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19th European Roundtable on Sustainable Consumption and Production – Circular Europe for Sustainability: Design, Production and Consumption

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A comparative analysis of EU and Australian barriers, enablers and effective policy interventions to support business adoption of Circular Economy practices

Jurisdictions around the world are showing renewed interest in transitioning to a more sustainable, circular economy after the global disruptions of recycling and material flows of 2018. Yet the concept remains incompletely defined, its barriers and enablers are only beginning to be understood, and the available evidence on what polices and interventions are likely to facilitate is scattered, scarce and of variable quality. What drives participation in the circular economy at the business firm level in particular is not well synthesised, and consequently, how determinants and effective interventions may vary in different contexts and jurisdictions is poorly understood. This paper reports the results of research aiming to develop behaviourial public policy to facilitate the transition to a circular economy. In particular, we explore the barriers, enablers and effective interventions to business adoption of circular economy practices. We integrate the initial results of a 2019 global literature review of over 8,000 papers practices; semi-structured interviews of 26 policy makers, industry and NGO representatives from Australia; and the insights from a range of similar studies conducted in the EU by our co-authors. We apply rapid evidence review and knowledge translation techniques to gather, synthesise and recommend actionable insights into what is likely to work and why to policymakers and researchers working with them. We present insights into the barriers and enablers that are significant within firms, and in their context, and highlight differences that are evident across two very different developed world contexts. We also discuss how recent global events have impacted on the development, implementation and re-evaluation of circular economy policy in Australia and the EU differently. We present what our review results indicate are likely to be fruitful areas for investigation and experimentation. The results will be used to help design and evaluate trials in Australia aiming to fill gaps in knowledge how to facilitate business adoption of CE practices. The research occurs as part of a collaboration of state and federal government agencies with academic researchers. This paper is also intended to inspire comparative studies in the EU that may be stimulated by this paper and build an international dialogue on the topics examined.

Stefan Kaufman
BehaviourWorks Australia, Monash Sustainable Development Institute, Australia & Institute of Advanced Sustainability Studies, Potsdam, Germany

Julian Kirchherr
Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development Studies, Utrecht University


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