The Spiral Economy: A Socially Progressive Circular Economy Model?

  • Alison Ashby
  • Aline Marian Callegaro
  • Kemi AdeyeyeEmail author
  • Maria Granados
Part of the Greening of Industry Networks Studies book series (GINS, volume 7)


The Circular Economy (CE) is a well-established sustainability framework within the industry and business contexts, with strong advocates such as the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. It is designed to be restorative and regenerative, and through a continuous cycle aims to keep products, components, and materials at their highest utility and value at all times. It focuses on preserving and enhancing natural capital, optimising resource yields, and minimising system risks by managing finite stocks and renewable flows. The CE principles align strongly with the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) framework, which is a relevant lens for further understanding how industry can strategically address environmental and social issues.

However, while the CE framework claims to account for the three inter-related and co-evolutionary sustainability dimensions of social, economic and environmental it is challenged for its overt emphasis on the latter two aspects with less done to achieve social value and benefits for those involved in creating and managing the restorative and regenerative cycles. This chapter aims to address this key gap by critically reviewing relevant literature and arguing for a more socially integrated and progressive CE. It develops and presents an original conceptual framework called the Spiral Economy (SE).


Circular economy Sustainability Social value Social capital Innovation 



The authors acknowledge the contributions of Dr. Rafael Feyh Jappur, Dr. Andréa Cardoso Ventura, Dr. Alexandre Meira de Vasconcelos and Dr. Diego A. Vasquez to this work.


  1. Andrews FM, Withey SB (1974) Developing measures of perceived life quality: results from several National Surveys. Soc Indic Res 1:1–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ashby A, Smith MH, Leat M (2012) Making connections: a review of supply chain management and sustainability literature. Supply Chain Manag: Int J 17:497–516CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Austin J, Stevenson H, Wei-Skillern J (2006) Social and commercial entrepreneurship: same, different, or both? Entrepreneurship: Theory & Practice, Wiley-Blackwell 30(1):1–22Google Scholar
  4. Autry CW, Griffiths SE (2008) Supply chain capital: the impact of structural and relational linkages on firm execution and innovation. J Bus Logist 29:157–173CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bagnoli L, Megali C (2011) Measuring performance in social enterprises. Nonprofit Volunt Sect Q 40:149–165CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Banerjee SB (2010) Who sustains whose development? Sustainable development and the reinvention of nature. Organ Stud 24:143–180CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Benyus J (1997) Biomimicry: innovation inspired by nature. Harper Collins, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  8. Blumberg DF (2005) Introduction to management of reverse logistics and closed loop supply chain processes. Taylor and Francis, AbingdonGoogle Scholar
  9. Bocken NM, de Pauw I, Bakker C, van der Grinten B (2016) Product design and business model strategies for a circular economy. J Ind Prod Eng 33(5):308–320Google Scholar
  10. Boons F, Lüdeke-Freund F (2013) Business models for sustainable innovation: state-of-the-art and steps towards a research agenda. J Clean Prod 45:9–19CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bourdieu P (1985) The forms of capital. In: Richardson JG (ed) Handbook of theory and research for the sociology of education. Greenwood, New York, pp 241–258Google Scholar
  12. Braungart M, McDonough W (2009) Cradle to cradle: remaking the way we make things. Vintage, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  13. Buzan T (1993) The mind map book. BBC Books, LondonGoogle Scholar
  14. Carey S, Lawson B (2011) Governance and social capital formation in buyer-supplier relationships. J Manuf Technol Manag 22:152–170CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Carey S, Lawson B, Krause DR (2011) Social capital configuration, legal bonds and performance in buyer–supplier relationships. J Oper Manag 29(4):277–288CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Carter CR, Rogers DS (2008) A framework of sustainable supply chain management: moving toward new theory. Int J Phys Distrib Logist Manag 38:360–387CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Chesborough H (2006) Open innovation: the new imperative for creating and profiting from technology. Harvard Business School Press, BrightonGoogle Scholar
  18. Childerhouse P, Towill DR (2011) A systems engineering approach to supply chain auditing. J Manuf Technol Manag 22(5):621–640CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Clark C, Rosenzeig W, Long D, Olsen S (2004) Double bottom line Project report: assessing social impact in double bottom line ventures. Working paper No. 13, University of California, BerkeleyGoogle Scholar
  20. Commission, European (2014) Towards a circular economy: a zero waste programme for Europe. European Commission, BrusselsGoogle Scholar
  21. Davies M (2011) Concept mapping, mind mapping and argument mapping: what are the differences, and do they matter? High Educ 62(3):279–301CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Dempsey N, Bramley G, Power S, Brown C (2009) The social dimension of sustainable development: defining urban sustainability. Sustain Dev 19(5):289–300CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Eisenhardt KM, Graebner ME (2007) Theory building from cases: opportunities and challenges. Acad Manag J 50:25–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Ellen Macarthur Foundation (2013) Towards the circular economy: opportunities for the consumer goods sector (vol 2). Accessed 16 Jan 2018
  25. Emerson J, Bonini S (2003) The blended value map: tracking the intersects and opportunities of economic, social and environmental value creation. Accessed 5 Jan 2018
  26. Fan W, Wallace L, Rich S, Zhang Z (2006) Tapping the power of text mining. Commun ACM 49(9):76–82CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Fowler A (2000) NGDOs as a moment in history: beyond aid to social entrepreneurship or civic innovation? Third World Quarterly, Routledge 21(4):637–654CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Franklin-Johnson E, Figge F, Canning L (2016) Resource duration as a managerial indicator for circular economy performance. J Clean Prod 133:589–598CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Ghisellini P, Cialani C, Ulgiati S (2016) A review on circular economy: the expected transition to a balanced interplay of environmental and economic systems. J Clean Prod 114:11–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Giddings B, Hopwood B, O’Brien G (2002) Environment, economy and society: fitting them together into sustainable development. Sustain Dev 10:187–196CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Gregson N, Crang M, Fuller S, Holmes H (2015) Interrogating the circular economy: the moral economy of resource recovery in the EU. Econ Soc 44(2):218–243CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Guide VDR Jr, Van Wassenhove LN (2009) The evolution of closed-loop supply chain research. Oper Res 57(1):10–18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Gutberlet J, Carenzo S, Kain JH, Azevedo MM (2017) Waste picker organizations and their contribution to the circular economy: two case studies from a global south perspective. Resources 6(4):52CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Haas W, Krausmann F, Wiedenhofer D, Heinz M (2015) How circular is the global economy? An assessment of material flows, waste production, and recycling in the European Union and the world in 2005. J Ind Ecol 19(5):765–777CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Halpern D (2005) Social capital. Polity Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  36. Hobson K, Lynch N (2016) Diversifying and de-growing the circular economy: radical social transformation in a resource-scarce world. Futures 82:15–25CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Jansen RJG, Curseu PL, Vermeulen PAM, Geurts JLA, Gibcus P (2011) Social capital as a decision aid in strategic decision-making in service organisations. Manag Decis 49:734–747CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Kontinen T, Ojala A (2012) Social capital in the international operations of family SMEs. J Small Bus Enterp Dev 19:39–55CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Korhonen J, Honkasalo A, Seppälä J (2018) Circular economy: the concept and its limitations. Ecol Econ 143:37–46CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Lewandowski M (2016) Designing the business models for circular economy—towards the conceptual framework. Sustainability 8(1):43CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Lieder M, Rashid A (2016) Towards circular economy implementation: a comprehensive review in context of manufacturing industry. J Clean Prod 115:36–51CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Lubchenko J, Cerny-Chipman EB, Reimer JN, Levin SA (2016) The right incentives enable ocean sustainability successes and provide hope for the future. Proc Natl Acad Sci 113(51):14507–14514CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Mair J, Schoen O (2007) Successful social entrepreneurial business models in the context of developing economies: an explorative study. International Journal of Emerging Markets, Emerald 2(1):54–68CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Martin RL, Osberg S (2007) Social entrepreneurship: the case for definition. Stanf Soc Innov Rev. Spring, StanfordGoogle Scholar
  45. McGrath R, Sparks WL (2005) The importance of building social capital. Qual Prog 38:45–49Google Scholar
  46. Medium Corporation (2017) Global supply chains and UN’s sustainable development goals: a relationship of reciprocity. Accessed 12 May 2018
  47. Mentink B (2014) Circular business model innovation: a process framework and a tool for business model innovation in a circular economy. Dissertation, Delft University of TechnologyGoogle Scholar
  48. Moreau V, Sahakian M, Van Griethuysen P, Vuille F (2017) Coming full circle: why social and institutional dimensions matter for the circular economy. J Ind Ecol 21(3):497–506CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Mulgan G (2010) Measuring social value. Stanford Social Innovation Review. Summer. Accessed 26 Oct 2018
  50. Murray A, Skene K, Haynes K (2017) The circular economy: an interdisciplinary exploration of the concept and application in a global context. J Bus Ethics 140(3):369–380CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Nahapiet J, Ghoshal S (1998) Social capital, intellectual capital, and the organisational advantage. Acad Manag Rev 23:242–266CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Navarrete-Hernandez P, Navarrete-Hernandez N (2018) Unleashing waste-pickers’ potential: supporting recycling cooperatives in Santiago de Chile. World Dev 101:293–310CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Pagell M, Wu Z (2009) Building a more complete theory of sustainable supply chain management using case studies of 10 exemplars. J Supply Chain Manag 45:37–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Phills JA, Deiglmeier K, Miller DT (2008) Rediscovering social innovation. Stanf Soc Innov Rev 6(4):34–43. Accessed 26 Oct 2018Google Scholar
  55. Pirolo L, Presutti M (2010) The impact of social capital on the start-ups’ performance growth. J Small Bus Manag 48:197–227CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Prasad S, Tata J, Guo X (2012) Sustaining small businesses in the United States in times of recession. J Adv Manag Res 9:8–28CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Roden S, Lawson B (2014) Developing social capital in buyer–supplier relationships: the contingent effect of relationship-specific adaptations. Int J Prod Econ 151:89–99CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Sarkis J (1995) Manufacturing strategy and environmental consciousness. Technovation 15:79–97CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Sauvé S, Bernard S, Sloan P (2016) Environmental sciences, sustainable development and circular economy: alternative concepts for trans-disciplinary research. Environ Dev 17:48–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Singh J, Ordoñez I (2016) Resource recovery from post-consumer waste: important lessons for the upcoming circular economy. J Clean Prod 134:342–353CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Sisodia R, Wolfe D, Sheth JN (2007) Firms of endearment: how world-class companies profit from passion and purpose. Wharton School Publishing, Upper Saddle RiverGoogle Scholar
  62. Soosay C, Hyland P (2015) A decade of supply chain collaboration and directions for future research. Supply Chain Manag 20:613–630CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Spence LJ, Schmidpeter R (2003) SMEs, social capital and the common good. J Bus Ethics 45:93–108CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Stubbs W, Cocklin C (2008) Conceptualizing a “sustainability business model”. Organ Environ 21(2):103–127CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Tidd J, Bessant J (2013) Managing innovation: integrating technological, market and organizational change, 5th edn. John Wiley & Sons, ChichesterGoogle Scholar
  66. United Nations (2017) About the sustainable development goals. Accessed 18 May 2018
  67. US Chamber of Commerce Foundation (2015) Achieving a circular economy: how the private sector is reimagining the future of business. Accessed 12 Jan 2018
  68. Vorhaus J (2014) Function and functional explanation in social capital theory: a philosophical appraisal. Stud Philos Educ 33:185–199CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Wilson F, Post JE (2013) Business models for people, planet (& profits): exploring the phenomena of social business, a market-based approach to social value creation. Small Bus Econ 40(3):715–737CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Winans K, Kendall A, Deng H (2017) The history and current applications of the circular economy concept. Renew Sust Energ Rev 68:825–833CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Witjes S, Lozano R (2016) Towards a more circular economy: proposing a framework linking sustainable public procurement and sustainable business models. Resour Conserv Recycl 112:37–44CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Yunus M, Moingeon B, Lehmann-Ortega L (2010) Building social business models: lessons from the Grameen experience. Long Range Plan 43(2):308–325Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alison Ashby
    • 1
  • Aline Marian Callegaro
    • 2
  • Kemi Adeyeye
    • 3
    Email author
  • Maria Granados
    • 4
  1. 1.Plymouth Business SchoolPlymouthUK
  2. 2.Federal University of Rio Grande do SulPorto AlegreBrazil
  3. 3.University of BathBathUK
  4. 4.Westminster Business SchoolLondonUK

Personalised recommendations