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Circular economy: benefits, impacts and overlapping

Simone Sehnem (Department of Management, Universidade do Oeste de Santa Catarina, Chapecó, Brazil and Department of Management, Universidade do Sul de Santa Catarina, Florianópolis, Brazil)
Diego Vazquez-Brust (Faculty of Business and Law, University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, UK and Department of Production Engineering, Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, Florianópolis, Brazil)
Susana Carla Farias Pereira (Department of Operations Management, Fundação Getulio Vargas, São Paulo, Brazil)
Lucila M.S. Campos (Department of Production Engineering and Systems (EPS), Federal University of Santa Catarina, Florianopolis, Brazil)

Supply Chain Management

ISSN: 1359-8546

Article publication date: 9 October 2019

Issue publication date: 21 October 2019




This paper aims to investigate overlaps, complementarities and divergences between the literature on circular economy (CE) models and related literature in non-linear production models and frameworks, including CE, reverse logistics, closed-loop, industrial symbiosis and industrial ecology.


A systematic literature review was conducted focussing on the benefits of non-linear modes adoption.


The results show a high degree of convergence in findings, gaps and weaknesses of these literatures. Negative environmental, economic and operational impacts are understudied. There is a scarcity of studies identifying practices resulting in empirically tested benefits. The business and society case for non-linear production is still largely built upon conceptual studies, modelling and a few case studies. Despite a normative focus, there is very little use of theory, in particular, management theories.

Research limitations/implications

First, the authors use only one, albeit highly recognized database, Scopus. This database may have omitted some relevant research, journals such as the Journal of Cleaner Production and Resources Conservation & Recycling that are more likely to publish such research and also have a more interdisciplinary approach. This is an important gap and interesting result to claim for more interdisciplinary research. Second, the filtering process used and the focus on Association of Business Schools top journals may have also omitted some relevant research, such as a large stream of literature in specialist journals such as Resources Conservation and Recycling and the Journal of Cleaner Production.

Practical implications

There are contradictions, tensions and epistemological ambiguity that needs to be critically addressed. Such tensions may be associated with the knowledge field that gave rise to these different non-linear production approaches. Many of them appeared at the same time, but from different sciences and disciplines with their own perspectives. Then in doing so, they create confusion in the definitions of CE, assumptions underlying modelling and business choices arising from this complexity. This can be minimized through the critical interpretation of knowledge to elucidate epistemological quandaries to improve the understanding of the economic, social and environmental impacts of practices.

Social implications

In some way, this result makes sense, as the authors have limited the search to management, business and accounts journals, especially talking about Operations Management journals. This is an important gap and interesting result to claim for more interdisciplinary research.


In addition to gaps previously described, the authors identified areas of tensions where the literature offers inconclusive – often contradictory – findings requiring further exploration. A better understanding of these tensions is required to understand the impacts of non-linear production and develop policy guidelines for industry and policymakers to scale-up CE.



The authors would like to thank CNPq (The Brazilian National Council for Scientific and Technological Development) for supporting this research. They also acknowledge financial support from the Spanish Ministry of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness; Agencia Nacional de Investigacion and the European Regional Development Fund, R&D project ECO-2015 −66504 and Excellence project of Junta de Andalucia SEJ-7085.


Sehnem, S., Vazquez-Brust, D., Pereira, S.C.F. and Campos, L.M.S. (2019), "Circular economy: benefits, impacts and overlapping", Supply Chain Management, Vol. 24 No. 6, pp. 784-804.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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