Researcher: Esther Noeth
Supervisors: Els Du Bois & Alexis Jacoby

Mivas is a sheltered workplace that has been in the packaging industry for over 50 years. They provide jobs customized to the needs of people with a distance to the job market. Through the years they built a healthy company of 700 target group employees, an extensive network in both the social and regular economy and meaningful relationships with their clients through their focus on flexibility and quality. 

However, awareness has been raised that their participation in the linear economy, more specifically the use of throwaway packaging, has a rather destructive effect on the environment and comes with a level of employment uncertainty as the shift to a circular economy is gaining momentum. The transition to more sustainable production and consumption models threatens the economic activities of Mivas which will ultimately result in a loss of jobs but provides simultaneously an opportunity to explore new circular activities. 

The overall goal of this doctoral research project exists of the acquisition of knowledge on the different opportunities in which social employment can contribute and position itself in new circular value chains. The research starts form a systemic perspective but will result in both a product and service innovation, which will ultimately lead to a future strategy of economic activities for Mivas within a still abstract future in the complex context of the circular economy. 

The project will run in four phases, focusing on (i) a general exploration of knowledge on packaging in a circular economy and the potential of social employment, (ii) the role of Mivas within the circular packaging system in the short term (circular packaging as a product), (iii) the role of Mivas within the circular packaging system in the long term (circular packaging as a service) and (iv) the development of a tool: a framework to determine future packaging strategies per type of product and service from the perspective of the values and norms of social employment.

Funding type: Baekeland mandate
Period: January 2021 – december 2025
Partners: Mivas