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2023/2024  KAN-CCMVV2416U  Circular Economy – Business models for the 21st Century

English Title
Circular Economy – Business models for the 21st Century

Course information

Language English
Course ECTS 7.5 ECTS
Type Elective
Level Full Degree Master
Duration One Quarter
Start time of the course First Quarter
Timetable Course schedule will be posted at calendar.cbs.dk
Max. participants 80
Study board
Study Board for cand.merc. and GMA (CM)
Course coordinator
  • Jesper Clement - Department of Marketing (Marketing)
Main academic disciplines
  • CSR and sustainability
  • Innovation
  • Strategy
Teaching methods
  • Face-to-face teaching
Last updated on 15-02-2023

Relevant links

Learning objectives
The objective is to provide the students with an opportunity to obtain insights in circular economy principles based on business models, concepts, theories, cases and guest lectures by practitioners providing hands-on experiences from their circular economy businesses. Further, the learning objectives of the course are to enable students to manage competently in a context of multiple stakeholder collaboration, design strategies, innovation possibilities and relation to market dynamics when implementing circular economy principles. The student should be able to reflect academically on topics, processes and work in a cross-disciplinary context. To be awarded with the highest grade (12), the student should with no or only minor insignificant shortcomings fulfil the following objectives:
  • Be able to apply relevant models, concepts and theories from the syllabus to a circular economy business case of interest.
  • Identify and analyze the relationships between these models, concepts and theories mutually in relation to the circular economy business case challenges.
  • Critically assess the chosen case by use of these models, concepts and theories for developing circular economy business innovations and strategies.
Circular Economy - Business models for the 21st Century:
Exam ECTS 7,5
Examination form Oral exam based on written product

In order to participate in the oral exam, the written product must be handed in before the oral exam; by the set deadline. The grade is based on an overall assessment of the written product and the individual oral performance, see also the rules about examination forms in the programme regulations.
Individual or group exam Oral group exam based on written group product
Number of people in the group 2-4
Size of written product Max. 20 pages
Definition of numbers of pages:

Groups of

2 students 10 pages max
3 students 15 pages max
4 students 20 pages max

Note that the exam is a group exam. If you are not able to find a group yourself, you have to address the course teacher who will place you in a group.

Students who wish to have an individual exam might be able to write a term paper in the course. Please see the cand.merc. rules for term papers for more information.
Assignment type Report
Release of assignment Subject chosen by students themselves, see guidelines if any
Written product to be submitted on specified date and time.
15 min. per student, including examiners' discussion of grade, and informing plus explaining the grade
Grading scale 7-point grading scale
Examiner(s) Internal examiner and second internal examiner
Exam period Autumn
Make-up exam/re-exam
Same examination form as the ordinary exam
Make-up exam/re-exam Same examination form as the ordinary exam

Re-take is to be based on the same reports as the ordinary exam:

* if a student is absent from the oral exam due to documented illness but has handed in the written group product she/he does not have to submit a new product for the re-take.

* if a whole group fails oral exam they must hand in a revised product for the re-take.

* if one student in the group fails the oral exam the course coordinator chooses whether the student will have the oral exam on the basis of the same product or if she/he has to hand in a revised product for the re-take.
Course content, structure and pedagogical approach

The objective of the course is to give the student a deeper understanding of the competitive possibilities of circular economy businesses. Further to illuminate, the innovative and entrepreneurial business opportunities, by development and marketing of circular product, service and process designs as a competitive strategy compared to the linear take-make-use-waste approach. More precise do we in Circular economy – business model for the 21st Century focus on how to apply circular economy principles in businesses.


The rise of the global consuming class creates pressure on the finite resources challenging a global sustainable production and consumption regime. On average do the current production and consumption patterns cause Earth Overshoot Day earlier and earlier each year. Current production and consumption patterns lead to increasing depletion of natural capital, massive biodiversity loss and climate change through use of fossil fuel energy and unhealthy exploitation of raw material resources.


Researchers have for the last five decades tried to address the challenges of overshooting the ecological ceiling and shortfalls of the social foundation. Yet the challenges are just recently acknowledged, as market failures of the neo-classical growth economy, which lack inclusion of impact and cost of fossil fuel energy input and use of natural capital input in production and consumption. Utilising circular economy principles relieves the pressure on natural capital reserves and as argued by the EU Commission provides businesses with competitive advantages in the future. The Commission envision a future where companies apply circular economy business models to mitigate loss of resources for future production and consumption possibilities.


In short is the circular economy an economic system that is; regenerative and restorative by design, powered by renewable energy, minimizes leakages to incineration and landfills, keeps the resources at highest possible value at all times, demands cross-sectoral collaboration, have a higher complexity than linear business models and supply chains. Hence, constituting a potential to decouple monetary economic growth, from growth in virgin resource extraction and climate change challenges.


Key topics for circular economy – business models for the 21st century:

  • Circular economy theory in general
  • Business model design strategies for a circular economy
  • Product, service and business process innovation for circular economy
  • Transition in socio-technical systems and processes
  • Multi stakeholder network collaboration supporting circular economy
  • The role of incumbent industries and inertia – lock-in and unlocking markets
  • Procurement as a lever for circular economy transition


Description of the teaching methods
The teaching is based on students prepare for class by reading the curriculum papers for the lectures and the literature will then be processed in class by the lecturer, in company with the students. At the start of the course will the students create groups for exams and during the semester will the students present their exam case and get working feedback.

The case choice should be relevant in relation to understanding application of circular economy principles and the syllabus. The aim for the presentations is to clarify topics and areas of challenges related to the exam project.

As it is a quarter semester course will the lecturers be compressed and the pace of the course high. This creates an opportunity to have a very focused progress, but does also demand the student to have a high level of work and to be well prepared for the lecturers. During the course it is the plan to have visits from high level managers from corporate life, to give the students insights into how applying circular economy principles in business is undertaken practically in real life.
Feedback during the teaching period
Feedback is provided during the course at class in general. Meaning that all questions will be taken seriously and answered properly.

Group feedback, which is the main feedback event, will take place as a midt term evaluation and be given as part of the student groups presentation of the chosen exam cases. The groups will present what they perceive is a fine case for exams and the related theories that are envisioned to apply in order to understand the problem at stake. The teacher will on this background provide feedback on choice of case and the related proposed theories, in order to either adjust the approach or approve to work on.
Student workload
Preperation 123 hours
Teaching 33 hours
Exam 50 hours
Further Information

This course is part of the minor in Circular Economy, but students can choose this course independently

Expected literature

General course literature: (books)

Stuchtey, M.R., Enkvist, P-A. and Zumwinkel, K. (2016). A Good Disruption – Redefining Growth in the Twenty-First Century, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.


Webster, K. (2017). The circular economy – A wealth of flows, Ellen MacArthur Foundation Publishing, 2nd Edition.


Tentative curriculum for the course:

  • Growth within. A circular economy vision for a competitive Europe, (p. 12-92) https:/​/​www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/​assets/​downloads/​publications/​EllenMacArthurFoundation_Growth-Within_July15.pdf
  • Elkington, J. (1998). Partnerships from Cannibals with Forks: The Triple Bottom Line of 21st Century Business, Environmental quality management, pp. 37-51.
  • Steffen et al. (2015). ´Planetary Boundaries: Guiding Human Development on a Changing Planet´, Science, Vol. 347, issue 6223, pp. 736-745.  DOI: 10.1126/science.1259855
  • Braungart, M., McDonough, W. and Bollinger, A. (2007). Cradle-to-cradle design: creating healthy emissions – a strategy for eco-effective product and system design, Journal of Cleaner Production, Vol. 15, pp. 1337-1348. doi:10.1016/​j.jclepro.2006.08.003
  • Kirchherr, J., Reike, D. and Hekkert, M. (2017). Conceptualizing the circular economy: An analysis of 114 definitions, Resources, Conservation & Recycling, Vol. 127, pp. 221-232. http:/​/​dx.doi.org/​10.1016/​j.resconrec.2017.09.005
  • Environmental Economics: Pearce and Turner (1990), Chapter 2, The Circular Economy
  • Kirchherr et al. (2018). Barriers to the Circular Economy: Evidence From the European Union (EU), Ecological Economics, Vol. 150, pp. 264-272. https:/​/​doi.org/​10.1016/​j.ecolecon.2018.04.028 
  • https:/​/​www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/​
  • https:/​/​www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/​circular-economy/​concept/​schools-of-thought
  • Lewandowski, M. (2015). Designing the Business Models for Circular Economy – Towards the Conceptual Framework, Sustainability, Vol. 8, Issue 43, pp. 1-28. doi:10.3390/su8010043
  • Abdelkafi, N. and Taüscher, K. (2016). Business Models for Sustainability From a System Dynamics Perspective, Organization and Environment, Vol. 29, Issue 1, pp. 74-96. DOI: 10.1177/1086026615592930
  • Tukker, A. (2004). Eight types of product-service systems: Eight ways to sustainability? Experiences from Suspronet, Business Strategy and the Environment, Vol. 13, pp. 246-260. DOI: 10.1002/bse.414
  • Baxter, W., Aurisicchio, M. and Childs, P. (2017). Contaminated Interaction – Another Barrier to Circular Material Flows, Journal of Industrial Ecology, Vol. 21, Issue 3, pp. 507-516. DOI: 10.1111/jiec.12612
  • Bocken et al. (2016). Product design and business model strategies for a circular economy, Journal of Industrial and Production Engineering, Vol. 33, Issue 5, pp. 308-320. http:/​/​dx.doi.org/​10.1080/​21681015.2016.1172124
  • Heyes, G., Sharmina, M., Mendoza, J.M.F., Gallego-Schmid, A. and Azapagic, A. (2018). Developing and implementing circular economy business models in service-oriented technology companies, Journal of Cleaner Production, 177, 621-632. https:/​/​doi.org/​10.1016/​j.jclepro.2017.12.168
  • Linder, M. and Williander, M. (2017). Circular Business Model Innovation: Inherent Uncertainties, Business Strategy and the Environment, Vol. 26, pp. 182-196. DOI: 10.1002/bse.1906
  • Mugge, R., Jockin, B. and Bocken, N. (2017). How to sell refurbished smartphones? An investigation of different customer groups and appropriate incentives, Journal of Cleaner Production, Vol. 147, pp. 284-296. http:/​/​dx.doi.org/​10.1016/​j.jclepro.2017.01.111
  • Ritzén, S. and Sandström, G. Ö. (2017). Barriers to the Circular Economy – integration of perspectives and domains, Procedia CIRP 64, pp. 7-12. doi: 10.1016/​j.procir.2017.03.005
  • Hazen, B.T., Mollenkopf, D.A. and Wang, Y. (2017). Remanufacturing for the Circular Economy: An Examination of Consumer Switching Behavior, Business Strategy and the Environment, Vol. 26, pp. 451-464. DOI: 10.1002/bse.1929
  • Edbring, E.G., Lehner, M. and Mont, O. (2016). Exploring consumer’s attitudes to alternative models of consumption: motivations and barriers, Journal of Cleaner Production, Vol. 123, pp. 5-15. http:/​/​dx.doi.org/​10.1016/​j.jclepro.2015.10.107
  • Weelden, E. van, Mugge, R. and Bakker, C. (2016). Paving the way towards circular consumption: exploring consumer acceptance of refurbished mobile phones in the Dutch market, Journal of Cleaner Production, Vol. 113, pp. 743-754. http:/​/​dx.doi.org/​10.1016/​j.jclepro.2015.11.065
  • Guyader, H. and Piscielli, L. (2019). Business model diversification in the sharing economy: The case of GoMore, Journal of Cleaner Production, Vol. 215, pp. 1059-1069. https:/​/​doi.org/​10.1016/​j.jclepro.2019.01.114
  • Niero, M., Negrelli, A.J., Hoffmeyer, S.B., Olsen, S.I. and Birkved, M. (2016). Closing the loop for aluminum cans: Life Cycle Assessment of Progression in Cradle-to-Cradle certification levels, Journal of Cleaner Production, Vol. 126, pp. 352-362. http:/​/​dx.doi.org/​10.1016/​j.jclepro.2016.02.122
  • Rajala, R. et al. (2018). How does Intelligent Goods Shape Closed-Loop Systems?, California Management Review, Vol. 60, Issue 3, pp. 20-44. https:/​/​doi.org/​10.1177/​0008125618759
  • Frishammar, J. and Parida, V. (2019). Circular Business Model Transformation: A Roadmap for incumbent firms, California Management Review, 61 (2), 5-29. https:/​/​doi.org/​10.1177/​0008125618811
  • Borland, H. and Lindgreen, A. (2013). Sustainability, Epistemology; Ecocentric Business, and Marketing Strategy: Ideology, Reality, and Vision, Journal of Business Ethics, Vol. 117, pp. 173-187. DOI 10.1007/​s10551-012-1519-8
  • Borland, H., Ambrosini, V., Lindgreen, A. and Vanhamme, J. (2016). Building Theory at the Intersection of Ecological Sustainability and Strategic Management, Journal of Business Ethics, Vol. 135, pp. 293-307. DOI 10.1007/​s10551-014-2471-6
  • Jacobides, M., Cennamo, C. and Gawer, A. (2016). Towards a theory of ecosystems, Strategic Management Journal, Vol. 39, pp. 2255-2276. DOI: 10.1002/smj.2904
  • Dattée, B., Alexy, O. and Autio, E. (2018). Maneuvering in poor visibility: How firms play the ecosystem game when uncertainty is high, Academy of Management Journal, Vol. 61, No. 2, pp. 466-498. https:/​/​doi.org/​10.5465/​amj.2015.0869
  • Corvellec, H., Campos, M.J.Z. and Zapata, P. (2013). Infrastructures, lock-in, and sustainable urban development: the case of waste incineration in the Göteborg Metropolitan Area, Journal of Cleaner Production, 50, 32-39. http:/​/​dx.doi.org/​10.1016/​j.jclepro.2012.12.009
  • Geels, F.W. (2002). Technological transitions as evolutionary reconfiguration processes: a multi-level perspective and a case study, Research Policy, 1257-1274. PII: S0048-7333(02)00062-8
  • O´Brien, K. and Sygna, L. (2013). Responding to Climate Change: The Three Spheres of Transformation, Proceedings of Transformation in a Changing Climate, 19-21 June 2013, Oslo Norway, pp. 16-23.
  • Unruh, G.C. (2000). Understanding carbon lock-in, Energy Policy, Vol. 28, pp. 817-830.
  • Unruh, G.C. (2002). Escaping carbon lock-in, Energy Policy, Vol. 30, pp. 317-325.
  • Lieder, M., Asif, F.M.A., Rashid, A., Mihelic, A. and Kotnik, S. (2017). Towards circular economy implementation in manufacturing systems using a multi-method simulation approach to link design and business strategy, International Journal on Advanced Manufacturing Technology, Vol 93, pp. 1953-1970. DOI 10.1007/​s00170-017-0610-9 
  • Lieder, M., Asif, F.M.A., Rashid, A., Mihelic, A. and Kotnik, S. (2018). A conjoint analysis of circular economy value propositions for consumers: Using “washing machines in Stockholm” as a case study, Journal of Cleaner Production, Vol. 172, pp. 264-273. https:/​/​doi.org/​10.1016/​j.jclepro.2017.10.147
  • Göpel, M. (2016). What Political Economy Adds to Transformation Research, Chapter 2, The Great Mindshift, The Anthroposcene: Politik, Economics, Society, Science, pp. 13-51. DOI 10.1007/​978-3-319-43766-8_2
Last updated on 15-02-2023