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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: closed (31 August 2021).

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Ilaria Giannoccaro
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Mechanics, Mathematics, and Management, Politecnico di Bari, 70125 Bari, Italy
Interests: circular economy; industrial symbiosis; sustainable supply chain; complex adaptive system; resilience
Dr. Luca Fraccascia
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
1. Department of Computer, Control, and Management Engineering “Antonio Ruberti”, Sapienza University of Rome, 00185 Rome, Italy
2. Department of Industrial Engineering and Business Information Systems, University of Twente, 7522 NB Enschede, 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.

References

  • 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 2000 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.

Keywords

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

Published Papers (4 papers)

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Research

Article
Toward a Circular Economy in the Toy Industry: The Business Model of a Romanian Company
Sustainability 2022, 14(1), 22; https://doi.org/10.3390/su14010022 - 21 Dec 2021
Viewed by 480
Abstract
Nowadays, more and more business organizations are encouraged to find ways to produce high-quality products that are offered to users for their temporary enjoyment and then redistributed or sent to the next user pending. This is done without being conditioned to believe that [...] Read more.
Nowadays, more and more business organizations are encouraged to find ways to produce high-quality products that are offered to users for their temporary enjoyment and then redistributed or sent to the next user pending. This is done without being conditioned to believe that we need to own something, use it for certain functions for a limited amount of time, and then throw it away. Toys are a perfect candidate for this approach. Given the lack of case studies explaining how companies can design and implement a circular economy in practice, especially in the toy industry, this study aimed to develop a case study based on Evertoys, a start-up operating in Romania, which is a country where the circular economy is only in an infancy phase. This study’s objective was to analyze this business model from the circular economy perspective. Regarding the methodology, the work followed the research strategy of the case study, which was developed by analyzing the opportunities and challenges of this toy-as-a-service model and taking into consideration the components of the Business Model Canvas. Our findings indicated the presence of driving factors, as well as barriers, in the implementation of circular economy practices. Full article
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Article
Circular Economy Business Models for the Tanzanian Coffee Sector: A Teaching Case Study
Sustainability 2021, 13(24), 13931; https://doi.org/10.3390/su132413931 - 16 Dec 2021
Viewed by 531
Abstract
One of the major issues the agri-food supply chains is the considerable production of by-products, which are mostly discarded as wastes and dangerously landfilled. This problem is particularly acute in the coffee supply chain: coffee cultivation generates by-products and in quantities which are [...] Read more.
One of the major issues the agri-food supply chains is the considerable production of by-products, which are mostly discarded as wastes and dangerously landfilled. This problem is particularly acute in the coffee supply chain: coffee cultivation generates by-products and in quantities which are potentially dangerous for the environment. A circular economy business model aimed at the recovery of these by-products may represent an interesting solution in terms of environmental, social, and economic sustainability. The goal of this paper was to provide teachers and educators with case material on circular business models that can be used for problem-based learning and case-based learning activities. The proposed case was built to address a real-world problematic situation related to the coffee supply chain. From a theoretical point of view, this study contributes to the literature on circular economy business models by providing a case study developed in the context of a developing country. Furthermore, the research entails practical implications since it shows managers and startuppers how to map a circular business model in all its components under the guidance of a conceptual framework. Full article
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Article
Features of the Higher Education for the Circular Economy: The Case of Italy
Sustainability 2021, 13(20), 11338; https://doi.org/10.3390/su132011338 - 14 Oct 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 421
Abstract
The higher education system plays a critical role in supporting the transition towards a circular economy (CE). It helps create business leaders and policymakers having appropriate skills, competences, and consciousness referring to the CE challenges. Nevertheless, few studies have specifically investigated how the [...] Read more.
The higher education system plays a critical role in supporting the transition towards a circular economy (CE). It helps create business leaders and policymakers having appropriate skills, competences, and consciousness referring to the CE challenges. Nevertheless, few studies have specifically investigated how the higher education system is addressing the CE, how the current academic offering is integrating the CE principles, and which skills and competences are currently provided. This paper overcomes these limitations by investigating the current offering of the higher education for the CE in Italy. We analyze the academic programs, courses, and modules at different levels of 49 Italian universities and, by means of a detailed classification of the learning outcomes, provide a clear picture of the knowledge, skills, and competences offered by the CE education. We finally discuss implications of our findings concerning the development of CE education and CE jobs. Full article
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Article
Recycling Technology Innovation as a Source of Competitive Advantage: The Sustainable and Circular Business Model of a Bicentennial Company
Sustainability 2021, 13(14), 7723; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13147723 - 10 Jul 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1269
Abstract
La Farga Yourcoppersolutions is a bicentennial Catalan company that manufactures semi-finished copper products. As copper is a 100% recyclable material, much of the sector’s production comes from secondary copper, scrap, not from mined copper. In the case of La Farga, not only a [...] Read more.
La Farga Yourcoppersolutions is a bicentennial Catalan company that manufactures semi-finished copper products. As copper is a 100% recyclable material, much of the sector’s production comes from secondary copper, scrap, not from mined copper. In the case of La Farga, not only a good part of its output comes from recycled copper, but it is also a world leader in copper-recycling technology. The objective of the paper is to describe La Farga’s business model from the point of view of sustainability and the circular economy. What have been the causes and effects of recycling on the business model? Regarding the methodology, the work follows the research strategy of the case study. Both qualitative and quantitative data were collected from a variety of primary and secondary sources. Economic, social and environmental sustainability of the firm was assessed through financial and non-financial indicators; value-added generation and distribution were calculated from accounting data; and the circular business model was analysed via a thematic analysis: its components, innovation, enablers and barriers. Results show that the presence of barriers forces the implementation of circularity to be gradual and to combine linear and circular models to maintain competitiveness. Full article
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