How to close the loop? Organizational learning processes and contextual factors for small and medium enterprises’ circular business models introduction

  • Sara Scipioni
  • Federico Niccolini
Keywords: organizational learning; sustainable management; circular economy; supply chain; small and medium enterprises


Frame of the research: The paper is framed under the organizational learning (OL) theory, to investigate the circular economy (CE) transition of small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

Purpose of the paper: This paper focuses on the identification of enabling factors and processes able at influencing the introduction of circular business models (CBMs) in SMEs, with a specific attention toward OL processes.

Methodology: In the light of grounded theory, the study offers an interpretative analysis of focus group discussions among Italian construction SME managers.

Results: Four key OL contextual factors - external environment, supply chain context, organizational features, and culture - appear to favor the application of CBM-oriented intraorganizational and interorganizational learning processes among SMEs.

Research limitations: The paper's limitations are mainly linked to a single-context analysis and the qualitative approach to the investigation.

Practical implications: We identify OL processes to be encouraged among SMEs for CE application, the related dynamics, as well as the contextual factors to be managed in the CE transition.

Originality of the paper: The paper's originality resides in the disclosure of the Italian context as one of the most advanced EU countries in the CE, and in the analysis of its the related traditional construction sector evolution process.


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