Professor Rafael Ziegler and his research team looked at different ways of thinking about cooperation to shed new light on the transition to a fair and sustainable economy. Read a summary of their work on circular economy. 


The project analyzes three approaches – cooperative, degrowth and indigenous (Atikamekw) – and their place in current circular economy discourses. The three approaches argue, each in their own way, that we need to think of the circular economy as embedded in something bigger. The cooperative movement embeds economic organization in the idea of a democratic society. The degrowth movement criticizes capitalism’s growth imperative on our finite planet and argues that the economy must be downsized. Reduction of the economy and absolute limits are the priority. The indigenous perspective argues that we need to rethink the economy as part of the land on which human communities live in cooperation with ecosystems and other species. The key circular economy recommendations from the three perspectives are:  

  • Cooperatives: Advance and better understand the embedding of circular economy in democratic modes of governance and a democratic society.  
  • Degrowth: Define absolute limits and reduction targets for the economy. On this basis, there is an overlap with circularity practices already followed, though often “implicitly”, by the movement.  
  • Indigenous perspectives: Recognize the value of indigenous worldviews; develop and rediscover an expanded version of circularity arising from this recognition.  

There is a lack of tools and information on the circular economy specifically prepared for the actors and organizations of the three perspectives described here. Therefore, the project has contributed to the creation of a circular economy collection. This collection offers cooperatives and the research community knowledge, inspiration and tools at the intersection of cooperatives, the social economy and the circular economy. The Toolbox section offers tools to help cooperatives advance their circular strategies. The Knowledge section provides access to research organized by various theme at the intersection of coops and circular economy. The Examples of circular cooperatives section provides cases of cooperatives pursuing circular strategies. (More info).  

Although they represent an interesting organizational form for advancing well-being in society, cooperatives face difficulties in integrating circular economy principles into their model. A dedicated business model canvas can help. The CCRABE (Coopératif et Circulaire de Réponse À un Besoin) coop business model canvas was created as part of the project to guide cooperatives’ thinking and identify levers for circularizing their respective coop business model in a simple yet comprehensive format (More info).

About the project

The “Circular economy and cooperationexploring three related approaches (cooperatives, commons and the tree of cooperation) for a just and sustainable economyproject was led by Rafael Ziegler, Professor at HEC Montréal, in collaboration with Professors Yves-Marie Abraham and Emmanuel Raufflet.  

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