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Size matters in a Circular Economy: a practical framework applying Futures Literacy to support Small and Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs)

Weigend, Ricardo; Viero, Giulia; Schindler, Tanja; Guadarrama, Graciela; Pomponi, Francesco


Ricardo Weigend

Giulia Viero

Tanja Schindler

Graciela Guadarrama


The Circular Economy (CE) is conceived by many as paramount to decouple economic growth from environmental impacts and resource depletion. Implementing this economic paradigm in the private sector is challenging, as it requires substantial changes at the strategic level. However, while SMEs represent 99% of all businesses and 67% of employment in Europe, the available support for a CE transition has been mainly focused on large corporations. Therefore, the backbone of the European economy might be left out by the CE if tailored solutions are not implemented for SMEs. Furthermore, most strategic decision-making activities lack Futures Literacy (FL): the capability to understand the role that the future plays in influencing the present and the skills to generate the imaginary futures to catalyse change today. Through a literature review, complemented by a snowballing technique, we reviewed the available CE and FL approaches and analysed further the most prominent of these frameworks. As the available frameworks lack guidance for their implementation, we developed an integrated and systematic process to make it more practical and applicable, especially for those SMEs to which the FL concepts are novel. The combination of Futures Studies (FS) methods and a Futures mindset could contribute to a successful transition towards sustainable futures by (i) understanding the different concept and meanings of the term future(s); (ii) exploring possible future pathways for better decision-making in the present, and (iii) building resilience for unexpected events to survive and stay future-relevant in uncertain times. The developed process provides a customisable approach to SMEs, contributing to both disciplines’ literature. This paper attempts to discuss the relation between FS, CE and how SMEs can thrive with the support and input of both disciplines. We expect this research will influence the interface between top-down policy-making and bottom-up business decision-making as a valuable hands-on guideline. By that, the approach could enhance the policy developments that focus on supporting the vast number of existing and future SMEs in Europe and around the globe.

Presentation Conference Type Conference Paper (Published)
Conference Name ISDRS 2021: The 27nd International Sustainable Development Research Society Conference
Start Date Jul 13, 2021
End Date Jul 15, 2021
Acceptance Date Aug 10, 2021
Publication Date 2021
Deposit Date Aug 12, 2021
Publicly Available Date Aug 12, 2021
Pages 696-718
Book Title Proceedings of the 27th Annual Conference, International Sustainable Development Research Society
Keywords Circular Economy, SMEs, Futures Studies
Public URL
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