Opening New Opportunities to Close the Loop: How Technology Influences the Circular Economy

  • Nina BürklinEmail author
  • Jasmien Wynants


Over the past decades, the fashion industry has become one of the most resource-intensive industries in the world. Throughout the whole value chain, from production to usage as well as with regard to disposal of clothing, there’s a huge impact. Nevertheless, advancements in modern technology have served to develop innovative solutions to enhance a circular economy leading to waste reduction, design for longevity and service offerings.

The study at hand is the first to closely investigate the concept of a circular economy based on a holistic seven-stage framework. Combining conceptual foundations with multiple case studies, it contributes to a further understanding of sustainable development through technological innovations.

This chapter contains a multiple case study approach based on the seven-stage Close The Loop framework established in 2015 (resources, design, production, retail, consumption, end of life and systems thinking/sustainable entrepreneurship). Thus, each phase in the cyclical process is discussed conceptually and further illustrated through best practices from a database of more than 350 innovative cases in fashion. Lastly, concrete managerial implications for hands-on strategies to be implemented in fashion are derived.

Results depict the current status quo of technology in fashion and propose the implication of diverse innovations to foster a circular economy. These can range from 3D-virtual prototyping in order to save resources up to block chain systems to increase transparency along the whole value chain. Further findings include the use of technology to create a stronger bond between consumers and their clothing to avoid quick disposal of their items.


Circular economy Sustainability Close the loop Fashion industry Innovation Case study 


  1. Bhamra, T. A., Hernandez-Pardo, R. J., & Mawle, R. (2013). Sustainability: Methods and practices. In S. Walker & J. Giard (Eds.), Handbook of design for sustainability (pp. 106–120). London: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
  2. van Buren, N., Demmers, M., van der Heijden, R., & Witlox, F. (2016). Towards a circular economy: The role of Dutch logistics industries and governments. Sustainability, 8(7), 647.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Claudio, L. (2007). Waste couture: Environmental impact of the clothing industry. Environmental Health Perspectives, 115(9), A449–A454.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Eder-Hansen, J., Chalmer, C., Tärneberg, S., Tochtermann, T., Seara, J., Boger, S., Theelen, G., Schwarz, S., Kristensen, L., & Jäger, K. (2017). Pulse of the fashion industry. Copenhagen: Global Fashion Agenda & The Boston Consulting Group.Google Scholar
  5. Ellen MacArthur Foundation. (2017). A new textiles economy. Retrieved July 24, 2018, from
  6. Ghisellini, P., Cialani, C., & Ulgiati, S. (2016). A review on circular economy: The expected transition to a balanced interplay of environmental and economic systems. Journal of Cleaner Production, 114, 11–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Greenpeace. (2017). Fashion at the crossroads. Retrieved July 24, 2018, from
  8. Kirchherr, J., Reike, D., & Hekkert, M. (2017). Conceptualizing the circular economy: An analysis of 114 definitions. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 127, 221–232.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Lu, J. J., & Hamouda, H. (2014). Current status of fiber waste recycling and its future. Advanced Materials Research, 878, 122–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Mascle, C., & Zhao, H. P. (2008). Integrating environmental consciousness in product/process development based on life cycle thinking. International Journal of Production Economics, 112, 5–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. McKinsey. (2017). The state of fashion 2018. Retrieved July 24, 2018, from
  12. Niinimäki, K. (2013). Sustainable fashion: New approaches. Helsinki: Aalto University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Rosenbloom, S. (2010). Fashion tries on zero waste design. The New York Times (Online). Retrieved July 20th, 2018, from
  14. Snoeck, J., & Neerman, P. (2017). The future of shopping. Tielt: Lannoo Campus.Google Scholar
  15. Stahel, W. R. (2016). The circular economy. Nature News, 531(7595), 435.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for MarketingLudwig-Maximilian-University MunichMunichGermany
  2. 2.Flanders District for CreativityAntwerpBelgium

Personalised recommendations