A Delphi study examining risk and uncertainty management in circular supply chains

Felipe Alexandre De Lima, Stefan Seuring
DOI number

Circular supply chains (CSCs) have attracted increasing attention in the supply chain management literature due to their role in increasing the circularity of materials, components, and products. However, surprisingly little attention has been paid to risk and uncertainty management in CSCs, with this aspect experiencing limited theoretical development thus far. Drawing on contingency theory, this paper aims to identify the risks and uncertainties that impede the implementation of CSCs and related management strategies and thus help practitioners mitigate them. A three-round Delphi study was conducted with a panel of industry, governmental, nongovernmental, and academic actors from 18 countries across five continents to analyze their views regarding risk and uncertainty management in CSCs. The results reveal critical risks and uncertainties at the organizational, supply chain, and external levels, including uncertain financial costs; a lack of knowledge and expertise; operational and technological risks; uncertain quality, availability, and delivery of secondary resources; market competition with linear-oriented companies and supply chains; a lack of adequate regulatory frameworks and indicators; and unstable prices for virgin and secondary resources. In effect, appropriate countermeasures are necessary to manage risks and uncertainties, which are comprised of reducing and coping strategies. Reducing strategies consist of inter-firm collaboration and circular product design, and coping strategies consist of information sharing, flexibility, and financial risk management. Moreover, the analysis revealed related contingency factors affecting CSCs, such as regulatory requirements. This paper develops a theoretical framework and a set of propositions regarding contingency factors and risk and uncertainty management in CSCs, helping theorists and practitioners to comprehend the challenges of circular economy implementation.


Stefan Seuring

University of Kassel

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