Circular Social Innovation: A New Paradigm for India’s Sustainable Development

  • Ashok Prasad
  • Mathew J. Manimala


Although there has been a growing focus on social innovations and social enterprises in India over the past decade, the country’s high economic growth based on the linear economic development model is getting clouded by increasing environmental damage, resource scarcity and, paradoxically, persistent poverty for a significant section of the population. Policy makers and businesses around the world are increasingly looking towards the ‘circular economy model’, which aims to enable effective flow of materials, energy, labour and information so that natural and social capital can be rebuilt. This chapter examines the numerous opportunities for social enterprises to contribute to the journey towards a circular economy in India through the paradigm of ‘Circular Social Innovation’ (CSI). It begins by delineating the scope and potential for social enterprises in India by looking beyond the conventional ‘social impact’ domains, given the spectrum of social and environmental challenges in India. Subsequently, it analyses in depth the role and interlinkages between social enterprises, social innovation and circular economy in the context of sustainable development. Next, it proposes and defines CSI as the new paradigm to address the challenges against sustainable development by combining the forces of social innovation, social enterprises and the circular economy. The distinguishing characteristics of this paradigm are illustrated using suitable examples of CSI enterprises from diverse sectors. In conclusion, it highlights the relevance of pursuing the CSI paradigm, given the intensity and interwoven nature of sustainable development challenges in emerging economies like India.


Social Enterprises Social Innovation Circular Economy Sustainable Development India 


  1. Bartelmus, P. (2013). The future we want: Green growth or sustainable development. Environmental Development, 7, 165–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bhushan, D. (2016). The flowercycler. Retrieved from
  3. Chalmers, D. (2012). Social innovation: An exploration of the barriers faced by innovating organizations in the social economy. Local Economy, 28, 17–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cramer, J. (2014). Moving towards a circular economy in The Netherlands: Challenges and directions. Utercht: Utrecht Sustainability Institute.Google Scholar
  5. Cunha, J., Benneworth, P., & Oliveira, P. (2011). Social entrepreneurship and social innovation: A conceptual distinction. In L. M. Carmo Farinha et al. (Eds.), Handbook of research on global competitive advantage through innovation and entrepreneurship (pp. 1–24). New York, NY: IGI-Global.Google Scholar
  6. Dees, J. (1998, October 31). The meaning of ‘Social Entrepreneurship’. Retrieved from
  7. Eco Femme. (2016). About us. Retrieved from
  8. Ellen MacArthur Foundation. (2013). Towards a circular economy: Opportunities for the consumer goods sector. Cowes: Ellen MacArthur Foundation.Google Scholar
  9. Ellen MacArthur Foundation. (2015). Towards a circular economy: Business rationale for an accelerated transition. Cowes: Ellen MacArthur Foundation.Google Scholar
  10. Express News Service. (2016, October 11). 224 million Indians live below poverty line: WB. Retrieved from
  11. Geissdoerfer, M., Savaget, P., Bocken, N., & Hultink, E. (2016). The circular economy—A new sustainability paradigm? Journal of Cleaner Production, 757–768.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gupta, R., et al. (2014). India’s path from poverty to empowerment. Retrieved from
  13. Howaldt, J., & Schwarz, M. (2010). Social innovation: Concepts, research fields and international trends. Dortmund: Sozialforschungsstelle Dortmund.Google Scholar
  14. KPMG. (2010). Healthcare: Reaching out to the masses. Retrieved from
  15. Leadbeater, C. (1997). The rise of the social entrepreneur. London: Demos.Google Scholar
  16. Magrin, G, Gay García C., Cruz Choque D., Giménez, J. C., Moreno, A. R., Nagy, G. J, … Villamizar A (2007). Climate change 2007: Working Group II: Impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. Retrieved from
  17. Ministry of Labour and Employment, Government of India. (2010). Report on unemployment and unemployment survey. Retrieved from
  18. Moses, N. V. (2014). Eco Femme: Cut from a different cloth. Retrieved from
  19. Mulgan, G., Tucker, S., Ali, R., & Sanders, B. (2007). Social innovation. London, UK: The Young Foundation.Google Scholar
  20. Murray, A., Skene, K., & Haynes, K. (2017). The circular economy: An interdisciplinary exploration of the concept and application in a global context. Journal of Business Ethics, 140, 369–380.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Phills, J., Deiglmeier, K., & Miller, D. (2008). Rediscovering social innovation. Stanford Social Innovation Review, 6, 34–43.Google Scholar
  22. Reddy, R. (2015). Innovation spotlight: Eco Femme. Retrieved from
  23. Roche, E. (2017). India ranks 131 on Human Development Index, Norway No. 1. Retrieved from
  24. Sanghani, P. (2016). Flower pollution: Here’s how HelpUsGreen is keeping the Ganga clean. Retrieved from
  25. Sauve, S., Bernard, S., & Sloan, P. (2016). Environmental sciences, sustainable development and circular economy: Alternative concepts for trans-disciplinary research. Environmental Development, 48–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. UNDP. (2016). About India: Challenges. Retrieved from
  27. UN SDSN. (2015). Getting started with the Sustainable Development Goals. Paris: UN SDSN.Google Scholar
  28. Venugopal, S. (2016). Hyderabad startup is tackling the problem of waste segregation. Retrieved from
  29. Waste Ventures. (2014). Waste Ventures: Creating green livelihoods through waste picker enterprise formation. Retrieved from
  30. Witkamp, M., Royakkers, L., & Raven, R. (2011). Strategic niche management of social innovations: The case of social entrepreneurship. Technology Analysis & Strategic Management, 23, 667–681.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Yunus, M. (2010). Building social business. New York, NY: Public Affairs.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ashok Prasad
    • 1
  • Mathew J. Manimala
    • 2
  1. 1.Xavier Institute of Management & EntrepreneurshipBengaluruIndia
  2. 2.IIM BangaloreBengaluruIndia

Personalised recommendations