Inter-organizational collaboration in circular economy ecosystems


In my pro graduation thesis I have researched inter-organizational collaboration in circular economy ecosystems. Especially I studied the enablers and consequences of inter-organizational collaboration, focusing on companies. In my research I brought together the emerging literature streams of circular economy and ecosystems, as the transition to circular economy requires collaboration, which the ecosystems foster. The research was qualitative and based on empirical interview data. The total 10 interviewees were chosen to represent Finnish circular economy expert companies, organizations coordinating circular economy ecosystems and companies participating in circular economy ecosystems. In the data five Finnish circular economy ecosystems were represented.

The results indicate that inter-organizational collaboration is enabled by ecosystem forming, ecosystem development and reaching strategic goals. These factors contain several action points, through which the collaboration can be supported. In addition, the results suggest that inter-organizational collaboration in circular economy ecosystems has consequences at both on organizational and ecosystem or societal level. At company level the consequences are direct business benefits, business development and adaptation to the operational environment. At the ecosystem and societal level the consequences are feasibility of solutions, understanding and solving problems and co-development.

Based on these findings I suggest four conclusions: Firstly, openness, trust and dialogue are central preconditions to collaboration and ecosystem activities. Secondly, the ecosystem coordinator plays a key role in enabling inter-organizational collaboration and ecosystem actibities, which is why financing the coordinator’s activities is essential. Thirdly, fostering circular economy is value-based for many actors, which may lead to higher commitment and ease collaboration. Fourthly, circular economy ecosystems can be central structures, which enable circular economy business implementation and the transition to circular economy at different levels. This research was not conducted in CICAT2025 project, yet it connects strongly to the themes of stakeholder interaction, as the focus of the research was the inter-organizational collaboration of companies operating in circular economy.

Author: Anni Paavilainen, Tampereen yliopisto

Published: Tampereen yliopisto