(Im)possibilities of “circular” production: Learning from corporate case studies of (un)sustainability

Helen Kopnina*, Rory Padfield

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
19 Downloads (Pure)


This article discusses Cradle to Cradle (C2C) and circular economy designs including three key principles of C2C production as well as the so-called 9-R hierarchy of priorities in circular economy production. This article examines student assignments that apply these circular and C2C principles to the detergent brand Method, the refillable drinking bottle Dopper, and the packaging of Burger King. Product improvements identified by students include expanding transparency of the “invisible” aspects of production, such as the types of materials and energy used for packaging and transport, or the potential for take-back and repair. In the student analysis, it appears that the supposedly circular or C2C products have their shortcomings, especially when it comes to the first R of the 9-R hierarchy – Refuse or avoid making or buying new products. The larger lesson from these case studies is that the buzzword circularity might not be delivering on its promise of absolute decoupling of resource consumption from economic activity. Students are recommended to engage with tools, concepts, and approaches, such as critical thinking and degrowth strategies to provide insight into sustainable transformations for society.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100161
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental and Sustainability Indicators
Early online date27 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2021


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