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Circular, Green, and Bio Economy: How Do Companies in Land-Use Intensive Sectors Align with Sustainability Concepts?

D'Amato, D., Korhonen, J., Toppinen, A.
Ecological economics 2019 v.158 pp. 116-133
United Nations, beverages, bioeconomics, circular economy, energy, forest industries, forests, land use, mining, private sector, recycling
The UN Agenda 2030 deems the private sector pivotal in co-governing sustainability issues. Despite intense research on corporate sustainability there is no explicit analysis of which policy-driven concepts companies choose to forward their sustainability visions and practices. This is relevant because communication of corporate sustainability contributes to legitimizing or delegitimizing company actions, while simultaneously feeding back into public thinking and actions towards sustainability transformations. We addressed the research gap by considering three sustainability concepts mainstreamed at the global level: Circular economy (CE), Green economy (GE), and Bioeconomy (BE). Content analysis was performed on 123 reports from DJSI World companies in five land-use intensive sectors (forest, food, beverages, mining, and energy). Results suggest CE to be omnipresent and homogeneous across all companies and sectors. GE was the second most frequent concept, especially in forest and mining. BE was under-represented in all reports, with the exception of the forest sector. Interlinkages between concepts were few. The CE-BE connection appeared to be the strongest, concerning efficiency and recycling of bio-based resources. The analysis of global sustainability concepts from the perspective of corporate disclosure enables a timely discussion on the role and limits of the business organizations as a participant to sustainability transformations globally.