Ways to take action

Sachin Kamble: "For manufacturers, an integrated circular supply chain is the key driver in the shift to sustainable processes"

Sachin Kamble , Professor

Sachin Kamble, EDHEC Professor, highlights in this interview the way integrated circular supply chain could and should be implemented to allow manufacturers to “close the loop”.

Reading time :
12 Dec 2023

What is the philosophy behind circular supply chain (CSC)?

Closing the loop for resource efficiency is necessary for organizations to achieve sustainability objectives. Innovation and adaptation are the fundamental principles of closed loop thinking. As most of my research is focused on logistics and supply chains (see references below), I can put forward that developing an integrated circular supply chain (CSC) is the critical driver for closing the loop by design. The CSCs must have the intent of value recovery and profit maximization. The conceptualization of a CSC is shown in this seminal article by C. Nuss et al.

The CSC concept starts from sourcing raw materials to getting product returns. The efficiency of this structure relies on the successful integration of forward and reverse logistics to close the loop by design. In doing so, the CSC should consider the challenges in a linear supply chain and the uncertainties in product return management, thus enabling multiple use and recovery processes. Furthermore, the CSCs must emphasize achieving zero waste through supply chain collaboration, ensuring that the materials, components, and products, which otherwise would have been not used (rejected/wasted) or cannot be recovered, are available as input in their partners' processes.


Why is developing a CSC more challenging than it looks?

There is no single approach to implementing CSC, and it depends on several factors. As mentioned, developing a CSC is the first step to moving towards circularity. A systemic approach is a must to integrate value proposition, product design, supply chains, and information communication technology (ICT) tools. For example, the different value propositions for companies may range from a buy-back, product leasing, or a product service system to ensure the best value over the product life cycle. ICT aids in managing the complexity of information management by tracing and tracking the products over their multiple lifecycles in the supply chain.

I want to emphasize that supply chain uncertainties can be avoided by closing the loop intentionally and working within the inner loops of circular economy strategies such as repair, reuse, refurbishment, and remanufacturing. The CSC should develop efficient ways to collect the used products as they act as value recovery operations (e.g., reuse, remanufacture, and recycle). Furthermore, the starting point for implementing a CSC in companies differs and depends on the maturity level of various other factors, such as lean management, innovative technologies, management support, green thinking, etc.


What are the implications of the latest technologies in facilitating the implementation of circularity?

Based on my research experience in this field, I can say that data management plays a significant role in facilitating the implementation of circularity in an organization. It is known that various stakeholders participate in the supply chain decision-making process. For the successful implementation of circularity, there must be a consensus among these stakeholders to collect, store, analyze, and share information across the different stages of the supply chain. However, for a robust data management infrastructure, all the supply chain partners must invest in disruptive technologies such as big data, the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, artificial intelligence (AI), etc. Such infrastructure is implied to support building a lean and circular environment. Innovative efforts from multiple stakeholders are necessary to develop new business models based on circularity.


You have published a recent paper on automobile industry. Can you tell us more? What can we learn from this sector?

Indeed, in one of our studies concerning circularity in the automobile industry, we found that the practitioners preferred to design processes for waste minimization, reuse, recovery of material, and reducing the consumption of materials and energy. Although these practices were mainly focused on achieving cost reduction, the practitioners believed that success depends on stakeholders' engagement with their business goals and requires them to acquire new skills. AI and IoT in the predictive maintenance of critical components, using historical performance data, can help companies evaluate the products’ condition and predict the need for part replacement. For example, with the high cost of batteries in electric vehicles, companies will be required to develop battery management systems that can minimize the overall operating costs and increase the battery life. These systems can accurately analyze the battery's condition and optimize it for more prolonged use.

Our other study was based on second-hand rental of used clothing and found that blockchain technology can be successfully used here to track the usage history of the second-hand product and the authenticity of the brand, promoting trust and circularity.


To you, how serious are we, collectively, on implementing circularity “everytime and everywhere”?

There is no doubt about the seriousness of the circularity agenda. However, more clarity and systematic approaches are required for circularity implementation. A more holistic approach is required that should integrate forward and reverse supply chains seamlessly. Most companies implementing circularity mainly focus on implementing a few circular economy practices within their existing linear models, which may not be sustainable in the long run. Such approaches will fail to address the inherent complexity of supply chain management, such as the diversity of supply chain activities, components, and stakeholders and their strategic importance. An absence of an integrated approach will further add to the complexity, dynamism, and uncertainties.

To summarize, I’d say that circularity is not an agenda limited to a single company or an organization. Successful implementation of circularity is only possible if we integrate every stakeholder in a supply chain and then integrate different supply chains to develop a circular ecosystem at the industry level. It is only then that the benefits of circularity can be realized.



Amir, S., Salehi, N., Roci, M., Sweet, S., & Rashid, A. (2023). Towards circular economy: A guiding framework for circular supply chain implementation. Business Strategy and the Environment, 32(6), 2684-2701. https://doi.org/10.1002/bse.3264

Belhadi, A., Kamble, S. S., Jabbour, C. J. C., Mani, V., Khan, S. A. R., & Touriki, F. E. (2022). A self-assessment tool for evaluating the integration of circular economy and industry 4.0 principles in closed-loop supply chains. International Journal of Production Economics, 245, 108372. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijpe.2021.108372

Jain, G., Kamble, S. S., Ndubisi, N. O., Shrivastava, A., Belhadi, A., & Venkatesh, M. (2022). Antecedents of Blockchain-Enabled E-commerce Platforms (BEEP) adoption by customers–A study of second-hand small and medium apparel retailers. Journal of business research, 149, 576-588. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusres.2022.05.041

Kamble, S. S., & Gunasekaran, A. (2023). Analysing the role of Industry 4.0 technologies and circular economy practices in improving sustainable performance in Indian manufacturing organisations. Production planning & control, 34(10), 887-901. https://doi.org/10.1080/09537287.2021.1980904

Kamble, S. S., Belhadi, A., Gunasekaran, A., Ganapathy, L., & Verma, S. (2021). A large multi-group decision-making technique for prioritizing the big data-driven circular economy practices in the automobile component manufacturing industry. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 165, 120567. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.techfore.2020.120567

Nuss, C., Sahamie, R., & Stindt, D. (2015). The reverse supply chain planning matrix: A classification scheme for planning problems in reverse logistics. International Journal of Management Reviews, 17(4), 413-436. https://doi.org/10.1111/ijmr.12046


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