Enabling Design for Environmental Good: A Strategy for Circular Design for Australia

  • 2023

  • Design Research

Designed By:

  • RMIT University
  • One Planet Consulting
  • Arcadis

Commissioned By:


(Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water)

Designed In:


To support design for circularity, the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water commissioned the ‘Enabling Design for Environmental Good’ project. To identify actions to improve the materials and products entering, designed in, or circulating through the Australian market, and the way in which they are managed.

view website

Image: Final report - RMIT University
Image: The project team - RMIT University (with One Planet Consulting)
Image: Project team and title - DCCEEW
Image: Literature review summary - DCCEEW
Image: Project stakeholders - DCCEEW
Image: Long list of cross cutting levers examined by co-design participants - DCCEEW
Image: Final cross cutting levers refined by co-design participants - DCCEEW
Image: Stakeholder statements post project - DCCEEW
  • MORE
  • Natural ecosystems face increasing pressures from environmental impacts including pollution, climate change, and resource depletion. For years design has been touted as defining a significant portion of the environmental impacts of everyday products, services and systems, whilst a ‘sustainability’ lens has often been chosen to tackle the collective environmental issues that humanity faces. Design is therefore crucial in determining sustainability parameters of the material world for the benefit of humanity and the planet. This project was designed to better enable design practice to contribute to this end, designing for environmental good, in the Australian context.

  • The project delivered ten (10) cross-cutting levers for industry, governments and not for profit organizations to action and manage enabling design for environmental good. Such levers are policies, regulatory, financial, and educational mechanisms across sectors. Four (4) priority sectors/ product categories were also targeted for change, namely; textiles; buildings; plastics; and electronic goods. Co-design was applied with over 70 organizational stakeholders i.e. Industry (Breville, Mirvac, Telstra, peak bodies, etc.), not for profits and governments, to ensure success i.e. stakeholders 'owned' the outcome. This ensured key sectors were engaged, and actions from the project applied to/ benefited sectors across Australia’s economy.

  • The impact of the project will be to lower environmental impacts of products through to systems, by way of actions from a range of stakeholders through design. These actions include policy and program formation, financial assistance/ penalties, and capacity building, both industry and government based, so that design can better contribute to national targets for resource recovery, reuse, and waste reduction. In short, to extend product life cycles and ensuring durability, reusability, reparability and recyclability (more circular). This will reinvigorate key manufacturing sectors, modernize the waste sector, increase resource security/ productivity, and strengthen Australia’s competitive position in the circular economy.

  • The ten (10) cross-cutting levers recommended by the project for enabling design for environmental good in Australia are: CCL1. Adopting a national Eco-Design for a Circular Australia (EDCA) Strategy CCL2. Revising/ energizing product stewardship and extended producer responsibility CCL3. Activating design for reuse, repair and refurbishment CCL4. Raising standards/ specifications for product/and materials for systematic national alignment with global best practice CCL5. National funding for circular design initiatives/ supply chain innovation CCL6. Accelerating recyclables from landfill fees on priority products CCL7. Mechanisms addressing externalities CCL8. Procurement power and market pull - the Buy for Good program CCL9. Professional education program to activate skills and capacity for environmental good CCL10. Accelerating public acceptance/ behaviour change and support of design for environmental good Some actions embed existing best practice in design (CCLs 4 and 8), some incentivize innovation and greater uptake/ mainstreaming of good design (CCLs 5,6 and 9), and some ensure greater accountability of environmental impacts are captured to improve competitiveness of designed products (CCLs 3 and 7). Lastly, education and training for designers, marketers, supply chain actors, business leaders, and managers is key (CCL 9) whilst ensuring coordination of these measures for effective implementation and broad public uptake (CCL10).