The Social Impacts of Circular Strategies in the Apparel Value Chain; a Comparative Study Between Three Countries

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The apparel value chain is essential for the livelihood of millions of workers around the globe. However, human rights violations and the lack of a sustained income by apparel workers demonstrate the poor working conditions present in this sector. Circular economy (CE) has been used by incumbent businesses and startups as a framework to achieve sustainability, thus contributing to its economic, environmental and social dimensions. However, there is a lack of knowledge on its social impact. Most of the literature assesses CE’s social impacts by focusing only on the number of jobs created. However, the majority of studies agree on the need to analyse further the quality and inclusivity aspects. This paper explores the social impact of the different circular strategies implemented in three countries. It assesses social impacts related to the quality of jobs, workers’ sustainable livelihood and gender equality and inclusion. Results corroborate that CE social ambition is low, and that current circular strategies follow the same feminisation and precariousness of working conditions found in the linear apparel value chain. Thus, policymakers and businesses alike need to strengthen their CE social ambition; coordinate policy and strategies with different countries stakeholders of the apparel value chain to minimise trade-offs; and safeguard a just circular transition. This research contributes to the body of literature on CE by introducing a social impact assessment framework for circularity called SIAF-CE⚥. Additionally, it provides evidence on the current CE social impact implemented by startups and incumbents in regional and global contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)757-790
Number of pages34
JournalCircular Economy and Sustainability
Issue number2
Early online dateSept 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023


  • Circular economy
  • Circular fashion
  • Circular strategies
  • Circular textiles
  • Social impact


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