With the European Commission looking for ways to incentivize the adoption of circular economy (CE) activities by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the European Union (EU), further insights into the implementation of CE activities across member states are needed. We analyse a European Commission survey conducted in 2016 among approximately 11,000 firms in EU-28 member states in order to throw light on the conditions in which SMEs engage in five specific CE activities. In contrast to previous studies arguing that CE activities are independent of each other, we present novel findings demonstrating that seven patterns of engagement in CE can be identified in which activities are systematically interdependent. Further, we show that these patterns are associated with the organizational properties of SMEs and are differentially distributed among EU member states and industrial sectors. The interdependency of activities forms a hierarchy in which waste minimization is the most likely activity to be implemented in SMEs, followed, in descending order of likelihood, by replanning of energy use, redesigning products and services, and finally using renewable energy and replanning water usage. The findings have theoretical, managerial, and policy implications for the adoption of interdependent CE activities.
- circular economy
Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms
- Sustainable Consumption Institute