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Levers for a corporate transition to a plastics circular economy

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jats:titleAbstract</jats:title>jats:pWith the global economy not yet 10% circular, businesses are key stakeholders in designing new forms of resource use, especially large multinationals. However, compared with the wealth of studies on ‘born sustainable’ start‐ups, there is minimal case study or interview based research into how incumbent companies are approaching this transition. Focusing on plastics, we ask: how does one incumbent multinational company approach the circular economy transition? This paper presents a case study of the incumbent multinational chemical company Dow, a leading plastics manufacturer. Varied external stressors and drivers for the circular economy act upon a company (which also has its own imperatives), resulting in tentative steps towards circular economy. To date, these steps have tweaked the existing system rather than radically altering the business model. For companies, like for the entire global economy, this transition has only just begun. This paper identifies key drivers, enablers and barriers of the circular economy, none of which are fixed or immutable. Knowing which levers for change are available and effective could help policy makers to shift gear to enable quicker progress towards circularity. Overall, broad based support and engagement is needed to progress the circular economy, hence all stakeholders have roles to play in demanding and enacting circular practices.</jats:p>


Funder: Philanthropic donation to the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership from Unilever

Funder: Prince of Wales Fellowship in Pathways to a Circular Economy


business model, case study, closed loop, incumbent companies, interviews, recycling, stakeholder engagement, sustainability

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Business Strategy and the Environment

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This research was funded by a philanthropic donation to the University of Cambridge, from Unilever.