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Sustainability 2018, 10(7), 2129;

The Socio-Economic Embeddedness of the Circular Economy: An Integrative Framework

HERUS Laboratory for Human-Environment Relations in Urban Systems, ENAC School of Architecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering, EPFL Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne, GR C1 455 (Bâtiment GR)—Station 2, CH-1015 Lausanne, Switzerland
IPD Integrated Product Development, ITM School of Industrial Engineering and Management, KTH Royal Institute of Technology Stockholm, Brinellvägen 83, 100 44 Stockholm, Sweden
IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute, Valhallavägen 81, 114 27 Stockholm, Sweden
The International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics (IIIEE), Lund University, Tegnérsplatsen 4, 22 100 Lund, Sweden
Ecoloop AB, 116 46 Stockholm, Sweden
Department of Sustainable Development, Environmental Science and Engineering (SEED), School of Architecture and the Built Environment, KTH Royal Institute of Technology Stockholm, Teknikringen 10B, 100 44 Stockholm, Sweden
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 16 May 2018 / Revised: 14 June 2018 / Accepted: 18 June 2018 / Published: 22 June 2018
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Global economies have been characterised by a large dependency of material inflows from natural stocks, an exponential growth of material stock-in-use in the built environment, and the extensive disposal of waste material outflows to anthropogenic sinks. In this context, the concept of the circular economy has emerged, promising to circulate the stock-in-use of materials and transforming output waste material flows back into useful resources while promoting job and value creation. These promises have drawn the attention and interest of policymakers and industry, and gained popularity across society. Despite its apparent emergent legitimacy and diffusion, a few essential adjustments still need to be addressed so that circular economy initiatives can actually deliver on their promises without leading to negative unintended effects. First, a complete entanglement with the existing formal economy is fundamentally needed; this implies valuing the preservation of natural stocks and pricing material input flows adequately. Secondly, a recognition of its socio-economic embeddedness is essentially necessary. The decision-making of societal actors affects material configuration, which in turn affects societal actors; this important feedback loop needs to be explicitly taken into account in circular economy initiatives. The aim of this short communication paper is to explore these pervasive challenges in a broad context of sustainable physical resource management. An integrative framework for recognising the socio-economic embeddedness of the circular economy in practice and the role of the formal economic system in realising its ambitions is proposed. View Full-Text
Keywords: circular economy; stocks and flows; socio-economic embeddedness; sustainable physical resource management; integrative framework circular economy; stocks and flows; socio-economic embeddedness; sustainable physical resource management; integrative framework

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Laurenti, R.; Singh, J.; Frostell, B.; Sinha, R.; Binder, C.R. The Socio-Economic Embeddedness of the Circular Economy: An Integrative Framework. Sustainability 2018, 10, 2129.

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