Circular economy innovation and COVID-19 strategies in start-ups for more sustainable, humane and resilient entrepreneurship


Circular economy, Circular start-up, Sustainability, Humane entrepreneurship, COVID-19

How to Cite

Ghisellini, P., Quinto, I., Passaro, R., & Ulgiati, S. (2023). Circular economy innovation and COVID-19 strategies in start-ups for more sustainable, humane and resilient entrepreneurship. Piccola Impresa Small Business, (1).
Received 2022-04-15
Accepted 2023-03-31
Published 2023-08-01


Purpose. The Coronavirus Pandemic has further shown the huge limits of the dominant model underpinning the global economy and society triggering the urgent need to revisit its foundations and unsustainable patterns. In this challenging context, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), as well as innovative circular start-ups are redesigning their business models in which the care of people, the environment and society assumes a key role.

Design/methodology/approach. This paper investigates through a multiple case study approach the business models of three recently founded circular start-ups with the main goal of understanding their entrepreneurial motivation, visions, sustainable and human entrepreneurship orientation. In that, we explore how they are contributing to achieve a more inclusive, human-centred, and environmentally friendly society.

Findings. The three case studies analysed show how circular start-ups, by focusing on designing more innovative products and processes for by-products or waste valorisation have created new forms of entrepreneurships also able to generate positive social impacts other than environmental and economic ones.

Practical and social implications. The results show that environmentally sustainable and socially innovative models could better support firms to tackle critical events, such as COVID-19 disease, by improving their own resilience and competitiveness and ability to properly respond to such difficult situations.

Originality of the study. This study attempts to shed further light on circular start-up companies, their features and business models. The international literature shows that circular start-up currently seems much suitable of adopting disruptive circular strategies and the needed cultural and ethical advancements for the Circular Economy (CE) transition. Their innovative approach could be a strong catalyst for large incumbents stimulating them to develop circular business model innovations.


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Copyright (c) 2023 Patrizia Ghisellini, Ivana Quinto, Renato Passaro, Sergio Ulgiati