Reflections from circular economy expert Professor Jacqueline Cramer’s Australian visit

By Tamanna Wadhwani  September 19th, 2022

We look back at the key takeaways from the 9 week visit to Australia by global circular economy expert and Chair of the Holland Circular Hotspot, Professor Jacqueline Cramer.

Professor Jacqueline Cramer recently completed an Australian visit sharing her broad international experience in fostering sustainability and developing innovative business models during an extensive tour. Professor Cramer is the Chair of the Holland Circular Hotspot (HCH) Supervisory Board, a former Dutch Minister of Housing, Spatial Planning and Environment and the author of the book How Network Governance Powers the Circular Economy. She embarked on this journey to speak with local communities, businesses, universities, academic institutions and governments at all levels in Australia to share circular economy learnings from a Dutch context.  

This visit was made possible through a partnership with the Netherlands diplomatic missions in Australia, RMIT University and Planet Ark’s Australian Circular Economy Hub. It also signified an ongoing and deepening collaboration between the Netherlands and Australia as the two countries move forward in their transition to a circular economy.  

During her visit, Professor Cramer presented at a staggering 54 events across Australia with a total of 2600+ attendees. These included Minister’s meetings, industry and government workshops, academic events and lectures, dinner engagements, a movie launch and even meeting the Queensland Governor. 

Through these events, Professor Cramer brought together Australia’s growing circular economy community to learn about the role that network governance plays in joining the forces of different stakeholders to make changes from one system to another. 

Countries that are not so used to cooperation between governments, businesses, and other social organisations experience this (network governance) as an obstacle to the development of the circular economy. But I emphasise to them that there are cores of innovation to be found in every country. And my advice is: start there.

Bringing her expertise, Prof Cramer identified and expanded on certain areas of focus that Australia has great potential to build on in its circular transition. These focus areas included circular building and construction, procurement, textiles, the role of governments, and the need for networks and collaboration. 

Professor Cramer facilitated workshops where participants applied circular ideas to the identified focus areas with the help of a key element: collaboration. At the end of these workshops, Professor Cramer summarised the discussions and provided recommendations for action using real-world examples of solutions that are already working in the Netherlands. 

It was amazing to see how fast people were able to draw a map that was representative of the issues at stake. Collaboration was always at the centre of the map.

Professor Cramer met with several industry leaders such as ING Australia, Mirvac, Built, Rabobank, the University of New South Wales, Queensland University of Technology, Greater Cities Commission, as well as federal, state and local government leaders. These and many more representatives across sectors discussed their opportunities to become more sustainable and stimulate the market to introduce circular business models. 

These past weeks saw the coming together of so many people wanting to create a circular future, with a growing interest in network governance. This visit has built momentum for Australia to implement Professor Cramer’s guiding principles and maintain the ongoing Australian-Netherlands relationship. There are several opportunities laying ahead for Australia to adopt Professor Cramer’s approach such as the Brisbane Olympics in 2032, the Melbourne Commonwealth Games in 2026, as well as local government implementation where collaboration will be key in building a more resource-efficient future. 

The transition to a circular economy starts with a coalition of the willing and a shared sense of urgency. No actor can realise a circular initiative alone.

For a full snapshot of Professor Cramer’s visit and experiences in Australia, read her blog posts on the Holland Circular Hotspot here

Tamanna Wadhwani

Tamanna moved from India to Australia to pursue a degree in environmental science and conservation biology. After learning about the concept of a circular economy in 2020, she worked with various organisations in this sector and is interested in solving complex climate change and waste management problems. She loves to communicate with people about all things sustainability or animals. Outside of work, Tamanna is a budding hip hop dancer who also loves travelling, cat cuddles and reading.

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