Technology Design for a Sustainable Circular Economy: Research and Practice Consequences

Research output: Contribution to book/conference proceedings/anthology/reportChapter in book/anthology/reportContributedpeer-review


The mainstream perspective on sustainable development sees continued green growth as a result of technology innovation. As both an expert and diffuse discipline, design plays a key role in innovation and sustainable transition. Recently, circular economy has been proposed as the framework for design-driven innovation for a sustainability transition, and guides on circular design are now popular in the product innovation space. However, critics of popular interpretations of circular economy highlight a number of deficiencies in the approach, e.g., rebound effects, and circular design proposals are often limited to a focus on eco-design methods and uncritical adoption of mainstream circular assumptions. In an attempt to salvage the value of circularity, proponents of a sustainable circular economy and circular society outline approaches that address these shortcomings and simultaneously specify both expert, e.g. product design, and diffuse, e.g. co-design, roles for the change process. This revised agenda means that circular design approaches must embrace more than product and business model factors. Following a discussion of the role of technology in sustainable development and sustainability transitions, we review the shortcomings of the popular circular economy discourse and examine the role of design in enabling a circular sustainable transition. As a result, we identify seven characteristics of design, which make it perhaps the key discipline in envisioning sustainable circular economy possibilities. We illustrate how design projects demonstrate these principles and suggest how such considerations should influence industrial design practice toward sustainable circular economy futures.


Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of Sustainability Science in the Future
EditorsWalter Leal Filho, Anabela Marisa Azul, Federica Doni, Amanda Lange Salvia
Place of PublicationCham.
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 2023

External IDs

unpaywall 10.1007/978-3-030-68074-9_141-1
Mendeley c27e04e3-56a8-3c7d-bc41-d229cbe43c46
ORCID /0000-0003-0937-1927/work/142249171
ORCID /0009-0002-3849-036X/work/159608911



  • Circular Economy, Circular Design, Sustainable Design, sustainable circular economy, Circular Society, Design for Sustainability, Design for Circular Economy, Sustainable Circular Economy