Major Objectives of Circulus

Specifically, Circulus asks how the circular economy is discursively constructed in Germany, Europe, and beyond and what material change processes are connected to it. To achieve integrated insights into political, economic, and societal change processes, the group combines perspectives from political science, sociology, management, economics, and engineering/industrial ecology. To integrate the different dimensions of transformation, the project takes on a constructivist systems approach linking the distinct work packages.

The project’s major objectives include:

  • Map the diverse visions and definitions of a circular economy on the national and international level and identify complementarities and contradictions across the visions of policy makers, industry, and civil society;
  • Identify policy makers, industry representatives, and civil society actors driving circular economy initiatives and assess their concepts, underlying assumptions and strategies to achieve change;
  • Carry out case studies on currently transforming supply chains to identify opportunities and constraints to change as well as potential tensions and trade-offs between different sustainability dimensions in closed loop supply chains;
  • Carry out life cycle assessments and comparative analyses of environmental performance of selected case studies to scientifically assess dominant assumptions about beneficial resources, products and production processes;
  • Use the generated insights into specific supply chains and innovations to model potential transition paths of global supply chains in a circular economy to quantify potential changes in socio-environmental impacts of global supply chains and assess to what extent particular socio-environmental benefits expected by political and economic actors could potentially be realized;
  • Show whether and where political visions and governance initiatives link to current product and process innovations and shifting global supply chains across different industry sectors;
  • Specify opportunities and constraints of governance frameworks aiming to promote industry innovations for a sustainable circular economy.

The results will serve to identify complementarities and contradictions across the visions of policy makers, industry, and civil society in different countries and across different industry sectors. It will further assess whether and how these visions are connected to current material and supply chain transformations across different industry sectors. Based on these insights, the group will outline possible governance strategies to foster opportunities for a sustainable circular economy.