Environmental principles for modern sustainable economic frameworks including the circular economy

Piero Morseletto*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


A set of newly defined environmental principles can advance the sustainability performance of economic frameworks such as industrial ecology, cradle-to-cradle, and the circular economy. Currently, the environmental sustainability of these frameworks is mainly derived from the application of efficiency principles such as waste reduction, or closing and narrowing production, and consumption loops. However, these same principles can bring, in some cases, unintended outcomes that are detrimental to the environment. Efficiency principles also fall short of environmental sustainability aspirations, doing little to contribute to addressing the causes of current global environmental crises. This paper examines 7 widely applicable principles aimed at explicit environmental sustainability: doing no harm to nature, minimising environmental damage, restoring/remediating environmental damage, net-positive impact, no net loss, maintaining the health of ecosystems, and continual environmental improvement. These principles could markedly improve efforts to actively pursue sustainability and foster new economic forms that address our current unsustainable trajectories.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2165-2171
Number of pages7
JournalSustainability Science
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 22 Aug 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
I am grateful to Genevieve Quirk, Arthur Rempel, Richard Norgaard and Sarah Clement for their comments and suggestions. Naturally, any remaining errors are my own. Finally, I thank Trevor Zink and Roland Geyer, to whom in early 2020 I proposed to cowrite the paper; this purpose faded away because of the pandemic and other circumstances. Ciao papà.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).


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