Our research

Shaping Circular Service Ecosystems

Julia Fehrer, Joya Kemper, Jonathan Baker

The circular economy (CE) presents an alternative perspective to the linear take-make-use-dispose model prevalent in industrial value chains. CE envisions economies operating like natural ecosystems—restorative and waste-free, underpinned by principles such as reuse, repair, share, and pay-for-use. Surprisingly, although these principles align with the fundamentals of service management, there is limited scholarly exploration of CE within service research. Leveraging service-dominant logic, this study introduces the concept of circular service ecosystems as ideal types of service ecosystems, regenerative, and embedded within nature, where (material, intellectual, digital and financial) resources flow seamlessly within and between nested systems without creating any waste or leakage.

By analyzing 3,178 blogs penned by CE experts over 7 years and conducting in-depth interviews with industry specialists, this study offers two significant contributions. Firstly, it presents a process framework elucidating the transition towards circular service ecosystems. This framework explains the emergence of novel circular solutions and service ecosystem properties through processes of de- and re-institutionalization. Secondly, the study identifies six shaping strategies that actors can apply to drive circular service ecosystem transitions. The study concludes by emphasizing the importance of circular service ecosystems and CE as promising areas for future service research, providing a comprehensive research agenda to explore these areas in depth.

The Wonderful Circles of Oz: The circular economy story

Ken Webster

The call for a new, more just, more distributive economic story and system is now louder and more urgent than ever. The Wonderful Circles of Oz provides both the framework and solutions for navigating towards an effective circular economy - the gateway to an abundant, autonomous and democratic future.

A systemic logic for circular business models

Julia Fehrer

While social and circular business models are viewed as important devices to improve humanity’s wellbeing, their adoption rates have been somewhat disappointing. The academic literature often contributes these low adoption rates to innovation failures of firms and redirects social and circular business models toward a stronger profit-orientation. Much of this work is grounded in a Porterian value chain logic that, arguably, overemphasizes economic goals at the expense of social and sustainability goals. In contrast, this study promotes an institutional perspective that shows that all business practices are part of larger societal and ecological systems, so that a real transition toward sustainability demands joint institutional alignment processes which balance the adaptive tensions between social mission, environmental stewardship and economic growth.

Designing a Circular Contract Template: Insights from the Fairphone-as-a-Service project

Stefano Pascucci

Servitization, longevity and modularity are key aspects of circular business models and business model innovation. However, the role of legal and contractual aspects of circular business models, especially of those that are based on service are not well understood. In this paper, we present an in-depth analysis of a case study drawing on data stemming from the Fairphone-as-a-Service project to define key elements for a Circular Service Contract Template.

Building Better - Less - Different: Circular Construction and Circular Economy

Ken Webster, Felix Heisel and Dirk E. Hebel

Sustainability is to become the guiding principle of social action and economic activity. At the same time, its ways and means are far from clear. As a holistic praxis, sustainability must combine technical and material as well as social, economic, ecological and also ethical strategies, which have multiple complex interactions and all too often also conflicting goals and priorities. In no other field can these be better observed, addressed and influenced than in architecture and building.

Going beyond waste reduction: Exploring tools and methods for circular economy adoption in small-medium enterprises

Stefano Pascucci

This study explores the ‘how and why’ of circular economy adoption for small and medium sized companies (SMEs). We compare opportunities and challenges of tools and methods to evaluate circularity drawing from interviews, facilitated workshops and tool demonstrations across the agri-food sector. We find that with some adaptation, current management tools such as value mapping, life cycle assessment, modelling & simulation, and capability maturity can assist SMEs towards becoming more circular and sustainable. Our framework presents a phased transition of CE tool deployment that encourages SMEs to go beyond waste reduction, and connect with social and environmental contexts, capturing value through circular practice from emerging servicised markets, digital technologies, and regional collaboration.