Interdisciplinary Circular Economy Conference 2020


March 1-2, 2021 | 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.

Important dates

  • Call for abstracts: November 2019
  • Abstract re-submission deadline (for already accepted abstracts): October 15, 2020
  • Acceptance notification: February 29, 2020
  • Registration period: March 15, 2020 - Oct 15, 2020 | Registration fee: 50€
  • Conference dates: March 1-2, 2021