The concept of circular economy (CE) has recently gained momentum in the political, scientific, and economic debate, especially in China and Europe. As a result, organizations and scholars have started to establish different sets of principles for its adoption. For this reason, it is important to identify and assess the differences and similarities among existing sets of CE principles, and how organizations and individuals understand and translate them into practice. In this paper, we firstly present a brief review and analysis of the coherence among six existing sets of principles. Our analysis finds that, despite the mixed degree of coherence, all sets describe the necessity to implement CE principles at all levels of a company. We then present the results of an in-depth qualitative survey that investigates how 19 key informants representing small, medium, and multinational companies based in China understand and carry out the CE principles laid out by the BSI standard BS 8001:2017; how these principles can transform the culture and processes of these companies; and what are the opportunities and threats that such transformation can bring. Results describe a good awareness and knowledge of the CE principles and an optimistic outlook concerning their adoption. At the same time, numerous barriers and threats that the implementation of these principles might entail are presented. Overall, respondents confirm the complexity of implementing the principles of the CE in an integrated and consistent way in the management and strategies of Chinese companies and highlight the challenges that might arise during their implementation.
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