Upscaling Circular Business Models in Fashion Retail Value Chains

Abstract: The textile industry is currently operating in an unsustainable manner that is based on overproduction and wasteful, resource-draining practices. Therefore, recently, the concept of circular economy has been presented as a possible solution and a way forward. Changing linear economy business practices and basing them on the circular economy concept is anticipated to solve social and environmental problems while maintaining economic growth. However, fashion retail value chains essentially depend on the logic of mass production, fast fashion, and linear take-make-dispose models. Presently, circular initiatives in this context are rather limited. This thesis posits that circular business model (CBM) scalability is an important factor in the transition to a circular economy in the fashion retail value chain, and thus, a more sustainable fashion industry.Therefore, the purpose of this thesis is to further the understanding of CBM scalability in the context of fashion retail value chains. This includes expanding the notion of scalability to cover a more holistic perspective that goes beyond increasing production output solely for economic gains. Additionally, this involves enhancing the understanding of the required specific resources and capabilities that CBMs must have or develop to overcome challenges and increase their potential for scalability. Accordingly, this thesis covers three papers that utilise qualitative methods wherein archival material, such as peer reviewed journal articles and industry reports, as well as interviews with practitioners are used.Moreover, the extension of the notion of business model scalability goes beyond the boundary of the organisation and encompasses three different perspectives, namely, efficiency, adaptability, and altruism. In addition to this, three areas that challenge CBM scalability are identified. These challenges stem from different business model design themes and can be described as (i) inefficiency, (ii) lack of know-how and out-of-the-box solutions, and (iii) unfamiliarity resulting in scepticism and dissonance with current practices and policy. Finally, the thesis contributes to the CBM literature by utilising the theoretical lenses of resource-based theory and dynamic capabilities theory to identify resources and dynamic capabilities that are strategically important for scaling CBMs. This thesis expands the notion of scalability by going beyond the boundary of the single organisation as well as including a triple bottom line perspective, thus providing an important addition to the understanding of the scalability of CBMs.