Images of the future for a circular economy: The case of Finland

Maili Marjamaa, Marileena Mäkelä

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A transition from a linear to a circular economy (CE) is one of the key solutions to the sustainability crisis. A CE requires new mental models and insights, especially of a desirable future towards which to move. A CE aims at making better use of resources and jointly considers economic, environmental and social sustainability aspects in the long run. The objective of this study is to develop alternative images of the future for CE in Finland in 2050. The study was performed using qualitative research methods and covers extensive data from 61 interviews with experts. We analysed the data using qualitative content analysis. Four alternative images of the future were generated: A circular success story, A circle of disaster, Local circles, and Structural, regulated circularity. This study contributes to the CE literature by using a futures studies approach and describing alternative futures for a CE through images of the future. By creating alternative futures, one can better reflect on and discuss future possibilities. Our images of the future provide insights to achieve a CE both in Finland and globally.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102985
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • circular economy
  • foresight
  • images of the future
  • qualitative research
  • sustainability

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Decision Sciences
  • Business and International Management
  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences


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