Circular supply chains : enhancing consumer participation.

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Theses / Dissertations
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Master of Commerce
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Robertson, Juliet

With increasing necessity for the world to respond to environmental crisis, environmental guardianship is essential and can be achieved through the circular economy (CE). The CE is defined by a rethinking of how resources are used, proposing a system of cascaded resource use and reuse, to fuel economic prosperity without depleting the earth’s resources. This is achieved through a circular consumption model that is in stark contrast to the traditional linear consumption model. To allow this change in society’s consumption, firms’ supply chains must also undergo change. The transformation of linear supply chains to circular closed-loop supply chains is on the horizon for many firms and is the topic of significant discussion within supply chain management research. An area that can be considered under-researched in this topic is that of consumers returning materials to the supply chain. As a result, this research addresses the question of how firms can invoke stronger consumer engagement in returning materials in closed-loop supply chains.

To consider the consumer propensity to return materials, the extended theory of planned behaviour (ETPB) is employed as the theoretical lens. This study therefore focuses on the factors that influence consumers’ intentions to return materials. These include the traditional theory of planned behaviour factors as well as ‘habits’ and ‘moral norms’ that were expected to offer further explanation in this context. A survey, designed on Qualtrics, was created to collect data for quantitative analysis. The ‘intention to return’ dependent variable was investigated for three product categories that survey respondents used in their lives. Focus was given to product categories that are ‘low-involvement’, meaning little care is given to their purchase and their end-of-life. The three products were single-use coffee pods, printer cartridges and batteries. Data was collected from respondents who are users of these products from New Zealand and Australia, recruited through the Prolific platform. Research contributions are relevant to both supply chain practitioners moving towards a closed-loop system and for further research in the arena.

The results showed a consistently significant influence from two variables across the three parallel studies: perceived behavioural control and moral norms. Given the minimal influence of other variables, this indicates a limitation to traditional consumer behaviour models on consumers engaging in low-involvement behaviours. Implications of these findings are in the theoretical, practical and policy realms. Potential applications of the findings are given throughout the discussion of results. A key contribution is the recommendation of robust policy to achieve the CE in New Zealand in regard to these unique goods.

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