Circular Economy Business and Enterprise
This interdisciplinary module explores business and enterprise opportunities when “digital meets business models meets design” of goods, services and systems. It is set within the general notion of a “circular economy”. Digital gave us insights into complex systems, full of feedback and pattern and it changed the relationship between people, resources, production, use and exchange. A linear, take-make-and-dispose mindset was ignoring feedback and leaving untapped value while exporting costs to society and the environment. This module will explore an emerging feedback rich framework for thinking and its application to business while setting its economic, environmental and philosophical context.
Full module specification
|Module title:||Circular Economy Business and Enterprise|
|Duration of module:||
Duration (weeks) - term 1: |
The module aims to set current circular economy business and enterprise opportunities in three main contexts and illustrate two main approaches. The intellectual context is a shift from largely mechanistic and atomistic worldview to systemic and networked in line with contemporary science of systems.
The economic and business context is changing emphasis from production throughput to asset management and adding value in an extended era of low growth, stagnant wages and materials and resources constraints.
A circular economy is often introduced as an approach to the question “how do we produce?” It is cognisant of the foregoing contexts and the changing balance of opportunities and barriers to change which result. The two main approaches illustrated relate to different aspect of the economy as a flow network: the first is the shift from selling goods to selling services or the access to assets over the ownership of them. It includes related efforts which emphasise efficiency and scale. The second is to the idea of enterprise networks, cascading materials and energy and adding value through economies of scope or diversity, emphasising that vital aspect as part of the functioning of all effective systems.
ILO: Module-specific skills
- 1. Describe and synthesise the key concepts, principles, characteristics and strategies of a circular economy
- 2. Explain and critically explore the terms complexity and effective systems as they apply to circular economy
ILO: Discipline-specific skills
- 3. Demonstrate effectiveness and competency through a circular economy business simulation exercise
- 4. Critically compare and contrast examples of how to produce in a circular economy versus a linear economy
ILO: Personal and key skills
- 5. Participate in group and forum activities and demonstrate effective approaches to communication, self management and communication
- 6. Present findings and arguments about circular economy in a clear, coherent and understandable way
Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)
|Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities||Guided independent study||Placement / study abroad|
Details of learning activities and teaching methods
|Category||Hours of study time||Description|
|Lectures||20||Keynote with extended Q&A|
|Simulation||5||Circular economy group activity|
|Seminars||10||Group based discussions|
|Guided independent study||40||Pre and post session reading|
|Guided independent study||75||Assessment preparation|
|Form of assessment||Size of the assessment (eg length / duration)||ILOs assessed||Feedback method|
|Group reflections||5 slide PPT and audio commentary||5,6||Oral|
Summative assessment (% of credit)
|Coursework||Written exams||Practical exams|
Details of summative assessment
|Form of assessment||% of credit||Size of the assessment (eg length / duration)||ILOs assessed||Feedback method|
|Group work: team simulation (online)||20||Undertaking team based simulation* exercise and writing up exercise||1,2,3,4,5,6||Written|
|Essay/critique Part 1||40||1,500 words||1,2||Written|
|Essay/critique Part 2||40||1,500 words||1,2,3,4||Written|
Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)
|Original form of assessment||Form of re-assessment||ILOs re-assessed||Timescale for re-assessment|
|Essay/critique part 1||Written essay 40%||1-2||Referral/Deferral Period|
|Essay/critique part 2||Written essay 40%||1, 2, 3, 4||Referral/Deferral Period|
|Team Simulation||Access teams results and give an iIndividual reflection on choices made and their consequences 20%||1-6||Referral/Deferral Period|
*Sufficient information is available post simulation to enable an individual to review a team (s) progress and write up a critique or reflection
*Each part is based around an active learning or enquiry process which uses stimulus resources to bring to the fore existing knowledge, collaboratively seek clarification; engage in a number of empirical or evidential challenges; review and draw general conclusions before revisiting existing knowledge and extending study into particular case studies or related contexts as a way of applying knowledge.
Part 1a Understanding how digital revealed the workings of non-linear systems and the acceptance that most real world systems are nonlinear and complex and exist in a dynamic equilibrium. Basic commonalities in non-linear systems as a guide to changed perspectives
Understanding that systems without feedback are ‘dumb’ and that the economy and business is embedded in monetary, social and environmental contexts which are dynamic
Part 1b (continued. circular economy as a stock maintenance approach. c.f. ‘linear’ as based on throughput and periodic overproduction, and degradation of natural capital – its built in flaws and consequences over time. How do you make and sell all this stuff? (again and again)
Part 1c (continued) Economic history and the changing macroeconomic stories around production, consumption and the aims of government since WW2
Part 2a Products, components and materials and the need to shift from linear to a perspective based on systems and circularity. Where shall we draw the boundaries? And look for solutions? Two materials pathways identified.
Part 2b (continued) In the technosphere, the durable products arena, a comprehensive approach to shifting from products to services, enabled by digital and suited to scale. Products to services, and extended product life as a key strategy mix. Case study extended
Part 2c (continued) Platforms and networks, more efficiency and scale opportunities to lower costs of access and ownership. Case studies of success and failure
Part 3 Biosphere, products of consumption. Is the bio economy the same as the circular economy? Issues of scale and regeneration (soil health) Case studies: Amsterdam, London and Barcelona.
Part 3b (continued) Adding value with what we have. Enterprise networks and economies of scope not scale. The role of open source materials, software, maker labs, temporary materials stores, circulating income locally and regionally. Closed and open loops contrasted
Part 3c (continued) Enterprise networks in the developing world. Amplifying the ‘exchange’ function with redesigned infrastructure, access to tools, places, digital, markets. Case study based.
Part 4 Zooming out: the circular economy includes monetary stocks, flows and feedback. What sort of economic system conditions might bring the insights about living systems, materials products and component flows into line?
Part 4 Open forum - the place of a circular economy as a business and economic opportunity in a post COVID world including need for resilience, adaptation, employment, opportunity for infrastructure investment and related economic issues such as climate change
Indicative learning resources - Basic reading
Lacy,P.Long, J.Spindler,W. (2020) The Circular Economy Handbook. London: Palgrave-MacMillan
Stahel, W. (2010) Performance Economy. London: Palgrave-MacMillan*
Braungart, M. McDonough, W. (2002). Cradle to Cradle. New York, NY: Farrar, Staus and Giroux
Pauli, G. A. (2010) The Blue Economy. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publications
Meadows, D. H. (2008) Thinking in Systems: A Primer. White River Jct., VT: Chelsea Green *
Hawken, B. Lovins A. B. Lovins, H. (1999). Natural Capitalism. New York: Little, Brown and Company*
(*links to author authorised online versions/summaries are available)
Module has an active ELE page?
Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources
The key element is the enquiry process which draws in, at different parts of the cycle formal knowledge, individual and collective reflection and feedback followed by reorientation and reapplication. Recorded lecture inputs will be concise and to include searchable slides, full transcript. Some guest webinars as webcasts streamed from abroad.
Indicative learning resources - Other resources
Access to a circular economy online team business simulation (as an online team exercise) is a focus for practical application of learning.
Last revision date