A typology of circular start-ups: An Analysis of 128 circular business models

Mr. Marvin Henry, Utrecht University

The circular economy (CE) concept is much-heralded among policy-makers, scholars and industry professionals as an accelerated pathway towards sustainability. This move away from the dominant linear system where products are discarded at the end of product lifecycle is deemed necessary since it is the main cause of an accelerated resource consumption. Business models are considered as a key enabler for the shift from a linear to a CE. However, research on circular business models has mainly focused on circular approaches adopted by incumbent firms, while the contributions of newly established firms (the authors call these ’circular start-ups’) have been largely overlooked. This article scrutinises the business models of circular start-ups and how they may differ from those of incumbent firms embracing CE. For this, it analyses the circular business model strategies and innovations adopted by circular start-ups, relying on a novel data sample of 128 circular start-ups identified in three major CE ecosystems in Europe: the Randstad region in the Netherlands, Berlin and London. Based on this data, a novel typology of circular start-ups is proposed, distinguishing between five circular start-up archetypes: design-based, waste-based, platform-based, service-based and nature-based start-ups. The results also show that circular start-ups tend to embrace strategies corresponding to higher levels of circularity than those of incumbents. This preliminarily suggests that circular start-ups can indeed make major contributions to transitioning towards CE.

Please find the full paper here: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0959652619333980?via%3Dihub

About the speaker

Marvin Henry is an academic from Utrecht University, the Netherlands, and a Senior Consultant at McKinsey & Co.. He is a PhD candidate and lecturer at the Innovation Studies Group of Copernicus Institute for Sustainable Development. In his academic work, he examines sustainability transitions ad innovation ecosystems. Most of his current work investigates the circular economy concept as a vehicle for such transitions, focusing on the role of circular start- ups. He supervises several student and research projects on the circular economy and sustainable business models. He supports the Ashoka Globalizer program as a pro-bono advisor and is a mentor for Deutschlandstiftung Integration.

Venue: via Zoom (please contact us at seminars@merit.unu.edu for the Zoom link)

Date: 22 April 2021

Time: 12:00 - 13:00