New roadmap uncovers core consumer behaviours needed for a circular economy

New roadmap uncovers core consumer behaviours needed for a circular economy

By Tamanna Wadhwani  September 19th, 2023

Researchers at BehaviourWorks Australia have created a blueprint outlining eight core behaviours that are crucial to achieving a circular economy, with three of them prioritised to generate highest impact.


The shift towards more sustainable consumption and production practices has become increasingly recognised as a critical component in efforts to address pressing environmental and social challenges. While robust policy and the implementation of circular business principles will form the basis of a circular economy, an effective transition will also demand successful behaviour change among consumers and appropriate systems to complement it.   

Monash University’s BehaviourWorks recently conducted research and stakeholder engagement to understand what ‘circular consumption’ behaviours are required in Australia to help reduce the nation’s material footprint as part of the circular transition.   

The outcome was the newly published Behavioural Roadmap to Circular Consumption, which identifies eight core behaviours that hold the potential to reduce Australia’s material footprint. This systems map charts a clear path forward and offers areas of intervention for Australia’s policymakers, industry leaders, entrepreneurs and advocates.  

Eight core 'circular consumption' behaviours

Using a method known as Behavioural Systems Mapping (BSM), researchers Jennifer Macklin and Lena Jungbluth established connections between 130 different behaviours from various stakeholders. They uncovered the following eight core behaviours for circular consumption, which were grouped under two key categories:  

  1. Behaviours having a direct impact on reducing material footprint consumption:  

    1. Making do with existing items  

    2. Borrowing/renting items or services  

    3. Sourcing second-hand / hand-me-downs  

    4. Buying items made from circular materials

  2. Behaviours having an indirect impact on material footprint consumption by enabling other circular consumption behaviours:

    1. Buying items that are built to last  

    2. Continuing to use items  

    3. Repairing items  

    4. Passing items on/back  

The researchers then also used the BSM technique to rank these behaviours based on their potential to create the most significant systems impact and induce future individual behaviour change. The three behaviours identified as having thegreatest potential impact were: 

  1. Borrowing/renting items 

  2. Choosing second-hand 

  3. Buying/designing items that are built to last 

The roadmap also highlights a range of recommended actions within each of these core behaviours, addressing both individual consumers and organizational consumers. This distinction is crucial since the focus has often been centred on individual consumer actions among private, public, civil and research stakeholders. It is noteworthy that individual consumption contributes only 18 per cent to Australia’s overall waste generation, while organisational consumption contributes 27 per cent. 

While this current work provides a foundational understanding of the relationships between various stakeholders and their behaviours, more research is to be undertaken by BehaviourWorks to expand and validate the existing behavioural system map and create a greater understanding of the role of organisations.  

Read the full roadmap by visiting Behavioural Roadmap to Circular Consumption


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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