Interdisciplinary Circular Economy Conference 2020


September 21-22, 2020 | Freiburg, Germany


Hosted by the Chair of Societal Transition and Circular Economy | University of Freiburg

Determining the implications of circular economy initiatives on the environment and human wellbeing is essential for successful policy development and monitoring. While technical and business aspects of circular economy initiatives receive growing attention, perspectives on power struggles, socioecological justice and trade-offs in implementation are underdeveloped.


This conference calls for contributions from all disciplines that critically explore prospects, potentials, and limitations of circular economy initiatives for social justice and environmental sustainability.


Strategies and business models proposed under the label of a circular economy are numberless. Many of them are proposed with the aim to ‘disrupt’ existing markets and business practice and create an entirely new economic system. What is disrupted, how, by whom, and with what consequences is often under-theorized and under-researched. Similarly, the contribution of individual strategies and business models to ecological conservation and social justice as well as their fit to specific political, economic or cultural contexts is often uncertain. To achieve the circular economy’s mission of keeping us within planetary boundaries, we need a substantial knowledge base for gauging different strategies’ and business models’ ‘disruptive’ potential with respect to social and ecological goals


This conference aims to open the current circular economy debates more towards critical engagement with the socio-political realities that circular economy efforts face and the multi-faceted effects of implementation. Ultimately, the conference seeks to provide policy and practice with the critical insights needed to achieve socio-ecologically sustainable outcomes.  

Conference topics

Power, Politics & Policy Design
Law and Regulatory Governance
Social Justice & Good Labour Practices
Circular Cities & Urban Planning
Concepts & Monitoring Tools
Towards a Circular Bioeconomy
Trade & Global Supply Chains
Business Models, Innovation, Design

Keynote speakers

Prof. Julia Leventon

Sustainability Science

Leuphana University Lüneburg

Julia Leventon is a Junior Professor at Leuphana University, Faculty of Sustainability. She has a BSc in Environmental Science, and MSc in International Development from Manchester University, UK. She gained her PhD in 2010 from Central European University, Hungary on the topic of environmental governance. Since then, she has developed and led a reseach group focussed on into sustainability transformations, seeking to understand how we can fundamentally transform systems. Specifically, she asks how we govern systems, and rethink governance systems to acheive sustainability. Recent projects include the successful Leverage Points project, which builds on Donella Meadows' framework of places to intervene in systems. Julia's research group has a focus on place-based research, to understand the social, political and physical issues that drive sustainability problems. Much of the work done is transdisciplinary, meaning that we engage with people and stakeholders to implement problem-focussed, solution oriented research; learning with and for our participants.

Prof. Damien Giurco

Resource Futures

University of Technology Sydney

Damien Giurco is Professor of Resource Futures and Deputy Director (Engagement) of the Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney. His research with government and industry spans the waste, water, energy and minerals sectors and is focused on materials use and responsible prosperity in a circular economy.

Damien has presented and published widely and is Editor-in-chief for the journal Resources. He serves on the Circular Economy Expert Working Group for the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering and is currently Theme Leader for Battery Supply Chain Integrity within the Cooperative Research Centre for Future Battery Industries.

Prof. Stefanie Hellweg

Ecological Systems Design

ETH Zürich

Stefanie Hellweg is full professor for ecological systems design at the Institute of Environmental Engineering of ETH Zurich (Switzerland), where she is leading a group of 20 PhD students and PostDocs. In her research she strives to develop cutting-edge decision support methods for sustainable production and consumption. This includes work in the field of sustainable circular economy. Between 2004 and 2005 she was a

visiting scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and in 2014 at Yale University. She is a member of the UN environment International Resource Panel and vice-president of the International Society of Industrial Ecology.

Call for abstracts

We invite novel contributions exploring a wide range of questions, including (but not limited to):


Power, Politics & Policy Design

  • What role do power and politics play in the conceptualization and realization of a circular economy?
  • What policies and initiatives incentivize a sustainable circular economy?
  • What are the environmental, economic and social effects of current circular economy policies and programs?
  • How can science contribute to policymaking for a sustainable circular economy?
  • Case studies: local, national, international policy making & implementation

Law & Regulatory Governance

  • (How) Do policies and laws promote or undermine transformation into a socially and ecologically sustainable circular economy?
  • Are there trade-offs between existing laws and regulatory frameworks that undermine social justice and environmental sustainability and how can we address them?
  • How to establish rights on waste or other secondary resources?
  • Do we need harmonized standardization for a circular economy?

Social Justice & Good Labour Practices 

  • How can the circular economy increase social justice and good labour practices along supply chains?
  • Does society benefit from a global circular economy?
  • What is the role of power in a circular economy?
  • What kind of social aspects and labour practices are most prominent in the literature?

Circular Cities & Urban Planning

  • How do cities conceptualize and implement the circular economy?
  • What are the barriers and enablers towards urban circular economy?
  • What is the role of urban planning?
  • How can the urban circular economy increase social wellbeing?
  • What examples of successful initiatives are available?
  • How can cities monitor their progress towards a sustainable circular economy?
  • What are the effects of circular strategies on urban metabolism?
  • Case studies: mobility, waste management, urban farming, construction, energy, water, food waste…

Concepts & Monitoring Tools for a Circular Economy

  • How can we conceptualize a socially just and environmentally sustainable circular economy?
  • How can we monitor ecological and social sustainability?
  • How do we manage complexity?
  • How does the circular economy contribute to the SDGs?
  • How do we achieve transdisciplinary research for a circular economy?

Towards a Circular Bioeconomy

  • How do policy and practice conceptualize a circular bioeconomy?
  • What are the key drivers and barriers in a transition to a circular bioeconomy?
  • How do actors in the bio-based sector envision their role in the circular economy?
  • What are the environmental impacts and benefits of fostering circular bio-based industries?
  • Case studies: bioplastics, forestry, agriculture, food waste management, biotechnology…

Trade & Global Supply Chains

  • What is the role of transnational supply chains in realizing a circular economy?
  • What are the challenges of globalization?
  • What role do international relations and the global trade regime play?
  • What does global resource circulation look like?
  • What are the global impacts and benefits of resource circulation?
  • What are critical products and materials in a global circular economy?
  • What is the role of North-South relationships in circular economy management?

Business Models, Innovation & Design

  • What are the main challenges in circular product design?
  • What are the environmental tradeoffs of circular design?
  • What are the main areas of product innovation in practice?
  • How can we rethink business models to fit the circular economy?
  • What are successful experiences in the field of industrial innovation for the environment and social wellbeing (e.g., inclusion, sharing economy…)?
  • How does policy regulate and promote circular innovations & business models in industries?

Submission process

1. Oral presentations

Authors should submit an abstract (max. 300 words) related to one (or a set) of the questions and topics described above. Abstracts should include the main rationale of the study, methods, expected results and contribution to one or several of the conference topics. Oral presentations will have 15-minute time slots. 


2. Session proposals

Sessions of 90 minutes provide authors the option to organize a panel comprising three to four related presentations. A session proposal should include an abstract summarizing the overall topic (max. 500 words), as well as individual abstracts for each presentation included in the panel. Abstracts should include the main rationale of the session, expected outcomes and contribution to one or several of the conference topics. Innovative session formats are particularly welcome, including discussion sessions, interactive dialogues, and workshops.


Please send an abstract including the following information:

  • Author name, e-mail and affiliation
  • Relevant conference topic(s) 

Authors should submit their abstracts in a single Word file to Dr. Anna Petit Boix ( by January 15, 2020. The Organizing Committee will review all submissions and inform authors by February 29, 2020 about the acceptance of their abstracts.

Important dates

  • Call for abstracts: November 2019
  • Abstract submission deadline: January 15, 2020
  • Acceptance notification: February 29, 2020
  • Registration period: March 15, 2020 - April 20, 2020 | Registration fee: 50€
  • Conference dates: September 21-22, 2020