Digital Platforms in the Circular Economy: A Study to Investigate how Digital Platforms can Enable a Circular Economy

Jesper André Sloth & Tobias Drescher

Student thesis: Master thesis

Abstract

Recently, scholars are highlighting the potential of digital platforms to enable the Circular Economy and are calling for more research on the topic. Furthermore, an increasing number of digital platforms are emerging that show promise for economic success, while pursuing environmental goals. In this regard, this study aims at establishing a potential mutual beneficiency between digital platforms and the Circular Economy, i.e., how digital platforms can enable a Circular Economy and if a circular value proposition can benefit digital platforms by increasing the behavioral intention of consumers to use them in the first place. To measure the behavioral intention of consumers, we developed an extended version of the Theory of Planned Behavior through theory and focus interviews. Through this framework, we found that a circular value proposition has indeed a positive impact on the behavioral intention of a consumer to join a digital platform. Specifically, analyzing the data of our convenience sample in Scandinavia and Germany (n=322) with Structural Equation Modelling (SEM), showed that the consumers in our survey have a positive attitude towards platforms with a circular value proposition; a perceived ease of using circular platforms; a perceived moral obligation to act sustainably and pronounced environmental concern – all positively impacting their intention to use a circular platform. Moreover, the construct social norm showed no statistically significant effect on the behavioral intention of an individual. To assess how digital platforms can enable the Circular Economy, we directed platform theory to the goals and principles of the Circular Economy in unison with practical insights from an expert interview. As such, we posit that digital platforms can in fact enable the Circular Economy in several ways: Namely, as marketplaces enabling resource loops (1), engines for circular innovations (2), information channels educating consumers (3), hosts for circular ecosystems (4), and through network effects as the driving force for sustainable growth on platforms with a circular value proposition (5). As such, by showing how digital platforms can enable the Circular Economy and by demonstrating that a circular value proposition does benefit platforms, we establish a mutual beneficiency between digital platforms and the Circular Economy. Lastly, we also shed a light on our findings from an international business perspective, highlight both practical and theoretical implications of our findings, and present avenues for future research.

EducationsMSc in International Business, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
LanguageEnglish
Publication date2021
Number of pages156
SupervisorsSönnich Sönnichsen