Developing an Understanding of Existing Circular Economy Practices and Possible Opportunities Through Case Studies

Grant program: Teaching and Learning Development Grant (TLDG)

Grant recipient: Lisa Papania, Beedie School of Business

Project team: Maia Rowan, research assistant

Timeframe: September 2014 to January 2015

Funding: $4,990

Course addressed: BUS 443 – Product Design and Development

Final Report: View Lisa Papania's final project report (PDF)

Description: Students in BUS 443 (Product Design and Development) are required to identify opportunities for brand new or better products that contribute to the circular economy, and then to design, develop, produce and sell these products. The goal of this research program is to help students understand the circular economy practices in which organizations in the lower Mainland and abroad are currently engaging.

By conducting their own primary and secondary research, and articulating this research as case studies, students will come to understand the business and social rationales behind organizations’ practices and identify opportunities for new and better circular economy practices. By researching and developing these cases, students will gain in-depth knowledge of current circular economy practices and first-hand insight into the gaps in existing practice that they can fill with their own products. The research will help build a repository of information about the practices of organizations that pursue circular economy objectives. Students in future classes will be able to draw on this knowledge base to gain an understanding of the circular economy, and add to the knowledge base by contributing their own case studies.

Questions addressed:

  • Does articulating their research as case studies enable students to better understand circular economy practices?
  • Does the employment and execution of ethnographic research methods (consolidated in a case study) used to investigate existing companies’ current practices (and gaps in their practices) better enable product development students to generate ideas for new circular economy products and services?
  • Does generating case studies about local companies form a foundation of research for future classes and companies about circular economy practices and opportunities?

Knowledge sharing: To begin, the knowledge platform with the case studies will be made available to other instructors teaching courses related to sustainability and the circular economy. We would also like to take the case studies, and the overarching broader analysis of current circular economy practices and opportunities, to the Fall National Zero Waste Council round table of organization and government leaders interested in moving organizations in Canada towards circular economy practices. We also hope that the knowledge base provides information for organizations across Canada wishing to implement circular economy practices.

Papania, L. (2015, April 13). The business case for a circular economy – Case study findings [Webinar]. In the National Zero Waste Council's Circular Economy Business Advantage Roundtable.

Papania, L. (2014, October). Zero waste: Innovations to drive the circular economy. Presentation at the Simon Fraser University Public Square, Vancouver, BC.

Papania, L. (2014, September). Textiles in focus. Presentation at the Metro Vancouver's Zero Waste Conference, Vancouver, BC.

Papania L. & Rowan M. (2015). The circular economy: 11 case studies from the Lower Mainland. Vancouver, BC: Vancouver Economic Commission

Papania, L. & Rowan, M. (2015, January). The circular economy: 11 case studies from the Lower Mainland. The Business Case for a Circular Economy-Profiling National Zero Waste Council Case Study Findings, National Zero Waste Council, January 30,2015, Burnaby, BC.

Papania, L., & Rowan, M. (2014, November). The circular economy: 11 case studies from the Lower Mainland. Presentation at the Vancouver Economic Commission Textiles + The Circular Economy Workshop, Vancouver Economic Commission, Vancouver, BC.