A Design Thinking Framework for Circular Business Model Innovation



Circular business model innovation (CBMI) can support sustainable business transitions, but the process is poorly understood and there is a lack of tools to assist companies in the CBMI process. This paper works towards closing these gaps, by developing a framework for CBMI based on a design thinking approach, which can support the CBMI process in companies and induce organizational transformation towards more sustainable business.


The CBMI framework was developed in connection with a multiple case study in which six companies created circular business models in collaboration with the researchers.


A design thinking process typically consists of three innovation phases: an exploratory, an ideation, and a prototyping and testing space. Yet, the developed framework advocates two additional spaces, namely an introductory and an alignment space. The results attained in the six case companies indicate that the developed framework is useful for CBMI in diverse organizational settings.

Practical implications

The study contributes with a framework to help practitioners facilitate and maneuver the challenging CBMI process. The framework provides guidelines to follow, and inspiration for CBMI-specific and general tools that could be adapted to a given organizational setting.


The contribution of the paper is an empirically founded framework to assist CBMI. The paper also offers a conceptual overview of the CBMI process, and links CBMI to an organizational transformation towards the circular economy.

Special Issue: Sustainable Value Creation through Business Models