An increasing number of regulations and directives are aimed at closing the loop of product lifecycles through greater recycling, remanufacturing and reuse, with the objective of benefiting both the environment and the economy
Within this context, the field ofclosed-loop supply chain managementis gaining momentum both in the academic literature and in industrial practice. However, many scholars have argued that in economic contexts dominated by free-market ideologies, companies might have already captured most of the economically attractive opportunities to recycle, remanufacture and reuse; as such, reaching higher levels of circularity may involve an economic cost many companies cannot cope with. For this reason, while environmental benefits of closed-loop supply chains are obvious, the implementation of such systems is often challenging from an economic perspective, as market dynamics and the lack of incentives may lead to higher cost of production.
Having said that, some cases of successful implementation of practices inspired by a circular economy paradigm can be identified. Large companies, such as Xerox, Caterpillar and Toyota, have also incorporated circular economy principles in their operations, using them as a strategic tool to improve profitability. Nevertheless, the current lack of empirical focus in this research area may lead to erroneous conceptualisations and to research whose impact on real-world operations is quite limited. In light of these concerns, there is a fundamental need for researchers and practitioners to pose and investigate industrially-relevant research questions, thus facilitating knowledge-transfer for the development of environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable production and distribution systems.
As such, the purpose of this Special Issue (SI) is to advance the limited knowledge of the practical problems arising in closed-loop supply chain settings and to suggest solutions for better managing such systems.