TU.1.E || Digital Technologies for a Circular Economy

Rusch, Magdalena; Schöggl, Josef Peter; Baumgartner, Rupert J.

Sustainability and digitalization are two major driving forces and megatrends of today’s markets and impose major transitions in various areas. Major changes are urgently needed as the footprint of humankind on the ecosystem has now become so big that it jeopardizes the earth’s system’s functioning. The call for a transition in many different societal areas with an emphasis on more sustainable production and consumption patterns can be derived from various studies. In the last years, authors already pointed out that, especially for the transition from the current linear economy towards a circular economy (CE), digital technologies (DTs) play an essential role. Such DTs can enable innovative ways of monitoring and optimizing product performances and improving the quality of product life cycle management. However, the application potential of DTs in a CE, like the internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), big data analytics, or blockchain technology, is not sufficiently clear yet. Therefore, this study contributes by providing a comprehensive review of potential and existing applications of DTs for sustainable product management (SPM) in a CE. An exploratory research approach was used that combines a systematic literature review with quantitative and qualitative content analyses of selected journal articles. This resulted in 146 application examples of DTs for SPM. The findings show that supply chain management, business models, assessment, and product design, are those areas that are most often affected using DTs. The enhancements in these SPM areas were found to cluster around the three issues of efficiency, transparency, and trustworthiness between stakeholders. In many cases, DTs are not applied as stand-alone tools but complement each other, which is essential for a more holistic life cycle management of products.