Building a Collaborative Advantage within a Circular Economy: Inter-Organisational Resources and Capabilities of a Circular Value Chain
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A circular economy has major implications for how current supply chains are organised. They need to be transformed into circular value chains, in which companies collaborate to effectively manage complete product value cycles, consisting of the creation, preservation, exploitation and restoration of product embodied values. Earlier research has identified some of the major obstacles to make this transformation come true, but little guidance is provided in how these new circular systems are organised, operated and managed. This thesis contributes filling in this knowledge gap, by the means of creating and testing a theoretical framework comprising the inter-organisational resources and capabilities of a circular value chain. The framework draws upon existing literature from the fields of traditional and sustainable supply chain management, operations- and information management and covers three domains: organisational boundary conditions, operational resources and managerial capabilities. The validity of the framework was put to the test by collecting empirical data from semi-structured interviews with experts and employees from pioneering companies in a circular economy. The analysis of this data resulted in a further exploration of the framework’s contained elements, and their relevance to a circular economy. It was found, among other observations, that the existence of trust and a culture of transparency are two very important boundary conditions. Furthermore, sophisticated engineering technologies can greatly improve the circularity of the value chain, while advanced information technologies can improve the relationships and make management easier. Finally, collaboration in the value chain succeeds when partners can identify what extra value is gained by it and when they have found a way to share in this value. Many of the framework’s elements are interconnected and thus the transformation depends on the interplay of all those resources and capabilities.