Green-washing or best case practices? Using circular economy and Cradle to Cradle case studies in business education

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44 Citations (Scopus)


Closed loop or ‘circular’ production systems known as Circular Economy and Cradle to Cradle represent a unique opportunity to radically revise the currently wasteful system of production. One of the challenges of such systems is that circular products need to be both produced locally with minimum environmental footprint and simultaneously satisfy demand of global consumers. This article presents a literature review that describes the application of circular methodologies to education for sustainability, which has been slow to adopt circular systems to the curriculum. This article discusses how Bachelor and Master-level students apply their understanding of these frameworks to corporate case studies. Two assignment-related case studies are summarized, both of which analyze products that claim to be ‘circular’. The students' research shows that the first case, which describes the impact of a hybrid material soda bottle, does not meet circularity criteria. The second case study, which describes products and applications of a mushroom-based material, is more sustainable. However, the students' research shows that the manufacturers have omitted transport from the environmental impact assessment and therefore the mushroom materials may not be as sustainable as the manufacturers claim. As these particular examples showed students how green advertising can be misleading, applying “ideal” circularity principles as part of experiential learning could strengthen the curriculum. Additionally, this article recommends that sustainable business curriculum should also focus on de-growth and steady-state economy, with these radical alternatives to production becoming a central focus of education of responsible citizens.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)613-621
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Early online date13 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - 10 May 2019
Externally publishedYes


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