I had a great session yesterday with members of the IAP2 Australia Sustainability community-of-practice. I was asked to talk about the Circular Economy and the opportunities and challenges for engagement professionals in contributing to development. Thanks to Gabrielle Martinovich and Magdalena Malota for inviting me to present. A summary of key CE issues for engagement professionals are summarised below.
A developing context for collaboration is at the Local Government level. Many manufacturing areas in LGAs and LGA Clusters are adversely affected by: Unreliability of supply chains resulting in onshoring more manufacturing; the waste export ban and the increasing need to transform waste materials into new products locally; lack of climate change action and reduced access to export markets.
Typical Economic Development Units are now transforming into Circular Economy Units. Local Government has a major facilitation role in connecting industries and building systems whereby one industry’s waste becomes another industry’s resource. Local Government is well-placed to create sustainable and circular procurement systems to facilitate local circular economies. As Local Government is a key ecosystem for engagement professionals, there will be many opportunities for leading engagement processes to facilitate local circular economies.
The IAP2 Spectrum has relevance for the collaboration and engagement dimension of the Circular Economy: City/region CE development for business and industrial ecosystems; product stewardship stakeholder engagement; manufacturer transformation; assisting in brokering stakeholders across sustainable and circular supply chains; and community participation in decision-making at the local level, especially with respect to landfill issues and how waste is managed.
To apply the IAP2 Spectrum across the contexts listed will involve some adaptive practice, as much necessary engagement will be situated in LGA-to-Business and Business-to-Business: this does not, however exclude Community-LGA and Community-Business collaboration. In the spectrum, fully-empowered engagement has most potential within discrete businesses and in business networks.
From an engagement perspective, the challenge for communities is to: move their influence along the spectrum beyond inform/consult to collaboration in decision-making; and to have trusted intermediaries who can engage with them and help them to find their voice. The challenge for business and industry is to move to fully empowered decision-making to enable effective collaboration with business across scales and geographies
The opportunity thus exists for engagement professionals to provide stakeholder engagement and collaboration services to provide the “connections” to enable the circular economy as a connected and adaptive system.