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A Critical Review of Academic Approaches, Methods and Tools to Assess Circular Economy at the Micro Level

Roos Lindgreen, Erik; Salomone, Roberta; Reyes, Tatiana


Erik Roos Lindgreen

Roberta Salomone

Tatiana Reyes


Claire Lea
Project Manager


Transitioning from the current linear economic development model to a circular economy (CE) is a hot topic in academic literature, public governance, and the corporate domain. Actors have implemented CE strategies to reduce their resource use and its associated impacts, while boosting economic competitiveness and generating positive social impact. Companies are identified as key actors in transitioning to a CE, and many academics have proposed tools to assess CE and guide them in this process. This paper critically reviews such academic ‘assessment approaches’ at the micro level in order to reflect on their key properties. Seventy-four approaches are inventoried through a systematic literature review of academic literature. A critical review framework is constructed and applied, containing four perspectives: A general perspective, a descriptive perspective (methodological aspects), a normative perspective (connections to Sustainable Development), and a prescriptive perspective (implementation-focused). Methodologically, the 74 approaches are highly diverse, having various connections to previously established methodologies. Eighteen of the reviewed assessment approaches include all three dimensions of Sustainable Development (SD), in addition to a ‘circular’ dimension. Roughly one quarter of the approaches apply a participatory design approach. Suggested key desired properties of CE assessment approaches include making use of existing assessment methodologies such as Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), and a closer collaboration between science and practitioners to consider end-user needs in the design of CE assessment approaches.


Roos Lindgreen, E., Salomone, R., & Reyes, T. (2020). A Critical Review of Academic Approaches, Methods and Tools to Assess Circular Economy at the Micro Level. Sustainability, 12(12), Article 4973.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 12, 2020
Online Publication Date Jun 18, 2020
Publication Date Jun 2, 2020
Deposit Date Jan 13, 2022
Publicly Available Date Oct 27, 2022
Journal Sustainability
Publisher MDPI
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 12
Issue 12
Article Number 4973
Keywords Circular economy; Sustainable development; Circularity metrics; Sustainability assessment; Micro level; Corporate sustainability
Public URL


Published article (1.1 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2020 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (

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