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Deadline Extended: Organization & Environment CFP for Special Issue on Circular Economy

  • 1.  Deadline Extended: Organization & Environment CFP for Special Issue on Circular Economy

    Posted 09-02-2023 16:03
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    Call for Papers

    Organization & Environment Special Issue 

    Between Circular Paralysis and Utopia: Organizational Transformations towards the Circular Economy

    Special Issue Editors:  

    Nancy Bocken (Maastricht School of Business & Economics,

    Jonatan Pinkse (Alliance Manchester Business School,

    Nicole Darnall (Arizona State University,

    Paavo Ritala (LUT Finland,

    Submission Deadline: September 15, 2023

    Topic of the Special Issue

    The circular economy has become popular over the past decade, among academics, policymakers, and practitioners, as a concept to address sustainability challenges such as resource scarcity, environmental pollution, plastic waste, and the climate emergency in a strategic manner (Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2012; Kirchherr et al., 2017; Salmivaara & Kibler, 2020). For companies, the circular economy entails transforming production, supply chains, and business models from linear to circular, and transforms waste and excess resources into valuable new materials and products (Geng et al., 2019; Lüdeke et al., 2019). While the circular economy might be considered a new concept, it has strong foundations in previous work on pollution prevention, recycling, waste management, cradle-to-cradle, and the management of natural resources (Blomsma & Brennan, 2017; George et al., 2015).

    With over a decade of excitement about the topic, the circular economy is gradually becoming embraced by the business community. There are myriad start-ups that pioneer circular business models, large fashion brands using plastic waste to make new shoes and clothing (DiVito et al., 2022), and companies from industries as diverse as furniture, consumer electronics, and automotives trialling new circular business models (Bocken & Konietzko, 2022; Frishammar & Parida, 2019). At face value there seems to be an abundance of ways for companies to adopt circular principles and develop a concrete business case based on those principles.

    However, no matter how good companies are at showcasing their circular initiatives or discussing the merits of the circular economy, the reality is that only a limited percentage of products and materials is recycled, let alone reused, refurbished, or repaired (Lüdeke et al., 2019). Moreover, despite many claims and well-meaning attempts towards circularity, the use of plastic has risen while recycling rates have deteriorated (Greenpeace, 2022). While some European countries provide more institutional support for circular economy initiatives, including the Finnish Industrial Symbiosis System (Patala et al., 2022; Ranta et al., 2018), organizational efforts to implement wide-sweeping circular business models and ecosystems are limited and the transition pathways are beset with tensions (Hahn et al., 2014).

    The barriers to pursuing circular economy models are numerous. For instance, companies cannot become circular on their own, but need to rely on a well-functioning circular ecosystem (Parida et al., 2019). These ecosystems often depend on public sector involvement (Patala et al., 2022). In addition, customers are generally unwilling to pay price premiums for circular products (Pretner et al., 2021). Moreover, the impacts of circular initiatives on achieving sustainability ambitions such as the Sustainable Development Goals are unclear.

    Research and practice need to stray away from circular utopia and circular paralysis and move towards "real utopias" (Gümüsay & Reinecke, 2022), that is, organizational realities that are transformative from the present, but still achievable. For these reasons, a pervasive and truly impactful circular economy remains more a "circular utopia," both across developed and emerging markets.

    The main objective of this special issue is to find ways to go beyond "circular utopia" and "circular paralysis" towards "strong sustainability" and "strong circularity." We invite scholars to investigate how organizations can transform towards the circular economy and what the impacts are of doing so. How do we go from the visionary umbrella concept of the circular economy to strategic organizational transformation that contributes to a successful sustainability transition that addresses challenging climate, resource, and societal issues?

    Types of Submissions Solicited

    We welcome theoretical and empirical papers that address the following research topics (Please note: The following lists and topics are exemplary and non-exhaustive).

    Organizational Transformations

    Most companies still operate in a largely linear economy manner, pursuing business models that are focused on fast-paced consumption, products with a limited lifetime, and little end-responsibility for reuse and recycling. Companies have started transforming their business models but encounter barriers at the institutional, strategic, and operational level, affecting their ability to be successful (Bocken & Geradts, 2020).

    • How can an individual company make the transition towards the circular economy?

    • What are the strategies, capabilities, and approaches that companies need to adopt?

    • How can managers experiment with, and scale up circularity in their companies?

    • What are successful cases of organizational transformations, and what predicts success versus failure?

    Collaborations and Ecosystems

    Companies that seek to transition to a circular economy encounter issues that are beyond their expertise and control and require a negotiation of organizational boundaries (Parida et al., 2019). For example, nature regeneration is increasingly becoming an issue of interest in established companies, seeking to secure their future raw material supplies while addressing increasing customer concerns (Hahn & Tampe, 2021). Furthermore, issues around product take-back and recycling involve a prolonged relation with the customer or collaboration with other actors to retrieve products for reuse and recycling.

    • How can companies strategically collaborate for the circular economy to address issues beyond their direct control, such as nature regeneration?

    • How can companies renegotiate their boundaries with suppliers, customers, and other (new) partners including the public sector and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to develop new circular supply chains and business models?

    • How can organizations more broadly make strategic decisions about open and closed innovation for the circular economy?

    • How do novel circular ecosystems emerge and to what extent can these be orchestrated?

    Strong Sustainability and Impact

    While the circular economy the attention of business, policy makers, and consumers, this opportunity should not "go to waste" by focusing on innovations with a limited impact on resource use and climate change. Hence, a deeper understanding of the impacts of circular economy cases, and approaches to determine this success are needed.

    • What are successful cases of circular economy in established organizations that deliver sizable impacts to the natural environment?

    • How have companies successfully made the business case for improving societal and environmental value?

    • How can negative rebound effects be avoided in the development of circular innovations in organizations, and positive impacts anticipated?

    • Which tools, methods, and approaches may be adopted to guide and measure positive impact in an organizational impact, related to the circular economy transformation?

    The Twin Transition: Circular and Digital

    The circular economy and the digital transformations are occurring in parallel and synergies are needed for a positive transition to address global challenges. The European Commission has described this as a "twin transition" where the sustainability transition and the digital transition would need to reinforce one another (European Commission, 2022). Yet, it is well known that digitalization can have unintended consequences (Bohnsack et al., 2022), such as the use of significant amounts of energy. It is therefore important to understand how digital technology can drive a successful circular economy, for example, through enabling collaboration, resource exchanges, and digital platforms for reuse and recycling (Blackburn et al., 2022):

    • How can organizations strategically adopt digital technology to accelerate their internal circular economy transition?

    • How can digital technologies and digital platforms enable collaboration and circular economy ecosystems?

    • How can digital technology enable "circular economy leapfrogging," especially in the Global South?

    • What are the downsides of digital technology as it comes to circularity, and how to overcome those downsides?

    Theoretical contributions and empirical cases, including action-based approaches, are encouraged. Interdisciplinary approaches with a strong theoretical foundation but intersecting with fields such as design, engineering, policy, and sustainability sciences are also encouraged.

    Submission Process and Deadlines

    • Authors should submit their full manuscripts through ScholarOne Manuscripts by September 15, 2023, through

    • Important: Be sure to specify in the cover letter document that the manuscript is for the special issue on "Between Circular Paralysis and Utopia."

    • Manuscripts should be prepared following the Organization & Environment author guidelines, available at

    • After an initial screening by the guest editors, all articles will be subject to double-blind peer reviewing by a minimum of two anonymous referees and editorial process in accordance with the policies of Organization & Environment.


    Blackburn O., Ritala P., Keränen J. (2022). Digital platforms for the circular economy: Exploring metaorganizational orchestration mechanisms. Organization & Environment. Advance online publication.

    Blomsma F., Brennan G. (2017). The emergence of circular economy: A new framing around prolonging resource productivity. Journal of Industrial Ecology, 21(3), 603–614.

    Bocken N., Konietzko J. (2022). Circular business model innovation in consumer-facing corporations. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 185, Article 122076.

    Bocken N. M., Geradts T. H. (2020). Barriers and drivers to sustainable business model innovation: Organization design and dynamic capabilities. Long Range Planning, 53(4), Article 101950.

    Bohnsack R., Bidmon C. M., Pinkse J. (2022). Sustainability in the digital age: Intended and unintended consequences of digital technologies for sustainable development. Business Strategy and the Environment, 31(2), 599–602.

    DiVito L., Leitheiser E., Piller C. (2022). Circular Moonshot: Understanding shifts in organizational field logics and business model innovation. Organization & Environment. Advance online publication.

    Ellen MacArthur Foundation. (2012). Towards the circular economy: An economic and business rationale for an accelerated transition.

    European Commission. (2022, June 7). Europe's digital transition goes hand in hand with the European Green Deal.

    Frishammar J., Parida V. (2019). Circular business model transformation: A roadmap for incumbent firms. California Management Review, 61(2), 5–29.

    Geng Y., Sarkis J., Bleischwitz R. (2019). How to globalize the circular economy. Nature, 565, 153–155.

    George G., Schillebeeckx S. J., Liak T. L. (2015). The management of natural resources: An overview and research agenda. Academy of Management Journal, 58(6), 1595–1613.

    Greenpeace. (2022). Circular claims fall flat again. Available at: (accessed 6 Feburary 2023).

    Gümüsay A. A., Reinecke J. (2022). Researching for desirable futures: From real utopias to imagining alternatives. Journal of Management Studies, 59(1), 236–242.

    Hahn T., Preuss L., Pinkse J., Figge F. (2014). Cognitive frames in corporate sustainability: Managerial sensemaking with paradoxical and business case frames. Academy of Management Review, 39(4), 463–487.

    Hahn T., Tampe M. (2021). Strategies for regenerative business. Strategic Organization, 19(3), 456–477.

    Kirchherr J., Reike D., Hekkert M. (2017). Conceptualizing the circular economy: An analysis of 114 definitions. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 127, 221–232.

    Lüdeke-Freund F., Gold S., Bocken N. M. (2019). A review and typology of circular economy business model patterns. Journal of Industrial Ecology, 23(1), 36–61.

    Parida V., Burström T., Visnjic I., Wincent J. (2019). Orchestrating industrial ecosystem in circular economy: A two-stage transformation model for large manufacturing companies. Journal of Business Research, 101, 715–725.

    Patala S., Albareda L., Halme M. (2022). Polycentric governance of privately owned resources in circular economy systems. Journal of Management Studies, 59(6), 1563–1596.

    Pretner G., Darnall N., Testa F., Iraldo F. (2021). Are consumers willing to pay for circular products? The role of recycled and second-hand attributes, messaging, and third-party certification. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 175, Article 105888.

    Ranta V., Aarikka-Stenroos L., Ritala P., Mäkinen S. J. (2018). Exploring institutional drivers and barriers of the circular economy: A cross-regional comparison of China, the US, and Europe. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 135, 70–82.

    Salmivaara V., Kibler E. (2020). "Rhetoric mix" of argumentations: How policy rhetoric conveys meaning of entrepreneurship for sustainable development. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 44(4), 700–732.

    Hyeonjin Cha
    Doctoral Candidate in Management
    University of Oregon