PhD Defence by Ingvild Reine Assmann: Driving toward circular business models: Conditions and strategies in the built environment

Ingvild Reine Assmann will defend her PhD project "Driving toward circular business models: Conditions and strategies in the built environment".


The world is increasingly facing crises and shocks, with the climate crisis being the defining crisis of our time, affecting all facets of life on our planet: from coral reefs and species dying, weather extremes, food and water insecurity, economic disorder, international conflicts, and terrorism (United Nations, 2023b). The immeasurable costs of climate change are reaching irreparable highs. The United Nations (UN) (2023a) testify that progress toward sustainable development is underway, for instance through green energy advances and more secure food supplies. However, although progress has started, there is still a pressing need for major transformations across all aspects of society.

To assist in steering the transition, the circular economy—and particularly circular business models (CBMs) and circular business model innovation (CBMI)—has been proposed as a promising avenue to reach sustainable development through a change to business operations that profit from a circular (reduce, reuse, recycle) model instead of the outmoded linear (take, make, waste) model.

The built environment is a principal contributor to climate change, and with a rapidly growing global population, the need for housing continues to soar, catapulting the environmental, social, and economic impacts of the built environment to its peak (World Green Building Council, 2023). Considering its significant impact, it is essential that the built environment delivers transformational change to ensure sustainable built environments for the future, as it poses a crucial facet to fighting climate change, and driving economic security whilst also creating resilient societies (World Green Building Council, 2023). Resilience in the built environment has been studied at firm, industry, and society level, but the literature has not sufficiently examined resilience in the built environment across the different levels to investigate how resilience at one level can impact resilience at other levels (Kennedy & Linnenluecke, 2022).

Aiming to respond to the needs of today, this thesis seeks to answer the following research questions:

RQ 1: What conditions and strategies lead to CBM adoption and CBMI?
RQ 2: What are the resulting effects of CBMs on resilience across levels in the built environment?

This thesis comprises three core articles.

  • Article A presents a systematic literature review and identifies 54 different determinants that drive or hinder CBM adoption, classifying them into eight macro categories: culture, regulation, market, strategy, business case, collaboration, operations, and knowledge.
  • Article B employs a three-round Delphi method with 25 experts to categorize the drivers and barriers to CBMI in the built environment, and develops 34 strategies for practitioners in the built environment to capitalize on the drivers and overcome the barriers. These strategies are classified into four proposed categories regarding how they can assist in changing resource loops: ‘Understanding the loop,’ ‘Facilitating the loop,’ ‘Promoting the loop,’ and ‘Regulating the loop’.
  • Article C then cross-compares four circular and four linear startups from one entrepreneurial ecosystem, and presents how the circular startups’ innate nurturing of their ecosystem has trickle-up effects to multiple levels’ resilience in response to crises, using the material crisis as its crisis context.

Woven together, this thesis contributes to the literature on circular business model innovation and adoption, the built environment, and resilience. This thesis contributes to the literature by developing an in-depth review of the current literature on driving and hindering conditions to CBM adoption and CBMI, the strategies that can be used to tackle these conditions for CBMI in the built environment, and the impact of CBMs on resilience across levels.

Keywords: circular business models, circular business model adoption, circular business model innovation, built environment, construction industry, resilience, circular strategies

Principal supervisor

Associate Professor Francesco Rosati, DTU Entrepreneurship


Associate Professor Christian Thuesen, DTU Engineering Technology

Company supervisor

Senior Group Director, Sustainability & CR Neel Strøbæk, Ramboll Group


Associate Professor Argyro (Iro) Nikiforou, DTU Entrepreneurship
Professor Einar Rasmussen, Nord University Business School
Associate Professor Laura Toschi, University of Bologna

Chairperson at defence

Professor Jason Li-Ying, DTU Entrepreneurship

Link to follow live

You can follow Ingvild's defence via MS Teams - click here

A copy of the PhD thesis is available for reading at DTU Entrepreneurship,371, 2nd floor, Diplomvej, DK-2800 Kgs Lyngby. 


Thu 07 Dec 23
13:00 - 16:00



DTU, Technical University of Denmark
Building 421, auditorium 071
DK-2800 Kgs. Lyngby

AND online via MS Teams