Jesus, A., Antunes, P., Santos, R. & Mendonça, S. (2019) Eco-innovation pathways to a circular economy: envisioning priorities through a Delphi approach.Journal of Cleaner Production, 228, 1494-1513. DOI:10.1016/j.jclepro.2019.04.049 (IF2019 7,246; Q1 Green & Sustainable Science & Technology)
The present research seeks insights on potential “transformative” eco-innovation pathways towards a “Circular Economy”. By taking a neo-Schumpeterian perspective on sustainability transition and adopting a bottom-up foresight methodology, namely a (3-stage) policy-learning Delphi approach drawing on a (29-strong) panel of experts belonging to a variety of institutional sectors (public, business, academic actors, as well as NGOs) from diverse geographical backgrounds (11 countries across 3 continents), the study explores Circular Economy's key characteristics and appraises the fundamental strategies and trade-offs that must be understood and managed for transition. The evidence gathered through the participatory exercise, contrasted with prior knowledge from systematic literature reviews, suggests that Circular Economy is both a holistic concept and an operational tool. Results strongly suggest systemic eco-innovation, powered by multidimensional policies, as the key to unlock deep transition. In particular, over the next 20 years Circular Economy development is more than technological and economic puzzle-solving; it will be contingent on the ability to creatively overcome real political trade-offs and broader societal challenges needing to include in their action more social and behavioural considerations.