Circular e-waste ecosystems in necessity-driven contexts: The impact of formal institutional voids

Milou Derks*, Christina Bidmon, Francesca Ciulli

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Recent studies suggest an ecosystem view is most appropriate for understanding the impact of institutional voids on entrepreneurial activities. Expanding the focus to the entrepreneurial ecosystem is crucial for tackling complex low- and middle-income countries' (LMICs) environmental challenges, as the transition to circular e-waste management, which are heavily impacted by the institutional environment. Moreover, most entrepreneurs in LMICs engage in circular practices out of economic necessity, rather than environmental reasons. However, scholars have overlooked the effects of institutional voids on entrepreneurial ecosystems' potential to grow and realize environmental benefits. This study investigates how formal institutional voids impact the evolution of circular ecosystems in necessity-driven contexts in LMICs. We study the evolution of a circular e-waste ecosystem in Kenya and uncover two key phases: emergence and growth. We show that formal institutional voids' impact differs across phases; regulatory and contract enforcement voids create opportunities for informal and private actors to establish e-waste collection, repair, remanufacture, and recycle businesses, thereby facilitating the emergence of the circular ecosystem. However, labor market, capital market, product market, regulatory, and contract enforcement voids hamper its growth. Specifically, the lack of skills, equipment, guidelines, and financial incentives hinders advanced repairs and remanufactures and limits recycling opportunities, while the lack of formal e-waste infrastructure increases illegal dumping and negatively impacts human health and the environment. We develop propositions and a phase model to explain the impact of formal institutional voids on the evolution of circular e-waste ecosystems and the realization of environmental benefits in necessity-driven contexts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3733-3747
Number of pages15
JournalBusiness Strategy and the Environment
Issue number4
Early online date24 Jan 2024
Publication statusPublished - May 2024


  • circular economy
  • e-waste ecosystems
  • informal entrepreneurship
  • institutional voids


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