Unlocking Sustainable Success 101: Powering Circular Supply Chain Management for the Circular Economy

Circular supply chain

Unlocking Sustainable Success: Powering Circular Supply Chain Management for the Circular Economy

Circular economy is an approach that aims to promote sustainability by rethinking traditional linear production and consumption models. It emphasizes the importance of reducing waste, maximizing resource efficiency, and creating closed-loop systems.

Circular supply chain management plays a crucial role in implementing circular economy principles and achieving its goals.

circular supply chain refers to a system in which resources, materials, and products are continuously circulated and reused within a closed-loop system, rather than following a linear “take-make-dispose” model. It is a key component of the circular economy, which aims to maximize resource efficiency, minimize waste generation, and promote sustainability.

In a circular supply chain, the focus is on maintaining the value of products and materials for as long as possible by keeping them in use, recovering their value at the end of their life, and reintegrating them into new production cycles. This involves implementing strategies such as recycling, remanufacturing, refurbishing, and sharing of products.

The circular supply chain differs from the traditional linear supply chain in several ways:

1. Design for circularity:

Products are designed intending to facilitate their disassembly, reusability, and recyclability. This involves considering factors such as material selection, ease of repair, and modular design.

2. Resource recovery and recycling:

At the end of a product’s life, instead of being discarded as waste, materials are recovered and recycled to create new products or feed back into the production process. This reduces the need for virgin resource extraction and minimizes environmental impact.

3. Reverse logistics:

Reverse logistics refers to the management of product returns and the flow of materials back through the supply chain. In a circular supply chain, effective reverse logistics systems are crucial for collecting, sorting, and processing returned products or materials.

4. Collaborative partnerships:

Collaboration among various stakeholders, including manufacturers, suppliers, retailers, and consumers, is essential for the success of a circular supply chain. It requires cooperation in sharing information, resources, and expertise to optimize the flow of materials and ensure their effective reuse.

5. Service-oriented business models:

Shifting from product ownership to service-oriented business models promotes circularity. Instead of selling products, companies may offer leasing, sharing, or subscription-based models, where customers pay for the utility or access to products rather than owning them outright.

Circular supply chain management involves the integration of circular economy principles into various stages of the supply chain, including sourcing, production, distribution, use, and end-of-life processes. It focuses on the establishment of four key loops: closing loops, slowing loops, intensifying loops, and narrowing loops, as identified by Bocken et al. (2016) and Geissdoerfer et al. (2018).

Geissdoerfer et al. (2018) developed a comprehensive framework that highlights the role of various circular business models in driving circular supply chains across different loops. These loops include closing loops, slowing loops, intensifying loops, narrowing loops, and dematerializing loops.

Closing loops refer to the practice of reusing materials through recycling, remanufacturing, and similar processes. Instead of discarding products at the end of their life cycle, closing loops aim to recover valuable materials and reintegrate them into new production processes. This helps to minimize waste and reduce the extraction of virgin resources [2].

Slowing loops involve extending the use and reuse of goods over time. This can be achieved through designing durable products that have longer lifespans and incorporating product lifecycle extension strategies. By prolonging the life of products, slowing loops contribute to resource conservation and waste reduction [2].

Intensifying loops focus on maximizing the value and efficiency of materials or products during their use phase. This can be achieved by promoting shared or pooled product usage instead of individual consumption. By enabling multiple users to access and utilize the same products, intensifying loops reduce the overall resource consumption per person and increase the utilization rate of products.

Narrowing loops emphasize overall resource efficiency by using fewer resources per product. This involves optimizing processes and design to minimize material usage, energy consumption, and waste generation. By adopting resource-efficient practices, narrowing loops contribute to reducing the environmental impact of production and consumption.

Dematerializing loops play a significant role in circular supply chain management. They involve substituting products with services that enhance the utility and longevity of materials and products. Dematerialization focuses on providing access to services rather than ownership of physical products, which can reduce the overall material and resource requirements.

Implementing circular supply chain management loops requires collaboration among various stakeholders, including manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, and consumers. It also necessitates a shift towards innovative business models and supportive policies that incentivize sustainable practices and reward circularity.

In conclusion, circular supply chain management loops, including closing, slowing, intensifying, narrowing, and dematerializing loops, are integral to the implementation of circular economy principles. By promoting resource efficiency, waste reduction, and extended product lifecycles, these loops contribute to creating more sustainable and resilient supply chains that align with the goals of a circular economy.


[1] Supply chain management for circular economy: conceptual framework and research agenda. Retrieved from: https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/IJLM-12-2019-0332/full/pdf?title=supply-chain-management-for-circular-economy-conceptual-framework-and-research-agenda

Read the paper :HERE

[2] Geissdoerfer, M., Savaget, P., Bocken, N. M., & Hultink, E. J. (2018). The Circular Economy–A new sustainability paradigm? Journal of cleaner production, 143, 757-768. 

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