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Circular Economy, Circular Communities?: Examining the role of community in circular economy organisations

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

  • Jess Robins
Publication date6/03/2024
Number of pages318
Awarding Institution
Thesis sponsors
  • North West Consortium Doctoral Training Partnership
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Circular economy (CE) research has previously focused on product development or its implementation in regions or industry; very little research has been conducted into how communities can be used to advance this sustainability model. The work in this thesis investigates how organisations in North West England approach the CE and utilise their communities to further their CE ambitions. It uses stakeholder maps to visualise the community connections and the Community Capitals Framework (CCF) to reveal which capital flows are the most important. This shows how these organisations engage with and use their communities.
The research followed a Mixed Methods Case Study approach, using data drawn from interviews and secondary sources. The case studies examined organisations from a range of industries and included multinationals and SMEs. The analysis showed that despite the differences, the organisations approached the CE in many of the same ways. The CCF was applied to stakeholder maps and used for social network analyses of each case study. This revealed that Human Capital was most used by the organisations, but Social and Political Capital played a large role among their connections too. As a result of this research the Knowledge exchange, Experimentation through collaboration, Power, and Influence (KEPI) framework was developed, this can be applied to organisations working towards a CE in order to reveal whether their stakeholder connections are knowledge-based or power-based. By placing their stakeholder connections into this dichotomy, organisations can see which of their connections can be used to further their ambitions and in what ways. The knowledge-based connections are focused on learning opportunities: knowledge exchanges, and relationships that enable experimentation. The power-based relationships provide access to power structures through governance or industry or present the opportunity to influence policy and practice at different levels. This research contributes to an emerging field that is placing human interactions at the centre of the CE.