A Sustainable Circular Economy: Exploring Stakeholder Interests in Finland

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A circular economy (CE) is a promising solution to the looming sustainability crisis. Previous research has shown that a systemic transition from a linear economy to a CE requires stakeholder collaboration across all levels of society. Yet, little is known about stakeholder interests in a CE. The purpose of this study is to examine stakeholder interests regarding a sustainable CE in Finland. The data of 26 expert interviews is analyzed with qualitative content analysis. The study contributes to previous CE research by adding a stakeholder perspective in the examination of a sustainable CE. Stakeholder interests are explicated in terms of value-based motivations, expectations and stakes. We coßnclude that the con- sideration of stakeholder interests is relevant for understanding stakeholder collaboration in the CE context. The study shows that the economic, ecological and local social perspectives are emphasized in a sustainable CE. More attention to global social sustainability issues is needed.
Research questions: The purpose of our study is to examine stakeholder interests with regard to the sustainable circular economy in Finland.
Link to theory: The theoretical framework of the study builds on stakeholder theory, and uses the issue-focused stakeholder approach. We explore stakeholder interests as value-based motivations, expectations and stakes. Thereby, we advance the theoretical and empirical understanding of stake- holder interests and stakeholder collaboration in the context of CE.
Phenomenon studied: Stakeholders have a prominent role in promoting the transition to the sustainable CE. This study focuses on a core issue in stakeholder theory: stakeholder interests. In doing so, the study creates knowledge on the nuanced interests and collaboration towards the sustainable CE. Case context: The context of our study is Finland, the northernmost member state of the European Union. Finland provides with an interesting research context as the target of the Finnish government is to make Finland a global leader in the circular economy by 2025.
Findings: The findings indicate that the key stakeholders share a joint interest in promoting a sustainable CE. Stakeholders are active in shaping actions towards a sustainable CE, too. Stakeholders emphasize the economic and ecological interests, while social interests - especially wider global social sustainability perspective - remains less important especially among companies and partly industrial organizations.
Discussions: Building on stakeholder theory, the study provides a nuanced understanding of how stakeholder interests can be defined and examined as value-based motivations, expectations and stakes. The study demonstrates that stakeholders simultaneously pursue their own CE interests as well as shared interests to promote the sustainable CE in Finland. Moreover, the study suggests that stake- holder interests can be used to create understanding of the dimensions of sustainable development that constitute the sustainable CE. More specifically, the study shows that economic, ecological and local social perspectives related to the sustainable CE are predominantly emphasized. Analyzing stakeholder interests is important since they create a foundation for stakeholder engagement, stakeholder relation- ships and value creation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50-62
Number of pages13
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Circular economy
  • Stakeholder interests
  • Stakeholder theory
  • Sustainability
  • Qualitative research

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 1


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