Management, organizations, and the circular economy

Circular economy (CE) can be defined as “a new model that aims to break the link between economic
growth, on the one hand, and natural resource depletion and environmental impacts on the other…The circular economy is driven by two key mechanisms:

  1. Rethinking our production methods and consumption habits to use fewer resources and protect the ecosystems that generate them.
  2. Optimizing the resources that are already in use in our societies.”

Since its introduction in the late 1980s (Pearce & Turner, 1989), the CE has become increasingly popular.
In the 2000s, many governments began adopting CE concepts into policies and regulations – including China, Japan, the EU (European Union), Colombia, and Brazil, among others. Following a seminal report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2013), the CE began to gain traction in the private sector, leading to dedicated studies by renowned consulting firms such as Accenture, Deloitte, EY, McKinsey, and to the adoption of CE business policies by high-profile companies like Google, Michelin or Heineken (see Reike, Vermeulen, and Witjes (2018) for a history of the concept).
The reason for this popularity lies in the fact that CE opens potential pathways to radically transform the
world economic system, from our local economies to the complex international supply chains that provide most of our current consumption. Hence, the CE is considered a promising approach for one of our most pressing management – transitioning towards a sustainable economy. Accordingly, the CE has been endorsed by the United Nations (see UNEA 4. Resolution 1 (UNEP, 2019) as a model to reach its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030, and in particular SDG 12 “Sustainable consumption and production.”

Guest editor’s team

  • Luc Brès, Faculty of Business Administration, Laval University, Québec, Canada
  • Raymond Paquin, John Molson School of Business, Concordia University, Canada
  • Thomas Bauwens, Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University, Netherlands
  • Emmanuel Raufflet, HEC Montréal, Canada
  • Adriane MacDonald, John Molson School of Business, Concordia University, Canada
  • Bart van Hoof, University of the Andes, Bogota, Colombia

Possible research questions and themes

The goal of this special issue of Management International is to strengthen the dialog between
management research and the CE. We believe the two streams of research have a strong complementarity. Indeed, organizational research and research on the CE both complement each other at the operational level by focusing on different constructs and levels of analysis and provide complementary lenses on society and societal change through their different perspectives. Together, these two research domains have the potential to unleash the full potential of the CE to make organizations and economies more sustainable. Therefore, in this special issue we are interested in research that explores the CE from managerial, organizational, and interorganizational perspectives. We anticipate articles that address, but are not limited to, the following themes and questions:

Tools and methods for managing CE

What are the major challenges associated with implementing, scaling, and monitoring the CE? What are
the indicators, tools, methods, and best practices for successfully managing the CE internally within
organizations and externally with partners across supply chains and industry sectors?

The human side of CE

What challenges lie ahead when the CE starts to challenge established organizational routines and
actions? How can managers tackle those challenges? What are the psychological, interpersonal, and
emotional components at play in CE initiatives? What is the relationship between humans and their natural environment in the CE? How does circular thinking influence business practices and the daily management of organizations? What are the broader social consequences of the CE in terms jobs, social justice, or inclusion?

Power in CE

The CE potentially creates strong interorganizational interdependencies on a large scale while creating
environmental constraints on organizational actions: How does the adoption of the CE reshuffle power and power dynamics within and across organizations? For instance, how does the CE transform the relationship between the different sectors of society such as the private industry, regulatory authorities, civil society, etc.? What are the implications of the CE in terms of social and environmental justice?

CE and the organizing outside (and between) organizations

How can we manage in “loops” of material and informational flux rather than in conventional organizations? As the CE pushes us to focus more on trans-organizational flux and natural boundaries, how can we manage outside and beyond organizations? How can we effectively manage circularity across supply chains, industry sectors or geographical regions? Within the context of the CE, what is the meaning of organizational boundaries, property rights, collaboration, or competition?

Towards a Circular Society from a Social and Institutional Perspective

How can local CE initiatives be effectively mainstreamed to trigger a broader societal change? Conversely,
how can the widespread adoption of CE trigger a fundamental shift from a predominantly anthropocentric understanding of organizations, institutions, and societal justice towards a more eco-centric way of thinking?

Soumission des propositions

  • 6 january 2025 : Submission of complete articles (between 3,000 and 6,000 words, including references)
  • Fall 2026 : Publication

Submissions will be accepted in French, English, and Spanish
This special issue is supported by RRECQ

Email for submissions :

Management international

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International Management

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The RRECQ is supported by the Fonds de recherche du Québec.
Fonds de recherche - Québec