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Lessons, narratives, and research directions for a sustainable circular economy

Leipold, Sina; Petit-Boix, Anna; Luo, Anran; Helander, Hanna; Simoens, Machteld; Ashton, Weslynne S.; Babbitt, Callie W.; Bala, Alba; Bening, Catharina R.; Birkved, Morten; Blomsma, Fenna; Boks, Casper; Boldrin, Alessio; Deutz, Pauline; Domenech, Teresa; Ferronato, Navarro; Gallego-Schmid, Alejandro; Giurco, Damien; Hobson, Kersty; Husgafvel, Roope; Isenhour, Cynthia; Kriipsalu, Mait; Masi, Donato; Mendoza, Joan Manuel F.; Milios, Leonidas; Niero, Monia; Pant, Deepak; Parajuly, Keshav; Pauliuk, Stefan; Pieroni, Marina P. P.; Richter, Jessika Luth; Saidani, Michael; Smol, Marzena; Peiró, Laura Talens; van Ewijk, Stijn; Vermeulen, Walter J. V.; Wiedenhofer, Dominik; Xue, Bing


Sina Leipold

Anna Petit-Boix

Anran Luo

Hanna Helander

Machteld Simoens

Weslynne S. Ashton

Callie W. Babbitt

Alba Bala

Catharina R. Bening

Morten Birkved

Fenna Blomsma

Casper Boks

Alessio Boldrin

Teresa Domenech

Navarro Ferronato

Alejandro Gallego-Schmid

Damien Giurco

Kersty Hobson

Roope Husgafvel

Cynthia Isenhour

Mait Kriipsalu

Donato Masi

Joan Manuel F. Mendoza

Leonidas Milios

Monia Niero

Deepak Pant

Keshav Parajuly

Stefan Pauliuk

Marina P. P. Pieroni

Jessika Luth Richter

Michael Saidani

Marzena Smol

Laura Talens Peiró

Stijn van Ewijk

Walter J. V. Vermeulen

Dominik Wiedenhofer

Bing Xue


The current enthusiasm for the circular economy (CE) offers a unique opportunity to advance the impact of research on sustainability transitions. Diverse interpretations of CE by scholars, however, produce partly opposing assessments of its potential benefits, which can hinder progress. Here, we synthesize policy-relevant lessons and research directions for a sustainable CE and identify three narratives—optimist, reformist, and skeptical—that underpin the ambiguity in CE assessments. Based on 54 key CE scholars’ insights, we identify three research needs: the articulation and discussion of ontologically distinct CE narratives; bridging of technical, managerial, socio-economic, environmental, and political CE perspectives; and critical assessment of opportunities and limits of CE science–policy interactions. Our findings offer practical guidance for scholars to engage reflexively with the rapid expansion of CE knowledge, identify and pursue high-impact research directions, and communicate more effectively with practitioners and policymakers.


Leipold, S., Petit-Boix, A., Luo, A., Helander, H., Simoens, M., Ashton, W. S., …Xue, B. (2022). Lessons, narratives, and research directions for a sustainable circular economy. Journal of Industrial Ecology,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 4, 2022
Online Publication Date Dec 27, 2022
Publication Date Dec 27, 2022
Deposit Date Dec 29, 2022
Publicly Available Date Jan 3, 2023
Journal Journal of Industrial Ecology
Print ISSN 1088-1980
Electronic ISSN 1530-9290
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Keywords Industrial ecology; Narratives; Policy relevance; Research agenda; Science policy; Sustainability
Public URL
Additional Information Published: 2022-12-27


Published article (706 Kb)

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Copyright Statement
© 2022 The Authors. Journal of Industrial Ecology published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of International Society for Industrial Ecology.<br /> <br /> This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non-commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.

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