Collaborative digitally-enabled business models for a circular economy: Sustaining, managing and protecting value in the UK plastics sector

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Abstract

Designing circular business models requires a combination of systems-level and company-level approaches, highlighting the importance of collaboration. While digital technologies can enable such business models, studies that shed light on the creation of multiple types of value in collaborative and digital technology-driven environments are currently limited. This paper, therefore, aims to explore the process of designing digitally enabled collaborative business models, using the UK plastics sector as a context that has seen a rise in new digital technology applications to plastics mandated by new regulations. To this end, we have worked with fifteen plastics sector organisations as part of an empirical qualitative study aiming to develop collaborative business models for a future plastics circular economy system in the UK. Together with the stakeholders, we have co-designed the value-retention and data-as-a-service business models that could be enabled by digital technologies such as tags. We show that the main stakeholder tensions relate to digital technology investments, access to recyclate and data, and digital asset management. We argue that such tensions might be the key cause of delaying experimentation with circular business models and enacting collaborations at the systems level. We suggest that future research could draw on quantitative data, such as investment costs to test these circular business models, in order to inform the discourse on infrastructural investments for sustainability.

Original languageEnglish
Article number140770
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Early online date14 Jan 2024
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Jan 2024

Keywords

  • Business models
  • digital technologies
  • systems thinking
  • value creation
  • plastics
  • circular economy

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