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Closed loop supply chains


Admission requirements

This course is obligatory for students of the master’s programme Industrial Ecology.


The growing concern about scarcity of resources, pollution and emissions has led to increased political and societal emphasis on the transition to a circular economy. This course discusses how product and material reuse and recycling (‘closing the loop’) can contribute to business value creation and the reduction of environmental footprints at the same time. It furthermore discusses how governance and coordination mechanisms may facilitate and impede the development of circular systems.

This course enables you, as a future industrial ecologist, to understand the relevant trade-offs related to economic, ecologic and social aspects of doing business, to understand how change in multi-actor networks can come about, and to apply the necessary tools and concepts to tackle the challenges in trying to close the loop.

The course is divided in two parts. The first part (seven lectures) are dedicated to supply chain aspects of closing loops. In the second part of the course (seven lectures) we will focus on the role of governance and coordination in closing loops. Closed loop supply chains require a certain level of collaboration and coordination between organisations, i.e. firms, governments, consumers, users. Such coordination takes place through different modes of governance: hierarchies, networks, markets. There is a wide array of coordination mechanisms that affect how actors adjust their activities, e.g. taxes and subsidies by government, network alliances, contracts, norms, as well as more implicit mechanisms such as routines or culture. The market mode will be addressed in the first part of this course; in the second part we will therefore concentrate mainly on hierarchies and networks. A list of required reading for the second part will be provided in due time.

In particular you will learn

  1. how the business concept of closed loop supply chain management links with broader concepts such as ‘Value creation’, ‘Sustainability’, ‘Industrial Ecology’, ‘Circular Economy’ and ‘Cradle to Cradle’.
  2. how to apply performance measurement concepts for sustainability,
  3. how to apply concepts for analysis and redesign of sociotechnical systems, networks and processes,
  4. How to analyse the multi-actor nature of closed loop chains and the role of actors’ values and interests,
  5. How theory links with practice,
  6. How to directly apply your newly acquired knowledge in practice

Course objectives

After the course the student is able to:
1. Explain the concept of closed loop supply chain management and how it contributes to sustainability.
2. Apply concepts for supply chain process redesign.
3. Apply the concepts to practical cases.
4. Analyse closed loop chains as multi-actor socio-technical systems.
5. Explain in his/her own words the role of governance and coordination in closed loop chains.
6. Analyse and design steering interventions aimed at fostering closed loops.


See Brightspace TU Delft.

Mode of instruction

The course consists of two parts, each consisting of 7 lectures. Students work (in and outside) class on individual and group assignments.

Assessment method

Your final grade is a weighted average of results obtained for:
1. the written exam
2. assignments for part 1 and part 2

Please note that both the average score of the assignments and the score of the exam need to be 5.5 or higher in order to pass the overall course!


The lecturers communicates via Brightspace TU Delft.

Reading list



Because this course is part of a programme of Leiden University and TU Delft, all students have to be enrolled to both universities.

All students have to enroll for course and exam at the start of the course via uSis, Leiden University. For classnumbers see here.

Students who are not enrolled to the master’s programme Industrial Ecology have to ask permission from the studyadvisor of Industrial Ecology at least one month before start of the course by use of this form.

Exchange students can only enroll for this course if their home university has an Exchange agreement with both Leiden University and TU Delft. Exchange students have to ask permission from the studyadvisor of Industrial Ecology as soon as possible, preferably six months before the start of the course.

Contact information

Mrs. dr. E.H.W.J. Cuppen
Mr. dr. E.A. van der Laan


More information and the description of the course is published in the e-studyguide of TU Delft.