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Critical Analysis - Exploring institutional drivers and barriers of the circular economy: A cross-regional comparison of China, the US, and Europe - Case Study

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Introduction - Critical Analysis - Exploring institutional drivers and barriers of the circular economy: A cross-regional comparison of China, the US, and Europe

It has been determined that the existing linear economic paradigm may be replaced by the "Circular Economy" (CE). Circular economy researchers have concentrated on ways to better conserve material flows' value so far. As the CE is presently being implemented as an approach for sustainable growth in, for example, China and the EU, it would be good to determine and compare the motivations and hurdles of the CE adoption. In order to add to this field of study, we used a multiple case study that included China, the United States, and Europe. They looked at the value chain participants as manufacturers and integrators because of the importance of their roles in the adoption of CE (Ranta et al., 2018). Recyclables are the most widely supported CE activity, whereas other forms of CE tend to be weak in institutional support. This is one of the important results. Regulations have mostly pushed manufacturers and integrators to expand their recycling activities. More critical analysis will be discussed in the below points, which provide more significant and interesting knowledge regarding the research study.

Critical Analysis of Literature Review

By efficiently studying the document written by V. Ranta, L. Aarikka-Stenroos, P. Ritala and S. J. Mäkinen, the author has realised that these scholars have significantly gather the most potential and significant information regarding the study of “Exploring Institutional Drivers and Barriers of The Circular Economy: A Cross-Regional Comparison of China, The US, And Europe”. In this aspect, it is easy to say that the scholars or the researchers of this study has demonstrated the most vigorous knowledge regarding circular economy. The three Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) are typically used to describe the CE (Areal, McIntosh and Sheppy, 2016). By applying improved technology, streamlining packing, and employing more cost-effective devices, the reduction principle encourages the use of minimum input of power, natural resources, and trash. As stated in the reusable concept, "products or elements that do not become waste are used again for the same purpose they were originally intended".

This principle relates to the usages of fewer power generation and assets than would be needed to generate new items from natural raw material or to reprocess and throw it away of old ones. Recycling is defined as "any recovery activity through which waste materials are recycled into goods, materials or substances whether for the original or other uses. reprocessing organic material but not energy recovery and reprocessing into materials that are to be utilised as fuels or for backfilling activities" is included (Ranta et al., 2018). Increasing recycling rates is a major goal of many municipal waste management plans, and the CE is commonly used as an acronym for both it and recycling. Through assessing whether the 3R principles are supported or hindered by an institution's policies, researchers were able to identify its institutional drivers and impediments.

In addition to this knowledge, the researchers of the study of “Exploring Institutional Drivers and Barriers of The Circular Economy: A Cross-Regional Comparison of China, The US, And Europe” also mentioned that the three-pillar structure of organisations has become a widely utilised analytical tool for analysing both firm- and individual-level responsible operations. Study after study has shown that institutions play a significant role in promoting and facilitating the implementation of sustainable business practises. The legislative framework of an institutional setting, for instance, might assist a CE by penalising wastefulness and encouraging circular economy, however it can also hinder CE by, for instance, banning the recycling of particular items (Areal, McIntosh and Sheppy, 2016). An institutional normative framework, for instance, may assist CE by making it more desirable to recycle than to dump waste. It is also possible that the prescriptive system might be out of step with CE's ultimate aims through, for example, elevating the minimisation of environmental gases above the elevation of the movement of commodities in the market.

Additionally, the cultural system may have a major influence on society aspirations and norms, such as trash and why sustainability is necessary. Institutional legitimacy is established by these systems, which are interrelated and mutually supportive. Since the foundation of the research that was conducted by V. Ranta, L. Aarikka-Stenroos, P. Ritala and S. J. Mäkinen is based on institutional theory, we'll start by going over some of the most important features of this technique. Institutional theory focuses on the long-term durability of established social organisations (Hirst and Thompson, 2011). Institutional theory by Scott (2008) advocates dividing institutions into three main pillars, namely regulative, ethical, and cultural-cognitive, each of which contributes to the stability of the social structure. Each of these pillars provides a visual representation of the underlying principles of social behaviour and how they manifest in many aspects of a given area of study, region or community.

Research Methods

Generally, the researchers have established the procedure of collecting both the primary and the secondary data for the successful accomplishment of the research study. In this aspect, the researchers have chosen interview to collect primary qualitative data and case studies to collect secondary qualitative data. Moreover, V. Ranta, L. Aarikka-Stenroos, P. Ritala and S. J. Mäkinen have chosen the case study analysis method for efficiently and proficiently analyse the collected data for the research of “Exploring Institutional Drivers and Barriers of The Circular Economy: A Cross-Regional Comparison of China, The US, And Europe” . This section describes the study methods employed to investigate the organisational drivers and impediments to CE in various locations (Areal, McIntosh and Sheppy, 2016). Furthermore, the researchers have used a case study technique to explore the CE and institutional theory together since there had been so little previous research in both areas.

For exploratory and theory-building research, qualitative case studies have been employed in the study of recyclables and the CE in the past. They used a multiple-case research approach with six instances to study the CE's diverse institutional characteristics. For example, a multiple-case design is superior to a single-case design in that the selected instances are less vulnerable to unforeseen events and provide more opportunities for cross-case comparison. Selecting a multiple-case methodology was also motivated by the desire to examine and compare instances from several locations in order to provide a mix of institutional contexts that would allow the detection of global and regional trends (Hirst and Thompson, 2011). Multiple sources of primary and secondary data were used in this investigation. Case studies that use a wide variety of publicly accessible information have shown that secondary data may serve as a reliable source of primary data. Data triangulation was improved even more by utilising a large number of data points gleaned from various sources.

Research Findings

Throughout the analysis and discussion of the entire research regarding “Exploring Institutional Drivers and Barriers of The Circular Economy: A Cross-Regional Comparison of China, The US, And Europe”, it becomes significant that the research questions are the most crucial aspects of a research, which prominently direct the researchers in order to collect the appropriate and sufficient data for the successful accomplishment of the research study. During studying this research paper of V. Ranta, L. Aarikka-Stenroos, P. Ritala and S. J. Mäkinen, it is understood and demonstrated that the researchers have potentially answer all the research questions within their study.

In relation to the research questions, it is discovered that in order to identify common CE drivers throughout geographies, examining the organisational environmental conditions of China, the United States, and Europe after unifying them via their two separate examples is useful. When analysing the advancement of CE in a global economy, it is critical to identify region-specific factors and impediments (Velthuis, 2013). The value chain responsibilities and the organisational settings were the most prominent emergent organisational movers and impediments found in the case investigation. For CE advancement, a comprehensive institutional strategy is needed, and this has been shown by the identification of the basic factors and impediments in relation to the supply chain function.


Throughout the evaluation of the entire study, it is recognised that the researchers could utilise the primary quantitative method like survey for collecting the data. Through this, the researchers will be able to collect the most authentic and accurate knowledge regarding the institutional drivers and barriers of the circular economy within their study of the research. Moreover, the gaps regarding the providing wider range of knowledge to the learners need to be fulfilled. Therefore, a further study is required in order to efficiently and prominently fulfil the gaps of this research study.


The study's goal was to find out what's driving and preventing the CE in China, the US, and Europe on a national and regional level. Institutional theory was utilised to examine the motivations and impediments to the deployment of other sustainability practices, as well as its current implementation in the study of "waste management issues" and its ability to broaden the scope of the analysis of CE initiatives to include all pertinent ecological, sociocultural, and financial implications. It was via this method that we were able to pinpoint not just regional but also institutional-level influences on and impediments to CE. To address the need for a deeper understanding of the institutional drivers and constraints to the CE, this method analysed new regional viewpoints, activities, and prospects for the CE's growth.


Areal, A., McIntosh, B. and Sheppy, B., 2016. Hope and glory: an expanded social strategy diagnosis model to incorporate corporate social responsibility within business strategy. International Journal of Business Performance Management17(2), pp.117-131. [Online]. Available at:  [Accessed on: 23rd November, 2021].

Hirst, P. and Thompson, G., 2011. The future of globalisation. In The Handbook of Globalisation, Second Edition. Edward Elgar Publishing.

Ranta, V., Aarikka-Stenroos, L., Ritala, P. and Mäkinen, S.J., 2018. Exploring institutional drivers and barriers of the circular economy: A cross-regional comparison of China, the US, and Europe. Resources, Conservation and Recycling135, pp.70-82. [Online]. Available at: [Accessed on: 23rd November, 2021].

Velthuis, O., 2013. Globalization of markets for contemporary art: why local ties remain dominant in Amsterdam and Berlin. European Societies15(2), pp.290-308. [Online]. Available at:[Accessed on: 23rd November, 2021].

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