Special Issue "Developing Case Studies on Circular Economy for Business and Education Purposes"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Economic and Business Aspects of Sustainability".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 30 March 2021.

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Ilaria Giannoccaro
Guest Editor
Department of Mechanics, Mathematics, and Management, Politecnico di Bari, Bari, 70125, Italy
Interests: circular economy; industrial symbiosis; sustainable supply chain; complex adaptive system; resilience
Dr. Luca Fraccascia
Guest Editor
(a) Department of Computer, Control, and Management Engineering “Antonio Ruberti”, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, 00185, Italy;
(b) Department of Industrial Engineering and Business Information Systems, University of Twente, Enschede, 7522 NB, The Netherlands
Interests: circular economy; industrial symbiosis; business models; bioenergy; agent-based modeling

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The circular economy is receiving growing attention in academia and practice as an effective way to obtain sustainable development and to overcome the linear economic model characterized by a “take–make–dispose” pattern. The circular economy is aimed at preserving natural capital by reducing the amounts of natural resources used; keeping the products and materials in use at a minimum, and eliminating wastes and negative externalities such as water, soil, and air pollution (Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2015). This is achieved by slowing (i.e., maintenance, repair, and remanufacturing) and closing (i.e., recycling) resource cycles (Bocken et al., 2017; Stahel and Reday-Mulvey, 1981) by means of multiple strategies such as recover, recycle, repurpose, remanufacturing, refurbish, repair, reuse, reduce, rethink, and refuse (Potting et al., 2017).

Contributions from a variety of stakeholders are needed in order to enable the transition towards a  circular economy. In this regard, a pivotal role is played by companies, which are called to transform their activities, production processes, and value chains according to the circular approach. Despite the great attention received by the topic in the literature, many of the works on the applications of circular economies in business settings are conceptual, aimed at developing taxonomies or typologies (Bocken et al., 2016; Centobelli et al., 2020; Lewandowski, 2016; Lüdeke-Freund et al., 2019; Fraccascia et al., 2019a).

In particular, there is a lack of case studies describing and explaining how companies can design and implement circular economy in practice (Evans et al., 2017; Fraccascia et al., 2019b). However, as this knowledge is extremely useful for managers interested in the implementation of circular economy strategies, there is an urgent need to overcome this gap by developing case studies on the circular economy.

The emergence of the circular economy paradigm is also putting pressure on the education system. It should revise its contents and develop new learning modules to provide the skills and capabilities required by the circular economic model. Case studies involving a deeper understanding of the production processes, materials used, and challenges involving a circular economy are also beneficial for this aim (Kopnina, 2018; Kirchherr and Piscicelli, 2019).

This Special Issue aims at collecting original and high-quality papers discussing case studies on the circular economy. Descriptive papers addressing circular economy business practices, business models, operations processes at the level of a single company, and industrial ecosystems are welcome. Business games illustrating the principles, theories, benefits, and barriers associated are also particularly welcome. Case studies can include all sectors, including manufacturing, distribution, and service, and can refer to single functions, single companies, supply chains, and ecosystems.

Topics of interest in this Special Issue include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Empirical cases studies on best circular economy practices (e.g., reverse logistics, industrial symbiosis, circular supply chain management, design for remanufacturing, etc.)
  • Empirical unsuccessful case studies
  • Illustrative case studies on the main circular economy principles
  • Case studies highlighting the role of drivers and barriers for a circular economy
  • Business games on circular economy
  • Teaching initiatives for circular economy
  • Circular economy projects.


  • Bocken, N.M.P., de Pauw, I., Bakker, C., van der Grinten, B., 2016. Product design and business model strategies for a circular economy. J. Ind. Prod. Eng. 33, 308–320. doi:10.1080/21681015.2016.1172124
  • Bocken, N.M.P., Ritala, P., Huotari, P., 2017. The Circular Economy: Exploring the Introduction of the Concept Among S&P 500 Firms. Ind. Ecol. 21, 487–490. doi:10.1111/jiec.12605
  • Centobelli, P., Cerchione, R., Chiaroni, D., Del Vecchio, P., Urbinati, A., 2020. Designing business models in circular economy: A systematic literature review and research agenda. Bus. Strateg. Environ. bse.2466. doi:10.1002/bse.2466
  • Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2015. Towards a Circular Economy: Business Rationale for an Accelerated Transition.
  • Evans, S., Vladimirova, D., Holgado, M., Van Fossen, K., Yang, M., Silva, E.A., Barlow, C.Y., 2017. Business Model Innovation for Sustainability: Towards a Unified Perspective for Creation of Sustainable Business Models. Strateg. Environ. 26, 597–608. doi:10.1002/bse.1939.
  • Fraccascia, L., Giannoccaro, I., Albino, V. (2019a). Business models for industrial symbiosis: A taxonomy focused on the form of governance. Resources, conservation and recycling, 146, 114-126.
  • Fraccascia, L., Giannoccaro, I., Agarwal, A., & Hansen, E. G. (2019b). Business models for the circular economy: opportunities and challenges.
  • Kirchherr, J., Piscicelli, L. (2019). Towards an education for the circular economy (ECE): five teaching principles and a case study. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 150, 104406.
  • Kopnina, H., 2019. Green-washing or best case practices? Using circular economy and Cradle to Cradle case studies in business education. Journal of Cleaner Production, 219, 613-621.
  • Lewandowski, M., 2016. Designing the Business Models for Circular Economy—Towards the Conceptual Framework. Sustainability 8, 43. doi:10.3390/su8010043
  • Lüdeke-Freund, F., Gold, S., Bocken, N.M.P., 2019. A Review and Typology of Circular Economy Business Model Patterns. J. Ind. Ecol. doi:10.1111/jiec.12763
  • Stahel, W.R., Reday-Mulvey, G., 1981. Jobs for tomorrow: The potential for substituting manpower for energy, 1st Ed. ed. Vantage Press, New York.

Prof. Dr. Ilaria Giannoccaro
Dr. Luca Fraccascia
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • Circular economy
  • Case studies
  • Best practices
  • Business models
  • Education for circular economy

Published Papers

This special issue is now open for submission.
Back to TopTop