In this study, we focus on the willingness of consumers to use circular business models (CBMs). We assess the ‘suitability’ of a product or sector for a particular circular business model from a consumerbased perspective, namely is it likely that a sufficient number of consumers would be willing to adopt the CBM to make it worthwhile for providers to enter this market. The study aims to provide a helicopter view of different attitudes towards a diverse set of CBMs. Specifically, we work with six different scenarios concentrating on coffee, printing, housing, clothing, household chores and secondhand markets. This approach allows us to compare results for a variety of CBMs as well as to identify general trends in consumers’ intentions and reported behavior.
Using one framework to compare different CBMs and different products in a consistent manner is the main contribution of this study. This approach clearly shows that a context-dependent strategy will be needed to stimulate consumers to adopt circular business models and activities. One-size-fits-all circular business solutions and policy measures are not easily achievable as they will only be effective for parts of the population and specific products/services. Thus, a targeted approach and focused information provision are required to have a sizable impact on the transition towards a circular economy. Still some general observations can be made.
A first general observation is that concerns about contractual conditions and perceived risks emerge as important barriers towards the adoption of CBM. While this is understandable from a consumer’s point of view, easy solutions are more difficult to find as suppliers are dealing with a moral hazard problem.
A second general observation involves the possibility to increase consumers’ environmental awareness since a desire to reduce one’s environmental impact was the most important driver mentioned by the respondents and higher scores on the environmental awareness scale were correlated with a higher willingness to adopt circular business models. Here, education and sustained information campaigns through traditional as well as social media can play an important role.
A third general observation relates to the lack of familiarity, which is one of the barriers that can be addressed in a fairly straightforward way. Governments and administrations can lead by example. Businesses can allow potential consumers to test what is on offer before asking them to commit to a long-term subscription.
Fourthly, when private companies communicate about CBM and develop marketing strategies to positions one’s business offer on the market, it will be important to not solely focus on the environmental aspects. Although the environmental driver was strongest in all cases that were considered in our study, in many cases it will be equally – or even more – important to stress other benefits such as quality, ease of use, financial savings and reduced risks.