The Circular Economy transition: Barriers faced and enablers used by managers of Dutch manufacturing SMEs

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The aim of this paper is to increase knowledge and understanding about the barriers and enablers and their interaction experienced by managers in manufacturing SMEs. This study adopts an explorative approach to understand the barriers, enablers and their interaction at the micro-level of circular economy implementation in Dutch manufacturing SMEs. This explorative research is conducted through 5 case studies. The findings indicate that cultural/organizational barriers, particularly ‘lack of consumer interest and awareness’ and ‘limited willingness to collaborate in the value network’, are considered the main circular economy barriers by manufacturing SMEs. These barriers are partly driven by market and regulatory barriers like ‘lacking standards’, as interaction effects among these barriers result in chain reactions towards circular economy failure. According to our research no technological barrier is among the most pressing circular economy barriers for manufacturing SMEs. Besides barriers, several enabling factors that help SMEs adopt circular practices were identified, particularly enablers with regard to the ‘culture’, ‘management’ and ‘organizational structure’ and ‘support from the demand network’ are considered important driving factors for manufacturing SMEs. The analysis shows that the barriers and enablers identified do not act in isolation, but rather form a complex web of interconnecting barriers and enablers. Furthermore, this paper illustrates how certain barriers are context specific and thus influence particular stages throughout the process of circular economy implementation.
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen