Sub-theme 47: Interorganizational Relationships for Sustainable Development: Collaboration in the Circular Economy

Sara Scipioni
University of Pisa, Italy
Xavier Castañer
University of Lausanne, Switzerland
Nuno Barros De Oliveira
Tilburg University, The Netherlands

Call for Papers

Socio-economic and ecological systems face pressing sustainability challenges, thus urging a more prudent use of resources, including material re-use and the elimination of waste in organizations, supply chains, and societies. Sustainability is considered as the “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (Brundtland, 1987), which might be obtained through an efficient and responsible use of materials, including natural resources (Ellen Macarthur Foundation, 2015). The circular economy specifically focuses on the reduction, reuse, recycle, and recovery of materials and waste (Murray, 2017) departing from the linear conception of production and management. The central idea is to foster organizational resilience and sustainable development of organizations, supply chains, and societies via environmental, economic, and social value creation (Dey et al., 2020).
Collaborative solutions and processes (Bressanelli et al., 2022) are at the epicenter of the circular economy. Circular organizations are asked to better coordinate and cooperate across supply chains in order to design circular goods, reduce the amount of resources used, reuse resources, reduce waste and extend materials’ life at the industrial level, reducing the high environmental (including pandemics), technical and relational uncertainty.
In this context, interorganizational relationships (IORs), especially across supply chains, represents a pivotal aspect for designing and managing a circular economy, since circularity points out to resource interdependence of organizations and calls for better managing it. Most IORs bring together a range of varied stakeholders required for the production, distribution, and recovery of materials, showing the opportunity to deepen the connection among the circular economy, IORs, and collaboration (Lahane et al., 2020).
The definition of collaboration proposed by Castañer and Oliveira (2020) captures interorganizational helping behaviours, underlining the importance of investigating the relational aspects linked to the sustainable development, in which organizational scholars are increasingly asked to engage (Ergene et al., 2021). Collaboration also draws attention to distributive and procedural fairness in IORs (Ariño & Ring, 2010) for value creation and appropriation, which might hinder circular economy-oriented solutions across supply chains. A better understanding of the role of collaboration in IORs in the circular economy is essential, as well as the identification of circular economy-oriented IORs enabling factors, obstacles (such as conflict, opportunism and unethical practices), and supporting processes (Scipioni et al., 2021), as well as the design and management of those relationships in general.
The list of suggested topics includes, but is not limited to:

  • Exploring the notion of circular economy and its links with related concepts, such as sustainability;

  • Examining the application of organizational theories to the study of interorganizational relationships formed towards the achievement of circularity;

  • Elaborating better typologies of interorganizational collaboration towards the circular economy;

  • Investigating the enablers and hinders of interorganizational relationships oriented towards circular economy, including those referred to small and medium enterprises;

  • Elucidating the time and temporal aspects in circular interorganizational relationships;

  • Studying the adaptation of traditional supply chains to circular supply chains;

  • Researching how organizations and their managers perceive and overcome the governance challenges of circular supply chains;

  • Investigating collaboration in national vs. cross-national circular interorganizational relationships, including those related to small and medium enterprises;

  • Exploring the appropriate technological systems for sustainable supply chain management.

Both conceptual and empirical submissions are welcome. Submissions bridging research fields (e.g., organization studies and supply chain management) are also encouraged.


  • Ariño, A., & Ring, P.S. (2010): “The role of fairness in alliance formation.” Strategic Management Journal, 31 (10), 1054–1087.
  • Bressanelli, G., Visintin, F., & Saccani, N. (2022): “Circular Economy and the evolution of industrial districts: A supply chain perspective.” International Journal of Production Economics, 243,
  • Brundtland, G.H. (1987): Our Common Future: Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development. New York: United Nations.
  • Castañer, X., & Oliveira, N. (2020): “Collaboration, coordination, and cooperation among organizations: Establishing the distinctive meanings of these terms through a systematic literature review.” Journal of Management, 46 (6), 965–1001.
  • Dey, P.K., Malesios, C., De, D., Budhwar, P., Chowdhury, S., & Cheffi, W. (2020): “Circular economy to enhance sustainability of small and medium-sized enterprises.” Business Strategy and the Environment, 29 (6), 2145–2169.
  • Eikelenboom, M., & de Jong, G. (2022): “The impact of managers and network interactions on the integration of circularity in business strategy.” Organization & Environment, 35 (3), 365–393.
  • Ellen Macarthur Foundation (ed.) (2015): “Growing within: A circular economy vision for a competitive Europe.” Ellen Macarthur Foundation, June 2015; available at:
  • Ergene, S., Banerjee, S.B., & Hoffman, A.J. (2021): “(Un)Sustainability and Organization Studies: Towards a Radical Engagement.” Organization Studies, 42 (8), 1319–1335.
  • Lahane, S., Kant, R., & Shankar, R. (2020): “Circular supply chain management: A state-of-art review and future opportunities.” Journal of Cleaner Production, 258,
  • Murray, A., Skene, K., & Haynes, K. (2017): “The circular economy: An interdisciplinary exploration of the concept and application in a global context.” Journal of Business Ethics, 140 (3), 369–380.
  • Scipioni, S., Russ, M., & Niccolini, F. (2021): “From barriers to enablers: The role of organizational learning in transitioning SMEs into the circular economy.” Sustainability, 13 (3),
Sara Scipioni is a post-doctoral researcher of Organization Studies at the University of Pisa, Italy. Her research focuses on organizational learning and knowledge management applied to sustainability, circular economy, supply chain and logistics topics. Some of Sara’s works are published in ‘Piccola Impresa’ (Small Business Journal), ‘Sinergie’ (Italian Journal of Management), and ‘Sustainability’.
Xavier Castañer is a Professor of Strategy at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland. His research on corporate governance and strategy, organization design and innovation as well as on acquisitions and alliances has been published in ‘Academy of Management Review’, ‘Administrative Science Quarterly’, ‘Corporate Governance: An International Review’, ‘Journal of Operations Management’, ‘Journal of Management Studies’, and ‘Strategic Management Journal’, among other journals.
Nuno Barros De Oliveira is an Assistant Professor of Organization Studies at Tilburg University, The Netherlands. His research focuses on main problems of organizing between organizations (e.g., adaptation and coordination) and in devising enhanced research methods to study these problems. Nuno’s research has been published in ‘Academy of Management Annals’, ‘Journal of Management’, ‘Journal of Supply Chain Management’, and ‘Organization Science’.