Towards a Data-driven Circular Economy: Stakeholder Interviews

Inka Orko (Editor), Lotta Heikkilä, Juha Häikiö, Sari Järvinen, Marjaana Karhu, Johannes Klein, Raija Lantto, Rita Lavikka, Sonja Lavikko, Eeva Lehtonen, Sari Luostarinen, Satu-Marja Mäkelä, Jukka-Pekka Ovaska, Samuli Patala, Erika Winquist

Research output: Book/ReportReport


The lean and efficient use of raw materials, energy and products is a key principle in the circular economy. As a hypothesis, our activities and industrial operations can only be designed as circular in a holistic way if we share information across the value chain and between the stakeholders.

In the Circular Design Network project (2020–2022), funded by the Academy of Finland, we have focused on understanding the opportunities and pathways to data-enabled circular operations, and on creating a network in data for circular design. This report analyses the findings and summarises the results of the stakeholder interviews (WP 1) mainly during 2020.

The stakeholder interviews consisted of 81 company, R&D and regional support organisation interviews mainly in the value chains of batteries, textiles and food-carbon cycles, with a few interviews in the pulp and paper and chemical industries. We interviewed the stakeholders on their roles in the value chain, their data-related challenges and needs in circular practices, the role and data use in their current operations, the data tools, collaboration and activities around data, and the opportunities they saw in data for a circular economy. The findings were analysed per value chain and according to their position in the value chain: raw material suppliers, product manufacturers/solution providers, end users, etc.

The role of the circular economy principles, as well as use of data, varies greatly depending on the business model and sector of industry. In general, all the interviewed organisations collect and use data for operations and customer management as a standard practice; but at the same time, most would like to better utilise data, also for circularity. Large manufacturing organisations have the means to invest in developing new data-based opportunities, and some have taken steps forward and are developing data platforms internally or with an external partner. On the other hand, some smaller innovative and data-oriented organisations design and implement new data-based approaches in an agile way. Data platform providers can play an important role in enabling organised data sharing and internal use. Overall, almost all of the interviewees had an interest in specifically expanding customer data collection and utilisation and to create new business models based on that. Traceability of materials through the value chain is a key driver and opportunity for data management. In particular, the stakeholders saw a growing need for localised and transparent LCA and sustainability data. Open data or data sharing at the general level was also regarded as interesting. However, the concrete data opportunities are still for the most part hazy, and few stakeholders are willing to share their own data unless there is a valid business reason and the means to control the use of the data. We deduct that in order to create a living data ecosystem, an initiator and driver, with a vision of a data-based (business) operation, is needed.

We noted that the boundaries of the different roles in the value chain are blurred in a circular economy. New circular business models seek the value in combining, for example, circular products manufacturing to waste management, or end-of-life recycling service to retail or manufacturing. Connecting data to operations requires cross-disciplinary competences. In a circular economy, the roles are expanding and combining in innovative ways, which may shake up the traditional practices and collaboration in the value chains. New combinations of competencies may be needed. The changes may also cause some need for readjustments at the regulatory and public policies levels, such as end-of-waste processes or GDPR practices.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherVTT Technical Research Centre of Finland
Number of pages42
ISBN (Electronic)978-951-38-8761-2
Publication statusPublished - 2022
MoE publication typeD4 Published development or research report or study

Publication series

SeriesVTT Technology


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