Critical Evaluation of SDGs and Circular Economy in (Business) Education: Reflection on a long-term Sustainability Strategy of Degrowth from Case Studies in 'Circular' Products

Publikation: Beiträge in SammelwerkenKapitelbegutachtet


Circular economy and Cradle to Cradle (C2C) attempt to address unsustainable consumption as part of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These “closed-loop” production systems promise absolute decoupling of natural resource consumption from economic activity. However, while absolute decoupling, ideally, can aid the SDGs’ “inclusive economic growth” strategy, critical scholars have noted that absolute circularity of material goods, such as food or textiles, is impossible due to the laws of thermodynamics. Also, in the SDGs’ formulation, “future for all” applies only to one species and that the stated “inclusion” in fact excludes nonhuman species, with the SDGs exhibiting little concern with animal welfare or intrinsic value of biodiversity. Rather than prioritizing “inclusive economic growth” touted by sustainable development proponents, a truly inclusive approach focusing on environmental sustainability demands a complete societal transformation towards “degrowth”. The degrowth framework emphasizes the need to reduce production and consumption of resources (as well as the need for non-coercive, voluntary population reduction). These objectives need to be balanced with maintaining a socially just and ecologically sustainable society with social and environmental well-being indicators replacing the gross domestic product (GDP) measure of prosperity. In this chapter, we argue that transformation towards degrowth needs to start with teaching it as part of (business) education, linking it to the literature on critical pedagogy. Following a brief discussion of circular economy and C2C principles in relation to the SDGs, this chapter provides a literature review of sustainability-focused educational practices in business schools in the Netherlands. This is followed by a brief survey of several case studies of supposedly “circular” or C2C products that were written by Bachelor business students following an elective minor in Sustainable Business at The Hague University of Applied Sciences. One of the key learning outcomes of the programme described in this chapter is the development of critical thinking about the economic growth bias within the SDGs. A particularly challenging aspect is how to combine, both theoretically and practically, degrowth and business in education. We recommend that business school curricula include the subject of degrowth instead of normative teaching of win-win scenarios or pretend optimism of the SDGs.
TitelEngagement with Sustainable Development in Higher Education.
HerausgeberMustafa Öztürk
Anzahl der Seiten15
ISBN (Print)978-3-031-07190-4
ISBN (elektronisch)978-3-031-07191-1
PublikationsstatusErschienen - 2022
Extern publiziertJa