Research: identifying barriers and enablers for circular economy business models

Circular economy business models (CEBMs) are identified as essential levers in the transition to a circular economy (CE). In recent years, a growing body of research has examined the barriers and enablers to these models; however, the available empirical evidence still needs to be improved while sector-specific assessments are lacking.

A recent study aims to enrich the research in this field by identifying barriers and enablers to implementing a variety of CEBMs in the electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) sector. Based on this analysis, they provide several policy insights. The EEE sector has been chosen as the focus of this study as a sector with largely untapped potential in implementing circularity practices. 

The study adopts a multi-case study approach and uses 31 cases developed through the CIRC4Life EU-funded project and the snowball sampling method. This represents the largest case study sample used to examine CE approaches in the EEE sector. Their findings show that despite the various policy instruments in place to boost the CE transition in this sector, there exist gaps that require policy attention. These include a lack of rules for transparency across supply chains, weak enforcement of EU waste legislation rules, limited use of circularity criteria in public tenders, and lack of CE standards. Inconsistent requirements stemming from different policy domains can also pose challenges for companies adopting CE practices.

From a supply chain perspective, Rizoz et al. (2002) see difficulties in gaining access to spare parts and components, a lack of transparency regarding substances in EEE, poor collection of EEE, difficulties in convincing supply chain partners, complex reverse logistics systems, challenges in cooperating with international partners enablers.

Drivers for change could be the establishment of partnerships and collaborations and developing a network of partners. Enablers for change could be the establishment of partnerships and collaborations and developing a network of partners. Establishing partnerships and collaborations was the most important supply chain-related enabler raised by 11 companies. In two cases developing a collaboration with manufacturers helped two small companies offering repair and refurbishment services to gain access to original spare parts or software updates. In another case, a recycler could better anticipate demand for certain secondary raw materials through partnerships with manufacturers.

The suggested actions to facilitate CE practices include knowledge-sharing platforms and business partnerships, R&D project grants, product CE labels, financial incentives, and awareness-raising campaigns.

Source: Rizos, Vasileios, and Julie Bryhn. “Implementation of circular economy approaches in the electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) sector: Barriers, enablers and policy insights.” Journal of Cleaner Production 338 (2022): 130617.

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