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Managerial practices for designing circular economy business models: The case of an Italian SME in the office supply industry

Enes Ünal (School of Management, Politecnico Di Milano, Milan, Italy) (Department of Industrial Economics and Management, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden)
Andrea Urbinati (School of Management, Politecnico Di Milano, Milan, Italy) (Universita Carlo Cattaneo, Castellanza, Italy)
Davide Chiaroni (School of Management, Politecnico Di Milano, Milan, Italy)

Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management

ISSN: 1741-038X

Article publication date: 25 September 2018

Issue publication date: 3 April 2019




The purpose of this paper is to investigate the managerial practices that companies can implement in order to design a circular economy business model and how companies can create and capture value from a circular economy business model.


The paper adopts a single case study methodology with semi-structured interviews and company, supplier, and manufacturing site visits, conducted in a small-to-medium-size Italian company operating in the office supply industry.


The theoretical setting maps a set of managerial practices for a circular economy business model and sets the research gaps and questions in a research framework designed along three main dimensions: value network, customer value proposition and interface, and managerial commitment. Then, through an empirical analysis, the findings reveal that the proposed dimensions are interdependent and reinforce each other. Moreover, the managerial commitment as moderating factor between the value network and the customer value proposition and interface dimensions is identified as essential for reaching the intended goals of circular economy business models.

Research limitations/implications

This study maximizes the depth of the phenomenon under investigation by leveraging a single case study methodology, which ideally helps in a theory-testing approach as in the present case. Future research opportunities could be found in qualitative and quantitative studies to increase the generalizability of the findings of this paper.

Practical implications

The paper presents a set of relevant managerial practices for circular economy business models that can be used by managers who have the will to embrace in practice circular economy principles to support the design, change, or upgrade of the business model of companies within which they operate.


An interdisciplinary approach that integrates the research streams of circular economy, social psychology, organizational behavior, and business model design has been pursued to test the theoretical setting and the research framework for circular economy business models in a real-world context.



This paper is produced as part of the EMJD Program, European Doctorate in Industrial Management (EDIM), funded by the European Commission, Erasmus Mundus Action 1. The authors thank the anonymous referees and the editor for their guidance and valuable comments.


Ünal, E., Urbinati, A. and Chiaroni, D. (2019), "Managerial practices for designing circular economy business models: The case of an Italian SME in the office supply industry", Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management, Vol. 30 No. 3, pp. 561-589.



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