to the special issue will be subject to the Journal of Enterprise Information Management (JEIM) review process and submission guidelines. More information and instructions are available at:
Paper submissions deadline: January 2019
Complete first round of review: April 2019
Selected authors submit revision: July 2019
Complete second round of review (with accept/reject decision): October 2019
Special Issue ready for submission to JEIM: early January 2020



Bocken, N. M. de Pauw, I., Bakker, C., and van der Grinten, B. (2016). Product design and business model strategies for a circular economy. Journal of Industrial and Production Engineering, 33(5), 308-320.
Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF) (2012). Volume1: Towards the Circular Economy. An economic and business rationale for an accelerated transition. Cowes: Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
Ellen MacArthur Foundation (2013). Volume2: Towards the Circular Economy. Opportunities for the consumer goods sector. Cowes: Ellen MacArthur Foundation
Ellen MacArthur Foundation (2014). Volume3: Towards the Circular Economy. Accelerating the scale-up across global supply chain. Cowes: Ellen MacArthur Foundation
Ghisellini, P., Cialani, C. and Ulgiati, S. (2016). A review on circular economy: the expected transition to a balanced interplay of environmental and economic systems. Journal of Cleaner Production, 114, 11-32.
McDonough, W. and M. Braungart. (2009). Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things. New York: North Point Press.
McGrath, R. (2013). The End of Competitive Advantage: How to Keep Your Strategy Moving as Fast as Your Business. Harvard Business Review Press.
Pan, S.-Y., Du, M. A., Huang, I. T., Liu, I. H., Chang, E. E. and Chiang, P.-C. (2015). Strategies on implementation of waste-to-energy (WTE) supply chain for circular economy system: a review. Journal of Cleaner Production 108, Part A:409-421.
Reeves M. and Deimler, M. (2011). Adaptability: The New Competitive Advantage, Harvard Business Review, July-August 2011.
Ries, E. (2017). The Startup Way. How Entrepreneurial Management Transforms Culture and Drives Growth, 1st ed. Penguin Random HouseSarkis, J., and Zhu, Q. (2017). Environmental sustainability and production: taking the road less travelled. International Journal of Production Research, 1-17.
Stahel, W.R. (2010). The Performance Economy. 2nd Edition. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan.
Tiwary, A., Williams, I.D., Pant, D. C. and Kishore, V.V.N. (2015). Emerging perspectives on environmental burden minimisation initiatives from anaerobic digestion technologies for community scale biomass valorisation. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 42: 883-901.
Webster, K. (2013). The decline of the linear economy and the rise of the circular. A story about frameworks and systems, Chapter 1 in Webster, K., Blériot, J. and Johnson, C. (eds.) A New Dynamic: Effective Business in a Circular Economy. Cowes: Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
Zamfir, A. M., Mocanu, C. and Grigorescu, A. (2017). Circular Economy and Decision Models among European SMEs. Sustainability, 9(9):1507.