New doctoral thesis contributes knowledge about circular business models

Emelie Hultberg started as a doctoral student in 2019, 11 years after she left the Swedish School of Textiles with a Bachelor's degree in Textile Technology. In the years in between, she earned a Master's degree in Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management at KTH Royal Institute of Technology and then worked for several years in the fashion industry.

“It was a completely different school that I came back to, where research has been given more space,” she says today as a newly graduated doctor in Textile Management.

The focus of her doctoral work has been the scaling of circular business models, something that is often highlighted as a sustainable alternative to the resource-intensive throwaway mentality that characterises the textile and fashion industry today. For the industry to become more sustainable, it must create value from used garments and textiles, for example through resale. Emelie Hultberg has investigated what it means to scale up business models that not only target financial gain but also social and environmental sustainability. She has also investigated the types of strategies that companies in the fashion trade use. 

An experimental process that requires courage

One thing that surprised her when she studied the companies' strategies is that there is rarely a straight line from plan to action. 

“It's often a rather unplanned, experimental, process. What is successful is not always what in advance, on paper, looks like a good idea, so it takes courage from business leaders to just dare to try. Because the truth is that we don't actually know what a future circular economy will look like, or how it will work.”

Using qualitative methods such as interview studies and a case study, she describes how upscaling can be seen from three different perspectives. The first focuses on the organisation itself, the second on how the organisation affects other actors and institutions, and the third on the process over time. 

“The different perspectives affect how both business leaders and researchers approach the question of how circular business models scale up and what challenges and strategies they include in their analyses. By articulating and systematically describing different perspectives, I hope to be able to contribute by providing clarity to a complex concept,” concluded Emelie Hultberg.

Emelie Hultberg defended her thesis Circular Business Models in Fashion Retail: Exploring the Complexity of Scaling on 5 June 2024. The external reviewer was Professor Pammi Sinha, University of Leeds.

Examining committee:
Professor Mikael Hilmersson, University of Gothenburg
Associate Professor Patsy Perry, Manchester Metropolitan University
Associate Professor Daniel Hellström, Lund University

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Doctoral thesis Circular Business Models in Fashion Retail: Exploring the Complexity of Scaling

Emelie Hultberg's Researcher Profile

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