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Impact investment: analysis of economic and value added perspectives for society and the environment in the transition from a linear economy to a circular economy

Abstract

The business that reconciles the financial return and the positive social and environmental impact is a great challenge because it involves diverse actors and barriers. Thus, efficient models of evaluation indicating the real impact of business gain increasingly prominent in the academic and corporate environment. However, there is a lack of studies that address strategies and practices guided by the principles of development of economically viable processes and products with more rational use of natural resources, reducing consumption or promoting their recovery. In this context, the transition of companies from a linear economy to a Circular Economy (CE) presents a series of challenges, and it is essential to understand the impact of the changes with respect to financial return, environment, job creation, conservation of natural capital and the development of new business models. From this perspective, investing in projects or organizations aligned with the principles of circularity can be characterized as impact investments (investments made in companies, organizations, and funds with the intention of generating social and environmental impact, along with a financial return) and a challenge that emerges for these investments are related to the development of an efficient evaluation model. Based on the Theory of Change and the frameworks available for the implementation of the strategies of the circular economy, this study has as general objective to establish mechanisms capable of verifying if the investment generated, in fact, changes between those who accessed the products or services offered and propose an integrated economic, social and environmental assessment framework. The articulation between the Theory of Change, business models and structures for the implementation of the strategies of the circular economy can support the structuring of an evaluation framework on the production logic of the desired impact (economic, environmental and social). In order to evaluate and illustrate the applicability of the proposed evaluation framework, studies will be carried out in companies from different industrial segments. The study seeks to contribute to the evolution of concepts and methods by helping to integrate and improve economic, social and environmental considerations to provide more sustainable scenarios in the future. Decision-makers in the industry are seeking evaluation methods that address the problem as a whole and not just as a sum of parts to select the most appropriate and reliable option. (AU)