The circular economy is considered as a promising approach to move our societies towards regenerative growth models and thus more sustainable development, which will be necessary to meet international set climate goals. However, the transition from a linear to a circular economy is a complex process and requires the involvement of a variety of sectors, stakeholders and policies that are associated with involved resources, and challenges current ways of governance and requires new integrated approaches of governance (Ddiba et al. 2020).
Food, water and nutrients are among the core foci of the Circular Economy Action Plan (European Commission, 2020). While the Action Plan touches upon agriculture, a broader, cross-sectoral understanding linking agriculture, forestry, and aquaculture (A.F.A) is currently lacking. Linking green and blue sectors of the bioeconomy where circular production solutions are actively deployed and new ones are developed can make significant contributions to the attainment of sustainable development goals and regenerative growth. However, A.F.A sectors are also associated with negative environmental impacts and climate pressures such as biodiversity loss, waste production, and greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, promoting loop-closing practices and business models organised around circular resource use in value chains, which are embedded in supportive collaborative arrangements and policy frameworks at both regional and national levels, is of strategic importance. Particularly stakeholder collaboration in form of public and/or private partnerships is crucial to embed the principles of circular economy in business practices (Donner et al. 2020). However, there is a lack of research on the collaborative processes that are necessary across sectors to achieve circular business models (Brown et al. 2021).
Hence, with this study, we contribute to the debate by examining stakeholder collaboration for the circular use of bioresources within and across agriculture, aquaculture and forestry (A.F.A) from a quintuple helix perspective (Carayannis et al. 2021). We focus on multi-stakeholder collaboration between businesses, research organisations, public bodies and civil society organisations in its various forms and constellations leading to adoption and/or development of bioresource-based circular business practices at enterprise, value-chain and territorial levels.
We address the following research questions: What types of circular business models are associated with which collaborative arrangement? How stakeholder collaboration facilitates the development and uptake of circular solutions in bioeconomy? What are the key success factors for developing intra- and cross-sectoral circularity of bioresources through actor collaboration and partnerships? What governance approaches are needed to support multi-stakeholder collaboration for circular bioeconomy?
The focus of the study is on the A.F.A sectors in the Baltic-Nordic region, which constitute an important part of the region’s economy. There are both similarities and differences between national thematic priorities and expectations regarding circular economy, its future trajectories and contribution to sustainable economic, social, and environmental development.
In order to identify colloaborative processes and arrangements between stakeholders in these three sectors, we collect examples of cross-sectoral and intersectoral circulation of bioresources in the Baltic-Nordic region. We follow a mixed-method approach. Based on a list of selection criteria, we collected 120 intra- and cross-sectoral circularity initiatives within A.F.A across the Baltic-Nordic region including Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, and Norway between April and August 2022.
In our selection we focus on initiatives or examples of circularity that are either characterized by a singular practice of circularity at company level (for example a specific technology of circular bioresourses use) or composed by multiple circular resource-use practices at a company level (or an NGO, consumer group level). Cases were selected based on three requirements 1) the bioresource used in the example/initiative is from the A.F.A sectors. 2) Intitatives need to show measureable interactions. Interactions inside one company were valid but the preferred focus was on examples where different companies interact. 3) Startups were included as enablers (technology and/or service companies). The 120 case examples were described in a structured shared Excel form.
Our aim is to look for a diversity of bioresources involved in circulation within and between A.F.A. sectors and to grasp a diversity of collaborations, business models, value chain arrangements and impacts of circular initiatives, etc. To gain more qualitative insights to the quantitative data, we also conducted in-depth case studies with 12 of these 120 initiatives (3 per country).
Preliminary results indicate different forms of collaborative arrangements among various types of stakeholders involved in a circular use of bioresources in the A.F.A sectors. We can identify different types of formal and informal collaborations. Furthermore, we develop a taxonomy of intra- and cross-sectoral collaborative circularity initiatives and measurements.
This research is carried out within the Baltic Research Programme of EEA Grants; project No. EEA-RESEARCH-24. CIRCLE (Promoting collaboration for sustainable and circular use of bioresources across agriculture, forestry, and aquaculture).
Circularity, agriculture, forestry, aquaculture, stakeholder collaboration, quintuple helix, circular business models, governance
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Carayannis, E. G., Campbell, D. F. J., & Grigoroudis, E. (2021). Helix Trilogy: the Triple, Quadruple, and Quintuple Innovation Helices from a Theory, Policy, and Practice Set of Perspectives. Journal of the Knowledge Economy, 0123456789. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13132-021-00813-x
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