Small businesses in the circular economy — Change makers or rule takers?

Julkaisun otsikon käännös: Small businesses in the circular economy — Change makers or rule takers?

Tutkimustuotos: Doctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


The circular economy (CE) has been acknowledged as a sustainable alternative to the take-make-waste mentality of the linear economy. It takes a systemic approach to reducing, reusing, recycling and recovering materials in production and consumption. This dissertation examines how small CE businesses create change towards a CE and how normative institutions influence these efforts. The dissertation uses the answers from three individual essays to address two research problems: (1) How do normative institutions influence the CE at small CE businesses? (2) How can small CE busi-nesses generate normative institutional change towards a CE? The dissertation takes a focused qual-itative case study approach to examine the CE within the clothing and textile industry. Essay I addresses the first research problem by exploring the influence of normative institutions on CE entrepreneurs' motivations and actions in Finland and Japan. The study finds that normative institutions influence how greatly motivation for the CE has been internalised. The level of hierarchy and collectiveness, a tendency towards feminine/masculine values, and normative progress towards sustainability already made in the society are some central factors that influence CE entrepreneurs' motivations and actions. Essays I, II and III collectively answer the second research problem. Essay I finds that a normative institutional context favourable towards the CE in Finland seems to foster an explicit CE approach. Alternatively, the context in Japan calls for conformity to social norms and seems to lead to a masked CE approach. Essay II investigates how small CE businesses and incumbents approach the CE on the company, supply chain and society levels in Finland. The study finds that incumbents' CE approaches are focused on the company level and somewhat on the supply chain level. Small CE businesses take a holistic approach to the CE on all three levels. Essay III explores how small CE businesses generate change towards a CE in Western and Northern Europe. Change-making at small CE businesses is essentially reliant on their accumulated positions as CE experts. The choice of change-making approaches is influenced by the size, connections and focus areas of the business.  This dissertation makes three overall contributions to the CE literature. First, institutions set the overarching rules by which small CE businesses can create change rather than entirely inhibiting their change-making efforts. Second, small CE businesses find ways to comply with normative institutions to a sufficient degree while finding ways to create change in these norms. Third, to effectively create change, an explicit approach based on expertise, scale and resources is central for small CE businesses.
Julkaisun otsikon käännösSmall businesses in the circular economy — Change makers or rule takers?
Myöntävä instituutio
  • Aalto-yliopisto
  • Kuula, Markku, Vastuuprofessori
  • Finne, Max, Ohjaaja
Painoksen ISBN978-952-64-0851-4
Sähköinen ISBN978-952-64-0852-1
TilaJulkaistu - 2022
OKM-julkaisutyyppiG5 Artikkeliväitöskirja


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