Circular business: collaborate and circulate

A persistent theme of this blog has been sustainability in business — hence the review of this book, a copy of which was kindly sent to me by one of the co-authors, Nancy Bocken. The bibliographic details are as follows: Christiaan Kraaijenhagen, Cecile van Oppen, & Nancy Bocken, Circular business: collaborate and circulate (Circular Collaboration, 2016) ISBN 978090-824902-0-6.

The book, published by the authors’ own organisation, is visually attractive. It makes extensive use of colour, in the text as well as the figures, and comes augmented with flaps. There’s plenty of white space, allowing the text to breathe. It has been, for the most part, professionally edited (by Chris Bernasco and Lucy Goodchild-van-Hilten) and produced.

The content is organised around a 10-step model for introducing circular business practice, based on the notion of the circular economy (‘an economy in which stakeholder collaborate in order to maximise the value of products and materials and as such contribute to minimising the depletion of natural resources and create positive societal and environmental impact’, p. 15).

The ten steps are each large in scale (for example, 1. Leadership, 2. Vision and purpose, 3. Selecting your pilot). By exploring each step in turn, the book covers lots of ground: it is certainly fertile with ideas. And by being organised the book around these steps, the book presents its material coherently. Overall, the book synthesises much reading, research, and experience.

The upshot is that even a reader such as myself, who does not share the presuppositions of its thinking, can enjoy reading it. (I don’t share the Malthusian and puritan undertones that I detect!)

I have some specific criticisms. Given the range of contents, an index would have been welcome. Dispensing with one seems to me a false economy. Sometimes the figures require more explanation than they receive: I was able to understand the figures based on Osterwalder et al.’s’ business canvas’, for example, only because I have come across the  source figure elsewhere.

The most telling deficiency is that the thinking or research behind the all-important 10-point model is not described. From what is the model derived? On what is it based? The book gives a brief reference (Bocken, Kraaijenhagen, Van Oppen (2014)), but the fuller reference is missing from the chapter’s bibliography.

Still, I like the book. If the circular economy is at all your bag, you’ll want to source a copy.


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