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The circular economy operating and stakeholder model “eco-5HM” to avoid circular fallacies that prevent sustainability

  • Published on February 22, 2023

A complete operating model for circular economy (CE) would benefit policymakers, firms, academia, society and NGOs for informed decision-making relating to CE operations, tactics and strategic goals. The current prevailing paradigm of a CE operating model encompasses three CE levels: micro-level for firms, meso-level for eco-industry parks and symbiosis, and macro-level for governments and regions. This is arguably an incomplete model, causing circular fallacies, such as problem shifting, poor prioritization, and optimization of the wrong system.

In this paper, a CE operating- and also stakeholder-model is explored through theory integration (TI) of CE and the related fields of sustainability, economy, governance and management. TI from these fields has a potential to unlock compounding knowledge for operations and informed decision-making for CE. The result of this TI is the “eco Quintuple Helix Model” (eco-5HM) which integrates the three CE levels with the hierarchical triple bottom line (TBL), nine ecosystem boundaries, three decision-making levels and the 5HM. The eco-5HM comprises five operation and stakeholder levels – firms, governments, academia, society and environment – each with their own systems, operations, interactions, scales and indicators. This CE operating model can better inform decisionmakers for CE operations and tactics to achieve the strategic goal of sustainability.

This paper is directly related to the work of the OPN SBC programme. Professor Usha Iyer-Raniga is at the School of Property and Construction Management at RMIT University. Usha is co-leading the One Planet Network’s Sustainable Buildings and Construction Programme (SBC), United Nations 10 Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production (UN 10FYP SCP) aligned with Sustainable Development Goal 12, as well as the newly formed Integrated Platform for Circular Economy, Climate Resilience, and Energy.  

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