B Corp Certification for a Circular Economy Approach and a Sustainable Pathway

B Corp Certification for a Circular Economy Approach and a Sustainable Pathway

Enrico Maria Mosconi (University of Tuscia, Italy), Stefano Poponi (Niccolò Cusano University, Italy), Simona Fortunati (University of Tuscia, Italy) and Michelangelo Arezzo di Trifiletti (Embassy of the United States of America, Rome, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1419-1.ch009


The “loop” approach of the circular model, which aims to live in the business or market environment, requires a radical evolution of the production techniques, management, and skills in a new concept or idea for the market. Circular Economy results from a long awareness-raising process connected with problems concerning environmental protection. The dissemination of circular economy supposes the adoption of business models which will eventually enable environmental sustainability oriented behaviors, an efficient use of resources, and the respect of ethical, social, and environmental values. Benefit Corporations are companies pursuing these objectives. This chapter identifies and discusses the potential of B Corp certification to apply the principle of Circular economy. In particular, a compared multiple analysis of case studies is used to evaluate how the requirements of the scheme of certification influence the potential circularity of the enterprises analyzed.
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The new paradigm of circular economy was developed in response to production of the current linear model and to address critical issues due to scarcity and inadequacy in the management of virgin resources by organizations and to the volatility of their prices (Michelini, Moraes, Cunha, Costa, & Ometto, 2017). With proposals that address the full lifecycle of products, new business models aim to increase resource efficiency while respecting the environment so that material from bio-waste is reintegrated, technical waste is refurbished and unused material is re-entered within the industrial cycle, as key resources to close the loop (Ellen-MacArthur Foundation, 2013). Therefore, the transition to circular economics arises as a challenge to slow climate change and to address resource scarcity. Circular economy is applied not only to sustainable development issues, such as environmental or industrial ecology policies (Ghisellini, Cialani, & Ulgiati, 2016) but it extends towards concepts or solutions inspired by “biomimetics”, “bioeconomy”, sustainability and the green economy (Pomponi & Moncaster, 2017). The new business model goes beyond the economic concept of profit, encouraging the attainment of improving the social-cultural context. In particular, it advocates for minimizing the generation of waste and having as a main objective that of reaching a greater awareness in consumers’ perceptions. Therefore, it can be defined as “an economic system that represents a change of paradigm in the world in which the society is correlated with nature and aims to prevent the exhaustion of resources, the circuits of energy and materials” (Prieto-Sandoval, Jaca, & Ormazabal, 2018). There are quite a lot of problems associated to a non-rational use of resources thus technological innovation can represent a valid help for attaining a more favorable transition, by promoting modularity and versatility (Nižetić, Djilali, Papadopoulos, & Rodrigues, 2019). In this context, the stakeholders become an integral part for radically improving this achievement (Højberg, Troldborg, Stisen, Christensen, & Henriksen, 2013). The change must then adopt top-down policies, expressed in policy terms, but even more bottom-up policies for the implementation of production and consumption models increasingly efficient and at the same time environmentally sustainable. The take-make-consume and dispose model (Urbinati, Chiaroni, & Chiesa, 2017) leaves room for circular systems. Products retain their value for as long as possible for subsequent reuse, there by generating value throughout the entire circular lifecycle and reactivating its functionality or use by symbiotic cascade processes, leading towards new production cycles (Holgado, Benedetti, Evans, Baptista, & Lourenço, 2018). Therefore, a characteristic of the circular economy model is given by the interdependency of phases and cascade cycles. This makes it is possible to avoid or at least partly prevent resources from escaping the circle by reducing waste as much as possible. La Ellen MacArthur Foundation has long been committed to strengthening and communicating principles related to circular economy (CE), as well as promoting ideas and opportunities of a new social and environmental business (Ellen-MacArthur Foundation, 2013). The Foundation’s contribution was fundamental in the launching of this initiative and to facilitate a transition at the European level of the process change. Among the essential elements that it proposes, there are a series of indicators, including: design (design-of-waste), “the extension of the lifecycle of the product”, “renewable energies”, the “eco-system” approach, the “recovery of material”, the “sharing”, the “product as service”. The “design-of-waste” contributes to the reduction of waste, promoting a more efficient production, cable of restoring a supply chain through a virtuous process of environmental management. The extension of the lifecycle of the product, together with the repair, resale, regeneration, and reconditioning, allows to affect the profitability of companies, thanks to offer of a new range of services. The use of “renewable energy” contributes to reduce the environmental impact and the use of non-renewable sources, while the eco-system approach operates as a new “Thinking System”. That is a way of rethinking the economy, by taking into consideration all the factors that intervene between the action and the consequences that they have on society and on the environment. The recovery of materials through recycling and their subsequent reuse, preserve the quality characteristics, by decreasing their use and at the same time, through sharing models, which act through on-demand platforms, by promoting a facilitation of trade, where the product takes the form of the service.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Sustainable Production: Creation of consumer goods with raw materials whose value can be maintained or recovered.

Benefits Corporation: Evolution of the corporate concept with social objectives as well as profit objectives.

Business model: Model through which an organization adopts strategic and organizational solutions to create a competitive advantage.

Ecodesign: Design of a sustainable product with the consequent reduction of environmental impact.

B-Corp: A new way of doing business through a transparent, sustainable and social business.

Sustainability: Process in which economic growth is oriented towards environmental and social respect.

Circular Economy: A business model for managing sustainable value creation.

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