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Special Issue "Circular Economy, Innovation and Quality Infrastructure"

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 May 2022) | Viewed by 14134

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Knut Blind
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Chair of Innovation Economics, Faculty of Economics and Management, Technische Universität Berlin, Strasse des 17. Juni 135, 10623 Berlin, Germany
Interests: standardization, regulation, economics of innovation, innovation policy, sustainability
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals
Dr. Simone Wurster
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Innovation Economics, Faculty of Economics and Management, Technische Universität Berlin, Strasse des 17. Juni 135, 10623 Berlin, Germany
Interests: innovation, sustainability, circular economy, bio-based economy, acceptance and diffusion of innovation, business models, strategic standardisation
Prof. Dr. Rainer Walz
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Fraunhofer ISI, Breslauer Straße 48, 76139 Karlsruhe, Germany and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Karlsruhe, Germany
Interests: sustainability innovations, transition research, green economy, sustainability scenarios, policy instruments
Dr. Katrin Ostertag
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Fraunhofer-Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI, Breslauer Straße 48, 76139 Karlsruhe, Germany
Interests: sustainability transitions, circular economy, barriers and drivers of innovation processes, impact assessment wrt Sustainable Development Goals
Prof. Dr. Henning Friege
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
1. N³ Nachhaltigkeitsberatung Dr. Friege & Partner, Scholtenbusch 11 , D-46562 Voerde, Germany
2. Honorary Professor for Sustainability Sciences, Leuphana Universität Lüneburg, Universitätsallee 1, D-21335 Lüneburg, Germany
Interests: resources and waste management; life cycle management of chemicals and materials; especially hazardous compounds and scarce resources; cross-sectorial energy supply; indicators for sustainable management; international chemical policy

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The transition to the circular economy (CE) is an emerging global phenomenon in the sustainability context. The CE is defined as an economic system in which “the value of products and materials is maintained for as long as possible; waste and resource use are minimized, and resources are kept within the economy when a product has reached the end of its life, to be used again and again to create further value” (European Commission). The CE is linked with a paradigm shift in modern societies from old linear production systems and consumption towards sustainable, ideally zero-waste production and consumption processes. The success of the CE will rely on innovation in traditional sectors as well as new business models. User acceptance as well as appropriate quality infrastructure including standards, certification, and regulation to provide an appropriate playing field for all stakeholders are important pillars of the new paradigm.

Based on a clearly articulated demand in the research community, we call for papers for this Special Issue on the circular economy, innovation, and quality infrastructure.

Selected literature

European Commission. Circular Economy. Available online: https://ec.europa.eu/growth/industry/sustainability/circular-economy_en

Ghisellini, P.; Cialani, C.; Ulgiati, S.2016. A review on circular economy: the expected transition to a balanced interplay on environmental and economic systems. J. Clean. Prod. 114: 11-32.

Kirchherr, J., Piscicelli, L.; Bour, R.; Kostense-Smit, E.; Muller, J.; Huibrechtse Truijens, A.; Hekkert, M. 2018. Barriers to the circular economy: evidence from the European Union (EU). Ecological Economics 150: 264-272.

Blind, K., and Kahin, B. 2017. Standards and the Global Economy. In J. Contreras (Ed.), The Cambridge Handbook of Technical Standardization Law: Competition, Antitrust, and Patents (pp. 7-16). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Blind, K. 2012. The influence of regulations on innovation: A quantitative assessment for OECD countries. Res. Policy: 41, 391–400.

Bocken NMP, Pauw I de, Bakker C et al. 2016. Product design and business model strategies for a circular economy. Journal of Industrial and Production Engineering 33(5):

Camacho-Otero, J.; Boks, C.; Pettersen, I. 2018. Consumption in the Circular Economy: A Literature Review. Sustainability 10, 2758.

Luchs, M.G.; Kumar, M. 2017. Yes, but this Other One Looks Better/Works Better: How do Consumers Respond to Trade-offs Between Sustainability and Other Valued Attributes? J. Bus. Ethics: 140, 567–584.

Russo, I.; Confente, I.; Scarpi, D.; Hazen, B.T. 2019. From trash to treasure: The impact of consumer perception of bio-waste products in closed-loop supply chains. J. Clean. Prod.: 218, 966–974.

Tarne, P.; Traverso, M.; Finkbeiner, M. 2017. Review of Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment and Potential for Its Adoption at an Automotive Company. Sustainability: 9, 670.

Prof. Dr. Knut Blind
Dr. Simone Wurster
Prof. Dr. Rainer Walz
Dr. Katrin Ostertag
Prof. Dr. Henning Friege
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 submissions that pass pre-check are 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

  • The role of standards, labels, certification, and regulation in the circular economy
  • Sustainability characteristics of circular economy products
  • User perspective, acceptance, and the role of crowds in the circular economy
  • Business models
  • Circular economy and entrepreneurship
  • Circular economy and the role of information technology, including blockchain
  • Circular economy in the automotive sector, including electromobility
  • Circular economy in the building sector
  • Circular economy and electronic products
  • Circular economy in the fields of fabrics and clothing
  • Bio-based products and the circular economy
  • Circular economy in the agricultural and food sector
  • Success factors for industrial symbioses

Published Papers (10 papers)

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Research

Article
Triple-C: A Tridimensional Sustainability-Oriented Indicator for Assessing Product Circularity in Public Procurement
Sustainability 2022, 14(21), 13936; https://doi.org/10.3390/su142113936 - 26 Oct 2022
Viewed by 354
Abstract
Various microlevel circular economy indicators for assessing sustainability and, partly, additional sustainability characteristics have been developed, but an integrated solution considering the environmental, social, and economic pillars remains a research gap. Method: Based on a multimethod approach, including surveys and the analysis of [...] Read more.
Various microlevel circular economy indicators for assessing sustainability and, partly, additional sustainability characteristics have been developed, but an integrated solution considering the environmental, social, and economic pillars remains a research gap. Method: Based on a multimethod approach, including surveys and the analysis of existing sustainability assessment methodologies and standards, this paper proposes a concept for a multidimensional circular economy indicator tailored to public procurers. It relies on attractive existing building blocks including: (1) the ecological scarcity method, (2) European and international sustainability standards and indicators, and (3) the STAR-ProBio-IAT concept. Results: This article presents the concept of the composite indicator Triple-C, consisting of 20 elements and aimed at facilitating sustainable circular public procurement. It is intended to be incorporated into software that facilitates sustainable product decisions among public procurers in Germany. Conclusions: We propose a generic indicator concept covering all three (environmental, social, and economic) sustainability pillars. More research and additional standards are needed to develop the Triple-C concept further into product-specific applications. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Circular Economy, Innovation and Quality Infrastructure)
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Article
Priority Products for Sustainability Information and Recommendation Software: Insights in the Context of the EU’s Action Plan Circular Economy
Sustainability 2022, 14(19), 11951; https://doi.org/10.3390/su141911951 - 22 Sep 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 365
Abstract
The diffusion of sustainable products is a global objective, particularly reflected by the UN’s vision of ensuring sustainable development. Mobilising the potential of product information’s digitalization is an important topic in this context, particularly in the EU’s circular economy plan CEAP. Cross-sector analyses [...] Read more.
The diffusion of sustainable products is a global objective, particularly reflected by the UN’s vision of ensuring sustainable development. Mobilising the potential of product information’s digitalization is an important topic in this context, particularly in the EU’s circular economy plan CEAP. Cross-sector analyses on the need for digital sustainability recommendation systems and related product-specific requirements do not yet exist. Questions: This article aims to deepen the insight of information requirements and recommendation software to facilitate sustainability-oriented product decisions based on three questions: (1) to identify products specifically requiring four types of sustainability information, (2) to unveil needs for software that recommends sustainable products, and (3) to specify the information it shall provide. Method: As part of the ConCirMy recommendation system project, we conducted an exploratory survey among 134 sustainability experts from 5 circular and bio-economy networks, mainly from Germany. The results show priority products regarding four sustainability information needs and recommendation software, making specific relations between European regulation and stakeholders’ interests visible. In addition, ten factors influencing these needs and facilitating further product-related sustainability classifications were unveiled. Conclusions: Our findings reflect the significance of CEAP’s priority products regarding the need for sustainability information and provide conclusions for four target groups. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Circular Economy, Innovation and Quality Infrastructure)
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Article
Potentials and Prerequisites on the Way to a Circular Economy: A Value Chain Perspective on Batteries and Buildings
Sustainability 2022, 14(2), 956; https://doi.org/10.3390/su14020956 - 14 Jan 2022
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 676
Abstract
It is becoming increasingly clear that linear modes of production and consumption are unsustainable. A circular economy would help to minimize both environmental and social problems. As a result, the concept is gaining momentum in the political discourse. However, current policies do not [...] Read more.
It is becoming increasingly clear that linear modes of production and consumption are unsustainable. A circular economy would help to minimize both environmental and social problems. As a result, the concept is gaining momentum in the political discourse. However, current policies do not seem sufficient to transform linear value chains to circular ones. This paper compares the potentials of and prerequisites for a circular economy along two important value chains. As a best practice example, the legal framework along the battery value chain is analyzed. This analysis is used to derive recommendations for how to improve the legal framework along the building value chain. We find that the battery value chain is already addressed by targeted instruments and the instruments addressing the building value chain have to be aligned and their credibility improved through mandatory requirements. A value chain-specific approach to develop the legal framework is promising for key sectors, while both general frameworks and value chain-specific instruments are required to fully exploit the CE for every product. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Circular Economy, Innovation and Quality Infrastructure)
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Article
On the Road to Circular Public Procurement: Case, Variations, and Potential Actions in Germany
Sustainability 2021, 13(24), 13784; https://doi.org/10.3390/su132413784 - 14 Dec 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 860
Abstract
According to the United Nations, the consumption of materials is expected to double between 2020 and 2050. At the same time, annual waste generation is forecast to increase by 70% by 2050. The circular economy (CE) addresses this problem. However, many barriers to [...] Read more.
According to the United Nations, the consumption of materials is expected to double between 2020 and 2050. At the same time, annual waste generation is forecast to increase by 70% by 2050. The circular economy (CE) addresses this problem. However, many barriers to the further development of the CE exist. This article analyses the situation of public procurement in supporting a sustainable CE for tyres in Germany based on 18 interviews with public procurement professionals directly responsible for the purchase of tyres and four additional expert interviews. Based on the dimensions ‘current circular public procurement (CPP) intensity’ and ‘current CPP opportunities’, a classification of tyre procurement situations and barriers to sustainable circular tyre procurement is presented. Strategies to overcome these supply-side and demand-side barriers are specified, resulting in nine recommendations for German policymakers. As a way forward, a detailed concept for a pilot project on tyre CPP is provided. The article also shows how the circular public procurement classification can be used to support sustainability measures in a broader context. Finally, the article’s outlook focuses on implications to promote sustainable circular tyre procurement in other countries. It explains different framework conditions and elaborates to what extent additional research is necessary to develop appropriate recommendations for those conditions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Circular Economy, Innovation and Quality Infrastructure)
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Article
A Grounded Theory on Sustainable Circular Public Procurement in Germany: Specific Product Case and Strategies
Sustainability 2021, 13(24), 13525; https://doi.org/10.3390/su132413525 - 07 Dec 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1099
Abstract
By using its purchasing power to procure environmentally friendly goods and services, the public sector can significantly contribute to sustainability in production and consumption. The sector’s support is also needed for the development of a circular economy (CE), but the absence of a [...] Read more.
By using its purchasing power to procure environmentally friendly goods and services, the public sector can significantly contribute to sustainability in production and consumption. The sector’s support is also needed for the development of a circular economy (CE), but the absence of a suitable procurement practice often constitutes a barrier. A pressing example for a global need to develop the CE further exists in the tyre context. By the end of 2030, the number of end-of-life tyres (ELT) is expected to rise significantly. This article analyses the role and situation of public procurement and the necessity of quality infrastructure elements to support a sustainable tyre CE in the European Union’s member state Germany. It relies on a multiple case case study-based Grounded Theory approach and 22 interviews with public procurement professionals. Five types of barriers for sustainable circular tyre procurement were identified, concerning regulatory, technical, social, market, and ecological aspects. Possible strategies to overcome them were developed, leading to 14 recommendations for German policymakers and public procurement organisations. In particular, the recommendations focus on the two quality infrastructure elements ‘standards’ and ‘labelling’, with four standardization aspects and eight labelling topics in total. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Circular Economy, Innovation and Quality Infrastructure)
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Article
Creating a Circular Economy in the Automotive Industry: The Contribution of Combining Crowdsourcing and Delphi Research
Sustainability 2021, 13(12), 6762; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13126762 - 15 Jun 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1283
Abstract
The circular economy (CE) is an essential societal topic of the 21st century. Although various scientific disciplines address it, many research gaps exist. The Delphi is a proven instrument for managerial decisions, which also gained importance in sustainability-oriented innovation research. Likewise, innovation processes [...] Read more.
The circular economy (CE) is an essential societal topic of the 21st century. Although various scientific disciplines address it, many research gaps exist. The Delphi is a proven instrument for managerial decisions, which also gained importance in sustainability-oriented innovation research. Likewise, innovation processes using the input of crowds are emerging phenomena. Nevertheless, the Web of Science publication record includes a few articles applying crowdsourcing or the Delphi method to support CE-oriented management decisions only, and their further application has limitations. Addressing these gaps, this article presents an advanced concept integrating both methods to support the development of CE products and software responding to the worldwide need for more sustainable automotive products and CE solutions for tyres specifically. A combination of two-stage crowdsourcing and Delphi approaches was used, involving 509 participants from the EU member state Germany in total. This article provides, in particular, five contributions: First, it identified specific benefits of combining crowdsourcing and the Delphi method. Second, the attractiveness of a CE software system with product configuration tools is shown. Third, the interest in a quality label for sustainable tyres is unveiled. As the fourth contribution, the analyses show the importance of the CE software’s and labels’ consideration of social aspects in the tyre value chain and certain substances influencing appropriate recycling. Fifth, it represents consumers’ suggestions for products made of tyre recyclates and their interest in additional CE automotive products. The article finishes with recommendations for developing a tyre CE and applying the method combination in research and management. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Circular Economy, Innovation and Quality Infrastructure)
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Article
Advances of 2nd Life Applications for Lithium Ion Batteries from Electric Vehicles Based on Energy Demand
Sustainability 2021, 13(10), 5726; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13105726 - 20 May 2021
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 1338
Abstract
Electromobility is a new approach to the reduction of CO2 emissions and the deceleration of global warming. Its environmental impacts are often compared to traditional mobility solutions based on gasoline or diesel engines. The comparison pertains mostly to the single life cycle [...] Read more.
Electromobility is a new approach to the reduction of CO2 emissions and the deceleration of global warming. Its environmental impacts are often compared to traditional mobility solutions based on gasoline or diesel engines. The comparison pertains mostly to the single life cycle of a battery. The impact of multiple life cycles remains an important, and yet unanswered, question. The aim of this paper is to demonstrate advances of 2nd life applications for lithium ion batteries from electric vehicles based on their energy demand. Therefore, it highlights the limitations of a conventional life cycle analysis (LCA) and presents a supplementary method of analysis by providing the design and results of a meta study on the environmental impact of lithium ion batteries. The study focuses on energy demand, and investigates its total impact for different cases considering 2nd life applications such as (C1) material recycling, (C2) repurposing and (C3) reuse. Required reprocessing methods such as remanufacturing of batteries lie at the basis of these 2nd life applications. Batteries are used in their 2nd lives for stationary energy storage (C2, repurpose) and electric vehicles (C3, reuse). The study results confirm that both of these 2nd life applications require less energy than the recycling of batteries at the end of their first life and the production of new batteries. The paper concludes by identifying future research areas in order to generate precise forecasts for 2nd life applications and their industrial dissemination. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Circular Economy, Innovation and Quality Infrastructure)
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Article
Shaping a Circular Economy in the Digital TV Industry: Focusing on Ecopreneurship through the Lens of Dynamic Capability
Sustainability 2021, 13(9), 4865; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13094865 - 26 Apr 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1267
Abstract
In this study, we investigate how companies can contribute to achieving a circular economy (CE) in the electronics industry viewed through the lens of dynamic capability. In particular, we examine how companies can contribute through idiosyncratic ecopreneurship according to dynamic capabilities with three [...] Read more.
In this study, we investigate how companies can contribute to achieving a circular economy (CE) in the electronics industry viewed through the lens of dynamic capability. In particular, we examine how companies can contribute through idiosyncratic ecopreneurship according to dynamic capabilities with three points: the dynamic capabilities of established companies, the formation of ecopreneurship according to idiosyncratic dynamic capabilities, and the shaping of a CE through the interplay of ecopreneurship and dynamic capabilities of established companies. We conducted a case study of five leading TV manufacturers (Samsung, LG, Sony, Hisense, and TCL) to verify our conceptual framework, which we derived from a literature review. The case study shows that a company’s contribution to the CE and ecopreneurship type largely depend on a combination of dynamic capabilities and business strategies. Based on the case study results, we derived managerial implications with three points: the approach of leading companies to CE with consideration of business strategies, leveraging ecopreneurship to gain competitiveness in the market, and the influence of micro- and meso-level dynamic capabilities on a company’s contribution to CE. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Circular Economy, Innovation and Quality Infrastructure)
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Article
Smart Products Enable Smart Regulations—Optimal Durability Requirements Facilitated by the IoT
Sustainability 2021, 13(8), 4395; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13084395 - 15 Apr 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1140
Abstract
The challenges and opportunities linked with IoT have been intensively discussed in recent years. The connectivity of things over their entire life cycle and the smart properties associated with it provide new functionalities and unprecedented availability of (usage) data. This offers huge opportunities [...] Read more.
The challenges and opportunities linked with IoT have been intensively discussed in recent years. The connectivity of things over their entire life cycle and the smart properties associated with it provide new functionalities and unprecedented availability of (usage) data. This offers huge opportunities for manufacturers, service providers, users, and also policymakers. The latter may impact policy areas such as the regulations on resource and materials efficiency under the Ecodesign Directive 2009/125/EC. With the general approach as it is practiced today, legal requirements are usually set for entire product groups without considering the products individually, including user behavior and environmental conditions. The increasing number of smart products and the growing availability of product data are sparking a discussion on whether these requirements could be more product and application-specific. This paper presents a method for calculating the economically and ecologically optimal durability of a product. It allows determining the point in time when a product should be replaced by combining consumer data with product design data. This novel approach could contribute to making product regulation more flexible and possibly more efficient. In this context, fundamental challenges associated with smart products in policymaking are also discussed. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Circular Economy, Innovation and Quality Infrastructure)
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Article
The Circular Business Framework for Building, Developing and Steering Businesses in the Circular Economy
Sustainability 2021, 13(2), 963; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13020963 - 19 Jan 2021
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 3196
Abstract
The need for a transition towards a circular economy (CE) is evident, as the current economic model is based on the exploitation of far more resources than the planet can replenish sustainably. A significant part of this economic transition is the inception of [...] Read more.
The need for a transition towards a circular economy (CE) is evident, as the current economic model is based on the exploitation of far more resources than the planet can replenish sustainably. A significant part of this economic transition is the inception of new, CE-oriented startups and business activities. While business model frameworks (BMF), such as the Business Model Canvas (BMC), were at the center of discussions about structuring business ideas in the beginning of the millennium, the conversation must now shift towards circular BMFs (CBMF). This paper follows the Design Research Methodology (DRM) for an empirical approach to devising a novel CBMF, including expert interviews as well as a first application of the framework with a startup. Throughout this process, a new and innovative tool called Circular Business Framework (CBF) was created and tested based on CE principles. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Circular Economy, Innovation and Quality Infrastructure)
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