Implications of Circular Product Design for Business Model and Supply Chain Management: A Thematic Analysis
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The Circular economy (CE) concept has gained much attention in recent years as an alternative economic model to the dominant take-make-dispose linear model. Product waste has been identified as a leading contributor to the unsustainability of this model. Therefore, the aim of this study was to investigate how circular product design can be integrated with supply chain design for the circular economy. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 15 participants in Auckland that had knowledge in circular product design. The interview audio recordings were transcribed for thematic analysis in NVivo 12. From the analysis three main themes were uncovered. They were: End-of-life thinking in product design, Sustainable and innovative business models and Circular supply chain management. The findings from the study suggest products need to be designed with the end-of-life considered during the design stage. This ensures products have sustainable options at the end of their life cycle rather than being sent to landfill. In addition, supply chains need to be redesigned to achieve circularity of materials by reverse logistics, powered by renewable energies, and innovative business models need to be developed to support the commercialisation of circular product design. Limitations encountered during this study included limited participants that were knowledgeable with circular principles. Given the relatively nascent stage of CE, participants were difficult to find. Secondly, the tight timeline for completing the dissertation put time pressure on finding participants, interviews and transcribing. Thirdly, conducting this research in other countries where CE is more popular and has been supported with legislation would possibly yield different results. This study was able to draw several general propositions that included incorporating end-of-life thinking into product design, circular principles integrated into supply chain design and innovative business model design. In addition, managerial implications that were drawn from the analysis include cost implications, shortening supply chains, incorporating circular thinking into supply chain design and utilisation of renewable energy. Policy implications include development of new sustainable policy to transition the linear economy towards CE, the need for infrastructure development and the need for the price of circular products to be brought in line with linear economy base products for market competitiveness.