A1 Journal article (refereed)
Bold ambition, blunted agency? : Examining top management perspectives on a circular economy transition in Finland (2022)

Koistinen, K., Onkila, T., Teerikangas, S., Mäkelä, M., Sarja, M., & Valkjärvi, M. (2022). Bold ambition, blunted agency? : Examining top management perspectives on a circular economy transition in Finland. Energy Research and Social Science, 86, Article 102451. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.erss.2021.102451

JYU authors or editors

Publication details

All authors or editors: Koistinen, K.; Onkila, T.; Teerikangas, S.; Mäkelä, M.; Sarja, M.; Valkjärvi, M.

Journal or series: Energy Research and Social Science

ISSN: 2214-6296

Publication year: 2022

Volume: 86

Article number: 102451

Publisher: Elsevier

Publication country: Netherlands

Publication language: English

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.erss.2021.102451

Publication open access: Openly available

Publication channel open access: Partially open access channel

Publication is parallel published (JYX): https://jyx.jyu.fi/handle/123456789/79167


The circular economy is proposed as a company-driven means to further sustainability transitions. Top managers have a critical role in fostering the circular economy as they are responsible for shaping and implementing a company's sustainability strategy and performance. In this paper, we adopt a microfoundations perspective to enhance our understanding of the influence of top managers as agents of the sustainability transition to the circular economy. In a qualitative research study, we interviewed 34 top managers of Finnish companies that are actively pursuing the circular economy. The main implication of our study is in exploring the role of top managers, as they engage in actively structuring a new, circular regime. To this end, our paper provides salient insights into the prevailing debate on the structure-agency question in the sustainability transitions literature. We find that power is a key characteristic of how top managers exercise their agency. Our findings imply that while top managers are perceived as the most powerful members of a company, their agency is often limited by structural constraints on multiple levels within their companies, in the industry, and in the broader regime. Furthermore, we find that top managers' power and agency towards the transition is heavily dependent on their abilities to secure business profitability.

Keywords: circular economy; sustainable development; green economy; transitional phase; human agency; business leaders; conceptions

Free keywords: sustainability transition; microfoundations; agency; structure; circular economy; top managers

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Ministry reporting: Yes

Reporting Year: 2022

Preliminary JUFO rating: 2

Last updated on 2022-20-09 at 13:16