In the following sections we draw out some key activities associated with the action framework described in Table 2
. Although the transition management phases are not necessarily sequential, Phase 1 is a good place to begin thinking about designing this transition as it deals with fundamental framing issues and sets up initial networks, including a leadership group required to establish and communicate the issue for further action. Previously we noted that the difficulty in deliberately transitioning an existing socio-technical system toward a more sustainable one is that shifting from one system to another requires not only the introduction of new technological artefacts, but also new markets, user practices, regulations, infrastructures and cultural meanings. This suggests that change cannot be brought about through technological innovation alone but rather requires institutional and socio-cultural transformations to occur [19
]. Essentially, a coordinated and collaborative effort is required, dependent upon the mobilization of all actors in the value chain, from operators in the primary production of metals and metal-containing products, to the recycling and collection industry, to the consumers [49
]. Given this focus on participatory and social learning processes that need to be established early, Phase 1 will be the focus here as the following phases will be in some way dependent upon how the issues and vision are collectively defined.
6.1. Problem Structuring
The aim of Phase 1 is to clearly establish the issues of relevance and how these are interrelated, as well as setting up the foundations of the long-term transition. Mapping the issues is an early task, however this requires input from stakeholders with enough knowledge of the technical, social, cultural and governance practices associated with the existing metals sector that the outputs are useful. One of the foundation activities suggested by Loorback and Rotmans is to identify and establish a cross-sectorial group of champions called “frontrunners”. Frontrunners have influence in their related spheres, and are able to consider complex problems without pushing their own agendas. They are able to think collaboratively on the issue and with an open mind and viewpoint. These champions should be spread across different segments of society, government, business, NGOs, knowledge institutes, and intermediaries. Within the Australian metals context, some of these frontrunners are in place through establishment of the Wealth from Waste Cluster in late 2013. However, a broader cross-section of business, government and civil society is required. This will be a priority task to progress further action.
The transition leadership group in particular can benefit from use of methods such as CLA. By unpacking the issue in the early phases of the TMC at the four different CLA levels, we can deepen and broaden perspectives and open up possibilities for new solutions to emerge. For example, greater insight into what drives and influences the behaviours of the regime components may provide a richer picture of the different ways, and best timing, to open the windows of opportunities to transition. This approach supports Stirling’s call for approaching sustainability transitions as “deliberative social learning processes” [28
]. Early application of this method can contribute to diverse viewpoints being incorporated into any later processes such as visioning, strategies and actions, thereby adding to the robustness of the approach.
As this is a deliberative social learning process, CLA can be conducted regularly by both researchers and frontrunners, or more formally incorporated into stakeholder workshops at various phases to ensure diverse viewpoints are being considered in the program of action.
Consideration of possible future pathways of change that could occur is also necessary to identify and illustrate possible issues. In Section 2.1
we introduced a number of different transition pathways identified by Geels and Schot [21
] each with potentially positive and negative impacts for various actors and the system as a whole. However, defining these impacts will impact on the perspective that is taken. Although disruption or shocks may be damaging for existing businesses within the dominant sectors, it may open up possibilities for radical change, which are required for the system to become more sustainable in the longer-term. For example, the eventuation of peak oil or peak minerals could be one such a disruption in the context of the resources sector and management of metals in Australia [50
], others could include declining terms of trade, or the radical deployment of a low carbon economy.
Regular change is more difficult to define in the context of the future of metals recycling in Australia. Given the rapidly changing landscape—social, political and economic drivers, business as usual in the future will likely incorporate very different modes of operation to deal with a different set of drivers. Although risk management and future scenario development are well resourced, established and accepted methods in business, designed to plan for possible shocks and disruptive elements that are likely to impact on the future of a business or industry, historical trend analysis may not provide the breadth of analysis to indicate possible future pathways. This is because drawing on historical trend data will not necessarily pick up disruptive future elements (e.g. internet of things, 3D production systems). Mapping of stakeholders, issues, and reflecting on possible emerging issues and trends through the methods of mind-mapping, environmental scanning, emerging issues analysis or weak signal analysis are useful here to provide indications of possible disruptive future elements and establishing the lay of the land.
The MLP can also be applied at this point as an analysis tool—the MLP approach is predominantly located within the systems level in the CLA framework, however, there is some overlap with CLA’s worldview layer and the cultural and longer-term patterns, which are located within MLP’s landscape level. To provide an illustration of the implications of this framework for application to transitioning Australia towards a circular economy for the management of metals, we apply the three levels from the MLP as an analytical tool to think about the problem definition and focus as recommended in Phase 1 of the TMC.
The process adopted to select the boundary of the system is important, as it will have ongoing impacts for identifying the likely interactions between the landscape, regime and niche-innovations. It will also impact the identification of possible future pathways of change and therefore outcomes for relevant actors.
illustrates that application of different analytical boundaries provide variations in what is present within each of the levels. The boundaries selected here are a distinction of scale between (i) commodity (ii) industry (iii) domestic economy levels. However, it should be noted that there are many other ways of defining the transition of the metals sector in Australia, including sectoral, geographical, or technological delineations for example. Note also that a transition in one part of the metals value chain in one country is inextricably linked to the global system within a circular economy and therefore will impact and be impacted by other parts of the value chain in other countries.
is included for illustrative purposes, to demonstrate the importance and complexity of boundary definition and the types of actors a transition at this level could encompass. A core principle of transitions work is for collaborative and deliberative stakeholder engagement for the purpose of fostering a common language and vision, understanding challenges and opportunities, and establishing strong ownership and networks. Therefore as part of Phase 1, the process of populating such a table to establish boundaries and the content within the MLP would be conducted with stakeholders, identified by the initial research process, not by researchers in isolation.
By focusing on the commodity level in Table 3
for example, we find that the types of stakeholders to be engaged in actions to support or develop innovations (such as for supporting new technologies for processing and production or niche businesses) will be different than if the focus is on the industry level (where supporting and developing niches might require support networks for consumers to be able to recycle products at “end-of-life”). While at the national level, an example of a niche-innovation may include collaborations across government and industry to develop and commercialise new technologies for specific processing or production needs, or large-scale investment to allow new sustainable industry models to emerge and establish.
Multi-level perspective applied to different functional units of analysis for metals management in Australia.
Multi-level perspective applied to different functional units of analysis for metals management in Australia.
|Possible Boundary for Transition||Landscape Pressures Examples||Socio-Technical Regime Examples||Niche-Innovation Examples|
|(i) Australian resources level in the economy||Default linear economy; Assumed model of continuing economic growth; Tyranny of distance‘ Lucky-country mentality; (Emerging) sustainable development pressuring the regime; Peak minerals (minerals are finite resources and cost of extraction increase as the quality and quantity of ore grades decline)||Dig and sell business model with limited local value add; Industry privately (and often foreign) owned; Minerals owned by States in Australia; Government has dual role of approvals and monitoring compliance (e.g., environmental)—benefits accrue via royalties and taxes||Technology for remote tele-operation of mining equipment; Extended producer responsibility legislation for television and computers; |
* Waste levy (some states)
|(ii) Australian waste industry (metals and other materials)||Default linear economy; Increasing rates of waste generation; Decreasing land available for landfill; Consumer culture of consumption (throwaway society); (Emerging) sustainable development pressure||Waste industry run by “blokes and trucks”; Landfill spaces constrained; National waste policy; International conventions guide trade practices e.g., Basel -hazardous waste||Container Deposit Legislation; Waste to energy technologies e.g., pyrolysis; Community collection stations for products# Collaborative consumption and sharing economy business models|
|(iii) Commodity Level e.g., steel||Steel is the underpinning of a country’s industrialization—buildings, transport; Global demand for steel rising with growth of China and India; Iron is a major component in steel and it is estimated that Australia’s iron ore production will peak in around twenty years||Limited technological innovation globally, limited culture of R&D by industry nationally (mainly government funded); Australian steel making has declined; No longer industry assistance packages for steel (unlike car industry); Australia exports iron ore, rather than finished steel||Iron ore—automation in mining. Steel Stewardship Forum^—responsible supply chain certification, mapping the steel value chain footprint|
Other important context setting methods can be employed within stakeholder workshop sessions that explore the present through historical (shared history) and futures perspectives (Futures Triangle) helping to develop a plausible future which can then be drawn upon in the visioning process. It is likely that in developing a vision that is locally relevant, actionable, and representative of stakeholder views, the concept of a circular economy will be useful as a starting point but will need to be interrogated and collaboratively developed.
Visioning processes such as guided visioning and scenario development are being used with more creative processes such as Scenario Art [43
] to tap into the creative collective wisdom to generate preferred futures. For complex large-scale, multi-actor, multi-level systems in transition, such visions will be diverse and contentious, and will depend on the resources allocated to the task. The literature does however point to examples where visions and discourses can develop in a remarkably consensual way [18
]. It requires skilled facilitation to explore points of contention and transcend these to arrive at an acceptable direction that all stakeholders can buy into. Ownership of the vision is essential for success in the following phases, although the iterative and social learning approach points to ongoing modification and adaptability of the vision over time to incorporate new lessons and input.
6.4. A Cycle of Learning and Iteration
The learning phase is where actors monitor and evaluate the success of their actions and reflect on, and learn from, the other three phases. Given the social learning narrative throughout Transition Management, we assume that the iterative and cyclical nature of this framework implies learning through reflection and feedback loops as a core part of any activity within the transition. With an anticipatory action learning approach, a reflexive process of questioning, creation and questioning adds an anticipatory dimension to the social learning process, which allows for preferred futures to continually evolve with actor engagement. Coordination between sectorial or geographical elements will need to be managed and reflective process built in to project implementation to ensure that social learning commitments are adhered to.
Transitioning complex socio-technical systems requires lengthening time horizons; acceptance and acknowledgement of uncertainty; multiple methods and tools of intervention; more participatory and reflexive forms of governance with input of diverse actors and knowledges; social learning through the building of networks among innovative stake-holders; a focus on sectorial dynamics; and “internalization of economic, social and environmental considerations in product, process and policy design” [9
By employing a process guided by the transitions literature and built on tried and tested methods from the critical futures literature, actors may be able to employ a foresight process that is flexible and adaptive enough to identify potential shocks and disruptions to the system while guiding action towards a sustainable future that builds resilience, prosperity, supports innovation and responds to environmental and social challenges. Essentially we believe this approach can contribute to achieving a successful long-term transition to a new paradigm for the management of metals in Australia from above- and below-ground stocks, which may have flow on effects globally.
6.6. Limitations of This Paper
Several limitations in this paper should be acknowledged.
Firstly, whilst this paper has identified tools and methods from the futures literature to assist in problem structuring and other phases of the TMC, having the resources, and agency to assemble relevant stakeholders and implement change within established political processes remain a challenge.
Secondly, whilst orienting towards a circular economy including for metals, is a discourse with increasing traction, the practicalities and even inconsistencies with this ideal, depending on the geographical scale of implementation, are a work in progress and require a parallel transition in the global management of metals. This has been highlighted in a recent UN International Resource Panel report [63
Thirdly, the proposed methods to facilitate progression through the transition phases were identified in response to existing critique on MLP and Transition Management. As transitions literature is relatively new, having emerged in the past two decades, we acknowledge that further critique to the literature is likely and that this may expose further weaknesses that would need to be addressed.
Finally, the metals sector involves a wide range of stakeholders who encompass a diverse and often conflicting range of interests. While one can employ methods to break down stakeholder barriers and work to overcome conflicting interests there is the possibility that overcoming this cannot be achieved.