Introduction to the special issue on the contested realities of the circular economy

ISI: Introduction to the special issue on the contested realities of the circular economy


2020 - Culture and Organization - Vol. 26, Issue 2. Pp. 97-102


In the past decade the ‘circular economy’ (CE) has established itself as an influential model for economic development, with the Chinese central and regional governments (Su et al. 2013) and the European Union (European Commission 2018) being early propagators and policy champions. The ambition of the model is to create ‘circular’ material flows that break with the current ‘linear’ economic rationale of take, make and dispose, creating business value for its participants (Lacy and Rutqvist 2015; Esposito, Tse, and Soufani 2018). Inspired, among other influences, by the cradle-to-cradle design methodology (McDonough and Braungart 2009), the CE is to create waste-free technical loops that resemble biological loops and make waste disappear at the same time as being restorative and regenerative by design. This ambition has attracted the open support from a wide range of economic and political actors: inter-governmental bodies (OECD), influential forums (World Economic Forum), advocacy associations (World Business Council for Sustainable Development – WBCSD, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Circle Economy), leading corporations and consulting firms (e.g. Accenture, Cisco, Dell, H&M, Hewlett Packard, Intel, IKEA, McKinsey, Renault, and Levy Strauss), cities (Amsterdam, Glasgow) and regions (Region Skåne in Southern Sweden). The CE comes with a promise that circular relationships among markets, customers and natural resources (Lacy and Rutqvist 2015) have a unique capacity to combine economic growth with sustainability (Ghisellini, Cialani, and Ulgiati 2016).


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