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Circular Business Models : Defining a Concept and Framing an Emerging Research Field

  • Julia L.K. Nußholz
Publishing year: 2017-10-10
Language: English
Publication/Series: Sustainability
Volume: 9
Issue: 10
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Formas

Abstract english

To aid companies in transitioning towards a circular economy and adopting strategies such as reuse, repair, and remanufacturing, the concept of circular business models has been developed. Although the concept draws on contributions from various academic disciplines, and despite its increasingly frequent use, few scholars clearly define what a circular business model is. Understanding about what makes a business model circular is diverse, hampering the theoretical development and practical application of circular business models. This study aims to help frame the field of circular business model research, by clarifying the fundamentals of the concept from the perspectives of resource efficiency and business model innovation. Expanding on these findings, a review of how the concept is used in recent academic literature is provided. It shows that a coherent view is lacking on which resource efficiency strategies classify a business model as circular. This study clarifies which resource efficiency strategies can be deemed as relevant key strategies for circular business models, and suggests a new definition of the concept. With the definition grounded in analysis of the fundamentals in terms of resource efficiency and business models, the study contributes to theoretical advancement and effective implementation of circular business models.


  • Environmental Management
  • circular economy
  • product life cycle
  • resource efficiency
  • circular business models;
  • business model innovation;
  • product life extension


  • ISSN: 2071-1050
Julia Nussholz
E-mail: julia [dot] nussholz [at] iiiee [dot] lu [dot] se

Doctoral student

The International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics

+46 46 222 02 28



International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics (IIIEE)

Lund University P.O. Box 196, 22100 Lund, Sweden
Visiting Address: Tegnérsplatsen 4,Lund

Telephone: + 46 46 222 00 00 Fax: + 46 46 222 02 10