Achieving textile circularity with Prof Jacqueline Cramer

Published: 22 July 2022

On Monday 11 July, the Circular Economy Business Innovation Centre (CEBIC) in partnership with Planet Ark’s Australian Circular Economy Hub (ACE Hub), hosted world-leading circular economy expert, Professor Jacqueline Cramer for an intimate fireside chat. The discussion focused on how we in Australia can transition to circular textiles.

Prof. Cramer’s overarching message was that ‘network governance’ is the way to realise the transition to a circular economy – including textile circularity. Network governance is about building a coalition of cooperative partners together, because “no company, government or societal organisation can realise circular initiatives alone”, she says. This kind of governance complements conventional, public governance, strengthening the positive forces in society and increasing support for a circular economy.

Transitioning to a circular economy, therefore, requires cooperation among partners in networks. For example, between product chains and across regions. And intermediaries, or ‘transition brokers’ as Cramer calls them, can help to align partners with different stakes and accelerate the change process towards ambitious goals. An example of a ‘transition broker’ in Australia is The Australian Fashion Council. They are part of a consortium that is driving the National Clothing Product Stewardship Scheme, alongside other organisations including Charitable Recycling Australia and Queensland University of Technology, among others.

Cramer says that every company and governmental entity can start on this journey towards circularity today. To assist governments, Cramer has outlined 10 guiding principles for building a circular economy. She summarised these during the discussion and they are outlined in her book Building a Circular Future – Ten Takeaways for Global Changemakers.

Cramer wrote this book after her previous 2020 publication, How Network Governance Powers the Circular Economy, received much global interest. This first book focused on circularity in the Netherlands, but for the second publication, she conducted research across 16 countries in order to formulate her 10 principles as outlined below.

Ten guiding principles to transition to a circular economy

Sparking the transition:

  • The transition starts with a shared sense of urgency as no actor can realise a circular initiative alone
  • The implementation occurs in 4 subsequent, but cyclic phases (preparing, building, scaling and mainstreaming)
  • The tasks to be performed for each circular initiative are roughly the same, but case specific
  • Building a circular economy is a journey with a clear destination, but without a predetermined path

Context is key:

  • Focus on the most promising and far-reaching innovations; select frontrunners in industry as leaders
  • Map the key drivers and preconditions for successful implementation at the start
  • Identify the relevant actors and assess their willingness to join forces at the start

Successful implementation:

  • Develop new circular business models that benefit all consortium partners
  • Build a consortium of relevant network partners and agree upon a transparent division of labour
  • Orchestration through intermediaries (transition brokers) can accelerate circular initiatives

Textile circularity in the Netherlands

In the Netherlands, the vision for a circular textiles chain is in line with the Ellen McArthur Foundation model and includes 4 key actions:

  • phase out substances of concern and microfiber release
  • increase clothing utilisation
  • radically improve recycling
  • make effective use of resources and move to renewable inputs.

The Dutch National Circular Textile policy (2020) has a focus on high value recycling but less on higher steps on the R-ladder of circularity. With regards to recycling, extended producer responsibility (EPR) is a key driver to achieve these bold targets which are:

  • 25% recycled in new textile by 2025
  • 30% recycled and 20% sustainable materials by 2030
  • 100% sustainable materials by 2050

Looking at refuse, redesign and reuse there is currently research on incentives on how to halt over production and wastage but not on how to promote redesign, reuse and slow fashion, this is currently underdeveloped in the Netherlands.

About the Dutch Circular Textile Valley: Network governance in action

The National Dutch Circular Textile Valley (DCTV) mobilises and connects bottom-up, regional activities aimed at creating a national circular textile ecosystem and is an example of ‘Network governance’ in action. The DCTV aims to reach this objective through:

  • building and connecting a network of regional hubs
  • developing the preconditions for scaling circular initiatives together with the hubs
  • providing input for the development of policy instruments (for example, Extended Producer Responsibility).

The 4 regional hubs included within the DCTV focus on:

  • high-value recycling technology (Hub Twente)
  • circular workwear (Hub Tilburg)
  • circular design and new bio-based materials (Hub Arnhem-Wageningen)
  • circular aesthetics and high-value recycling (Hub Amsterdam Metropolitan Area).

More for circular economy practitioners

For further information about Jacqueline Cramer and her work, both of her books are free to download. They have become essential guides for circular economy practitioners across the world and they provide frameworks and in-depth case study examples for businesses and regions to implement circular economy initiatives.

About Jacqueline Cramer

Prof. dr. Jacqueline Cramer is currently visiting Australia to assist businesses, government, universities, and societal organisations transition to a circular economy.

Cramer has always combined her academic career with being a change agent in sustainability. She has held professorships at various universities since 1990 and is presently Professor of Sustainable Innovation at Utrecht University.

In government, Cramer was Minister of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment for the Netherlands (2007 –2010). She has worked as a practitioner for over 30 years, serving as the member of more than 120 Boards of government, industry and non-profit organisations.

Cramer is presently Chairperson of the Supervisory Board of Holland Circular Hotspot, execution of the Sustainable Concrete and Construction Steel Agreements, and of the Dutch Circular Textile Valley. She is also Patron of the Plastic Soup Foundation. As a member of the Amsterdam Economic Board, she is particularly in charge of the circular economy in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area.

As mentioned previously, her extensive experience in implementing circular economy across companies and in regions led to 2 books being published by the Amsterdam Economic Board:

  • How Network Governance Powers the Circular Economy – Ten Guiding Principles for Building a Circular Economy, Based on Dutch Experiences (2020)
  • Building a Circular Future – Ten Takeaways for Global Changemakers (2022).