To read the full version of this content please select one of the options below:

Circular economy: laying the foundations for conceptual and theoretical development in management studies

Roberta De Angelis (Department of Marketing and Strategy, Cardiff University Business School, Cardiff, UK)

Management Decision

ISSN: 0025-1747

Article publication date: 9 July 2020

Issue publication date: 2 July 2021




This article develops conceptual and paradigmatic clarity in the circular economy literature from a management studies perspective.


This article uses a systematic literature review for analysing how circular economy is currently understood. It also reflects on how to establish paradigmatic anchoring of the circular economy in the management field.


Multiple definitions of the circular economy exist, but they depict the circular economy narrowly and fail to incorporate aspects of competitiveness and profitability. Additionally, most of sustainability management research displays shortcomings in the way this literature frames the organisation–nature relationship.

Research limitations/implications

This article aims to support conceptual and theoretical development in the circular economy literature and highlights opportunities for enhanced competitiveness and profitability deriving from circular business model innovation. However, further research is welcomed to assess this connection.

Practical implications

The conceptualisation of the circular economy proposed in this study emphasises aspects of competitiveness and profitability, which is of relevance to management practitioners.


This study addresses current shortcomings in how the circular economy is conceptualised. As a result, it proposes a more comprehensive conceptualisation which also includes competitiveness and profitability aspects and, thereby, is relevant from a management studies perspective. It also provides paradigmatic anchoring to the circular economy concept by suggesting that the sustaincentric paradigm, which has received limited scholarly attention so far, is suitable to inform circular economy research and practice.



De Angelis, R. (2021), "Circular economy: laying the foundations for conceptual and theoretical development in management studies", Management Decision, Vol. 59 No. 6, pp. 1209-1227.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles