Meaningful Circular Economy Jobs: Does Circular Economy Awareness Enable the Experience of More Meaningful Work?

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Virginia Tech


The circular economy (CE) is increasingly recognized as a pivotal driver for achieving sustainability. Nonetheless, it has been criticized for neglecting the social dimension of sustainability. While job creation is often touted as a significant social benefit of the CE, there is a conspicuous gap in discussions about the quality of the jobs it generates. By drawing on organizational behavior theory, this study investigates the quality of jobs in the CE with a specific focus on meaningfulness. The research questions explore the key factors contributing to job meaningfulness in CE roles, the impact of heightened awareness of the CE on workers' perceived meaningfulness, and the mechanisms through which such awareness affects meaningfulness. To address these questions, a pre-test post-test quasi-experimental study was conducted, involving employees from two CE companies in the United States. The study assessed factors such as autonomy, skill variety, co-worker relations, knowledge of the CE, perceived social impact, perceived social worth, and experienced job meaningfulness. An intervention was then implemented on a treatment group, consisting of a five-minute training video explaining the CE concept, its benefits, and the role of workers in the CE. The findings reveal that the video intervention effectively increased employees' perception of task significance, perceived social impact, experienced meaningfulness, and awareness of the CE's impact on society and environment, as well as their perception of their contribution to the CE, the organization's contribution to the CE, and the societal value of the CE. This study highlights the importance for CE companies to provide employees with general training on the CE. Additionally, it provides initial evidence of the potential of a CE to increase human well-being, especially when considered from the eudemonic perspective of what gives life meaning rather than purely economic measures of well-being.



circular economy, meaningful work, job design, sustainability, well-being