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Negotiating Stakeholder Relationships in a Regional Circular Economy: Discourse Analysis of Multi-scalar Policies and Company Statements from the North of England

Newsholme, Aodhan; Deutz, Pauline; Affolderbach, Julia; Baumgartner, Rupert J.


Aodhan Newsholme

Julia Affolderbach

Rupert J. Baumgartner


Circular economy (CE) literature discusses the need for cooperation between different stakeholders to promote a CE; there is also an assumption regarding the benefits of loop closing on a local or regional scale. However, the potentially conflicting priorities, understandings, and expectations of the stakeholders involved have not been sufficiently addressed. Regional (or local) authorities have a responsibility to promote prosperity for stakeholders in their administrative region, within the constraints of national policy; conversely companies can have financial imperatives associated with stakeholders who may be globally distributed. Evidence of these conflicting priorities, the various positions stakeholder take, and their expectations of each other can be seen in the language choices
regional actors make in their public-facing policy and report documents. The aim of the paper is to consider the challenges for creating a regional-scale CE that might arise from the differing priorities and values of companies and public agencies relating to specific places. It uses discourse analysis (including critical approaches) to examine how policy and business documents represent the stakeholders of the CE, their place in it, their priorities, and, importantly, the relationship between CE actors, focusing on the case of North Humberside on the North East coast of England. The plans set out in these reports are designed for external stakeholders and allow us to gain an insight into company and policy thinking in relation to CE developments in the coming years, including how they view each other’s roles. Findings indicate a shared motivation across scales and sectors for the CE as a means towards sustainable growth within which business plays a central role. However, there is a critical double disjuncture between different visions for implementation. First, between policy scales, a regional-scale CE is prioritised by regional policymakers, who have an interest in economic advantage being tied to a specific place and call for national scale support for their actions. Second, between regional policymakers and business, companies focus on their own internal operations and potential supply chain collaborations, with little
attention given to the regional scale. This can be seen in the way organisations represent the actors of a nascent CE differently. In addition, a hegemonic business-focused growth discourse excludes other visions of the CE; the public are relegated to a passive role primarily as consumers and recipients of under-specified “opportunities” of wealth creation. CE theorisations need to incorporate and address these critical perspectives in order to support the development of strategies to overcome them.


Newsholme, A., Deutz, P., Affolderbach, J., & Baumgartner, R. J. (2022). Negotiating Stakeholder Relationships in a Regional Circular Economy: Discourse Analysis of Multi-scalar Policies and Company Statements from the North of England. Circular Economy and Sustainability,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 14, 2021
Online Publication Date Jan 5, 2022
Publication Date 2022
Deposit Date Jan 12, 2022
Publicly Available Date Mar 4, 2022
Journal Circular Economy and Sustainability
Print ISSN 2730-597X
Electronic ISSN 2730-5988
Publisher Springer
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Keywords Circular economy; Resource efficiency; Critical discourse analysis; Supply chains; Regional development; England
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© The Author(s) 2021.<br /> Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit

Circular Economy Package Policy Statement - GOV.UK (228 Kb)


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