Circular Business models. Aligning typologies and building blocks

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The debate about sustainable development is not new and has a long history. Several authors (London, 1932; Meadows, Meadows, Randers, & Behrens, 1972) and commissions (World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987) have emphasized the need for sustainability. Based on the notion that our planet’s resources are not unlimited, and with an increasing world population (UN, 2015), our demand as a population will further exceed the planet’s ability to provide resources (WWF, 2016). A transition towards a Circular Economy, which aims to improve resource inefficiency by eliminating waste (Despeisse, et al., 2016) and a circular flow of materials (Yuan, Bi, & Moriguichi, 2006) becomes more important. Instead of our current linear economy, which is characterized by a take-make-waste flow (Lacy & Rutqvist, 2015), a Circular Economy would demand a different way doing business. In this respect, there is a growing need for organizations to search for business models for the Circular Economy (BMCE’s), which is also urged by academics and practitioners. A wide range of sources provide BMCE typologies with their own characteristics or building blocks. As a result, typologies have become vague, overlapping, and do not clearly explain their underlying logic. Furthermore, it is uncertain how these notions exist in business practice. This research is aimed to explain the above-mentioned issues. In order to do this, a twofold research approach was conducted, combining a literature study with a qualitative data study, following a grounded theory approach. This is done to research the phenomenon in-depth. Throughout the literature study, BMCE typologies were analyzed and summarized based on their contents. Also, an underlying logic of circular business models was constituted and a number of building blocks were identified that describe how BMCE typologies are configured. Subsequently, a qualitative study following a grounded
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