Sustainable Business Models – Circular Economy in Family Businesses


To ensure that products do not become a permanent burden on people and nature at the end of their life cycle, the so-called circular economy aims to avoid waste by closing material cycles and optimizing material flows. In addition to repairing, upcycling and recycling products and materials, this includes above all resource-conserving production and the substitution of finite primary raw materials such as fossil fuels, water or construction sand. Companies dedicated to the circular economy are actively seeking intelligent solutions to adapt their business practices in line with these principles, responding partly to legal regulations and social impulses.

This drive for transformation also impacts the numerous family businesses that account for a large proportion of Germany's economic output. However, driven by their often cross-generational ownership, these businesses in many cases have already been focusing on sustainability and regionality. This raises the question of how family businesses are positioned in the transformation to a circular economy.


Project description

In this project, the success factors, opportunities and risks of family businesses in the transformation to a circular economy are examined. Focus industries will be analyzed, in-depth interviews will be conducted and various good practice examples will be compared. Constant dialogue with company representatives will also provide information on the hurdles that family businesses specifically have to overcome when implementing circular economy strategies.

Based on the research results, recommendations curated for family businesses and politics will be developed.

Project tasks

In the project, the researchers of Fraunhofer IMW examine focus industries in order to identify the fundamental attitude of family businesses in regard to the transformation to a circular economy. The resulting findings provide the basis for the recommendations for family businesses and political decision-makers in order to successfully manage the transition to a circular economy.



Foundation for Family Businesses (Stiftung Familienunternehmen)


Project partners

  • Stiftung 2°
  • Fraunhofer IAO, Center for Responsible Research and Innovation CeRRI
  • Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety, and Energy Technology UMSICHT

Project duration

9/2020 – 9/2021

Project sheet

Sustainable Business Models – Circular Economy in Family Businesses