Tall buildings

Understand the factors that affect circular business model adoption and innovation in the built environment

Monday 04 Dec 23

Steering the transition toward sustainability, 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. 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. 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.

Aiming to contribute to the required change in the built environment, Ingvild Reine Assmann's PhD project "Driving toward circular business models: Conditions and strategies in the built environment" develops 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.

We asked Ingvild the following questions:

What problem does your research aim to solve?

Today, the built environment is one of the most resource-consuming industries, responsible for emitting 38 percent of the global energy[1]related greenhouse gas emissions and using 50 percent of all materials consumed across Europe. The built environment is a cornerstone for economic competitiveness and crucial for the social well-being of citizens globally. Despite the high potential of the built environment’s material waste for reuse and recycling, estimations show that only about 40 percent of the materials are currently reused, recycled, or sent to energy facilities, whereas 60 percent of the material waste in the construction industry is sent to landfills. The stakeholders within the built environment therefore face a great challenge in how they respond to the global housing crisis whilst transitioning toward sustainable development. 

What are the main findings of your research?

This thesis proposes holistic overviews of the conditions driving or hindering CBM adoption and CBMI, providing strategies to reaching CBMI in the built environment and identifying the effect of CBMs on resilience across levels in the built environment:

  • First, in Article A we propose 54 different determinants and classifies them into eight macro categories: culture, regulation, market, strategy, business case, collaboration, operations, and knowledge. Article A thus fills this research gap by providing an industry-wide overview to determinants that create the hindering and driving conditions to CBM adoption by utilizing a systematic literature review approach. Link to article published in Business Strategy and the Environment 
  • Second, in Article B we add to CBMI theory by presenting 34 strategies that change the resource loop. We classify these strategies into four categories: ‘Understanding the loop,’ ‘Facilitating the loop,’ ‘Promoting the loop,’ and ‘Regulating the loop.’ These four categories that we propose are nondependent on industry, and this categorization builds on and complements the circular economy principles (narrowing, slowing, closing, or regenerating resource loops) that are already accepted and widely employed in CBMI literature. Article B provided 34 strategies that can particularly assist in fostering CBMI in the built environment.
  • Third, in Article C, we find that investigating resilience across four levels (startup, subsystem, entrepreneurial ecosystem, and industry level) can provide a suitable lens through which to examine the varying degrees of resilience across the different levels and their effect on each other. Resultingly, we find that there are trickle-up effects from the resilience at the startup level affecting the subsystem, entrepreneurial ecosystem and the overarching industrial system level. This finding suggests that to unleash the potential which scholars have proposed that the built environment holds on social ecological system, efforts must be made to increase resilience also employing a “bottom up” approach by starting at startup level. 

How could this research benefit scholars, managers, entrepreneurs, or policy makers (and/or society in general)?

This thesis can assist people across the industry to understand the factors that affect CBM adoption and innovation, and they can also use our findings as a roadmap to figure out what's affecting their businesses and how to make changes.

How could this research impact the future? 

I hope that the insights from this thesis can serve practitioners in steering the transition toward sustainable development and resilience by (1) providing a deeper understanding of the conditions that impact CBM adoption and CBMI, and (2) giving practitioners a set of strategies, which can be used to tackle these conditions in the built environment context. The ultimate goal is to assist practitioners in driving the change toward a built environment that meets the needs of the population whilst ensuring a sustainable and circular socioeconomic system.


PhD defence

Ingvild Reine Assmann will defend her PhD project on 7 December 2023. Come and join us and listen or follow online.

See more about Ingvild's PhD defence
Reach out to Ingvild on LinkedIn

About research at DTU Entrepreneurship in general

We focus on evidence-based research to tackle a wide range of issues and provide opportunities for social and economic change.

Do you want to explore more about research at DTU Entrepreneurship

Reach out to Professor, Head of Research, Jason Li-Ying

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