How Companies Involve Customer Perspectives In Circular-Oriented Innovation: Insights From A Multiple-Case Study

Julia Pantel, Ulla Saari, Cornelius Herstatt, Christian Bücker

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionScientific


Mounting social, ecological, and economic crises have put the circular economy on the political and business agenda as an objective to achieve a more sustainable system of production and consumption. Firms pursuing circular-oriented innovation (COI) are challenged to create solutions that contribute
to the required system-level changes by developing products and services that limit resource use and reach adoption by customers beyond current niche markets. The past decade has brought growing academic insight into firms’ COI-related practices. However, the viewpoint of customers and consumers/users remains a blind spot. In this paper, we hence aim to explore how companies involve customers (consumers/users) and their perspectives in COI. Following a qualitative, abductive research approach, we conduct a multiple case study including ten European consumer durable goods firms based on the analysis of semi-structured interviews with firm representatives and secondary data. Our findings differentiate distinct approaches by ‘born circular’ and ‘growing circular’ firms in implementing COI as well as common features among these. We outline how the case companies involve (potential) customers in COI-related activities, highlighting the often rather passive role conceded to them during ideation and development stages as well as the potentially central roles in implementing and disseminating novel circular offerings beyond the core innovation process. Ultimately, our findings synthesize key adoption factors for COI and related challenges and potential measures to be considered by corporate actors. Our work contributes to research on sustainability and circular-oriented innovation, drawing on research on diffusion of innovation, open innovation, business model experimentation, and related theories. Beyond the academic realm, our research provides insights for managers pursuing COI into how to take along and enable their customers on the path toward more sustainable circular patterns of consumption.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 30th Innovation and Product Development Management Conference 2023
Subtitle of host publication30 years of research in innovation and product development management: Discovering together the next 30
PublisherEuropean Institute for Advanced Studies in Management, EIASM
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - 2023
Publication typeB3 Article in conference proceedings
EventInnovation and Product Development Management Conference - Lecco, Italy
Duration: 7 Jun 20239 Jun 2023

Publication series

NameInnovation and Product Development Management Conference
ISSN (Electronic)1998-7374


ConferenceInnovation and Product Development Management Conference


  • Circular-oriented innovation
  • sustainability-oriented innovation
  • customer involvement
  • open innovation
  • diffusion of innovation
  • born and growing circular companies


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