The Role of Product Design in Creating Circular Business Models: A Case Study on the Lease and Refurbishment of Baby Strollers

Deborah Sumter, Conny Bakker, Ruud Balkenende

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)
126 Downloads (Pure)


In the transition to a circular economy companies are exploring new business models, implying a shift from selling products to offering products in circular business models, such as leasing.
Product design is thought to play a crucial role in enabling this. Having a robust overview of relevant design roles and competencies is of foundational importance for the development of circular design tools and methods, and for the development of circular economy-based design curricula in higher education. However, how the role of design and the competencies required by designers need to change has hardly been investigated. Building on insights from literature regarding competencies of designers required to consider sustainability, sustainable design, and circular design, we developed a framework in which these competencies are related to the functional, coordinating, and strategic roles that have been recognized within the literature for designers. To complement the results from the literature with insights from practice, a single longitudinal in-depth case study was carried out describing a lease and refurbishment pilot conducted by a Dutch design-driven manufacturer of baby strollers. This case study allowed verification of the literature regarding the functional and coordinating roles of the designer. In addition, we were able to fill the gap observed in the literature regarding the strategic role product designers can assume when designing offers for circular business models. The competencies that we found are (1) the ability to concurrently develop the circular business model and the product’s design and (2) the ability to anticipate how the circular offering will evolve over multiple lifecycles. These findings have been used to expand the framework.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2415
Number of pages15
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • circular economy
  • product design
  • refurbishment
  • alternative ownership model
  • lease model
  • design competencies
  • OA-Fund TU Delft


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  • Circular Economy Competencies for Design

    Sumter, D., 2021, 197 p.

    Research output: ThesisDissertation (TU Delft)

    Open Access
    60 Downloads (Pure)

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