People at the heart of circularity: A mixed methods study about trade-offs, synergies, and strategies related to circular and social organizing

Katinka J.P. Quintelier*, Koen van Bommel, Amba Maria van Erkelens, Johan Wempe

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


An important promise of the circular economy (CE) is the creation of social value alongside increased resource circularity. Yet, while synergies between social value and resource circularity are possible, the trade-offs between social value and resource circularity, and strategies for transforming trade-offs into synergies, are under-investigated. In this paper, we look at trade-offs, synergies and strategies through the lens of stakeholder theory, and we adopt a mixed methods approach to reveal the trade-offs, synergies and strategies related to the CE in the Netherlands. We report the results of (1) a three-stage policy Delphi study involving a panel of 47 circularity experts from different sectors (academia, business, government, civil society), and (2) interviews with 27 strategic leaders in circular organizations. The findings show that in the Netherlands, circular organizations create synergies at the organizational and value network level but face significant trade-offs between circularity and social value at the societal level. Synergies are fostered by an ethically motivated communal sharing strategy and impeded by economic motivations. These findings advance current debates in stakeholder theory and unearth conditions that enable and hinder the CE to live up to its social promise.

Original languageEnglish
Article number135780
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Publication statusPublished - 10 Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We are grateful to anonymous reviewers for constructive suggestions to improve the manuscript. We further thank Bo Franklin Tdlohreg and Pim van Emst for data collection support, and het Groene Brein for facilitating the Delphi process. This work has also benefited from feedback and conversations with Minna Halme, Chang Wa Huynh, Flore Bridoux and Dillon Berjani.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors


  • Circular economy
  • Communal sharing
  • Social value
  • Stakeholder theory
  • Synergy
  • Trade-off


Dive into the research topics of 'People at the heart of circularity: A mixed methods study about trade-offs, synergies, and strategies related to circular and social organizing'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this