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Tobacco, gambling, now alcohol: why Australia needs mandated alcohol warnings

The harms and costs of alcohol to Australia are clear. Government needs to mandate effective messaging around alcohol consumption.

For many Australians, the festive weeks between Christmas and Australia Day are boozy ones. When cracking open a beer or bottle of wine this holiday season, many drinkers will find a friendly little directive printed on the packaging reminding them to “drink responsibly”.

But what does that actually mean? “Drink responsibly” messages—included solely at the discretion of manufacturers—are ambiguous, and ignore the complexities associated with what should be considered healthy drinking.

With new regulations doing away with the old “gamble responsibly” tagline in favour of a more evidence-based approach, now is the time to follow suit for alcohol products and advertising. For warnings on alcohol products and advertising to be effective in changing drinking behaviours, we must move away from the self-regulation model. Warnings must be made mandatory by law, and their content must be determined by public health authorities to ensure they are both evidence-based and effective.

A deadly national habit

Alcohol use is pervasive in Australia: in 2019, 82 per cent of males and 77 per cent of females aged over 18 were current drinkers. More than 1 in 5 Australian adults binge drink, and it is estimated that roughly 6 per cent of males and 3 per cent of females aged over 15 have an alcohol use disorder. The harms to our society associated with drinking—physical, mental, social and economic—are substantial. In 2017-18, for example, alcohol caused over 5,000 deaths, 100,000 hospital episodes, and $60 billion in losses to our economy. Alcohol alone is estimated to be responsible for roughly 8 to 9 per cent of the total health burden in Australia. In 2022, the alcohol-induced death rate was at its highest in ten years.

It goes without saying that reducing these harms should be a public health priority. This requires a multi-pronged approach: governments in Australia define standard drinks and provides low-risk drinking guidelines, ban the sale of alcohol to minors, run public health campaigns, tax alcohol, put limits on alcohol availability and minimum unit pricing, and support school-based prevention programs (which can be particularly effective).

For maximising reach, warnings accompanying alcohol products and advertising should be a crucial piece of the puzzle. Unfortunately, apart from new mandates for pregnancy-specific messages on beverage labels, the inclusion of these warnings in Australia is voluntary. When companies do choose to include a warning, they tend to use some version of “drink responsibly”—a platitude now commonplace globally—or refer consumers to the DrinkWise website, an organisation established by the alcohol industry that promotes similar responsible drinking messages. Even then, these warnings get little coverage, both in size (labels) and airtime (advertising).

What’s wrong with the “drink responsibly” line?

Campaigns centred around the idea of responsible drinking are best viewed as an effort by industry “social aspects/public relations organisations” (SAPROs) to pre-empt harsher regulation and reframe alcohol as a matter of individual responsibility rather than a public health issue. At first glance, “drink responsibly” may sound reasonable. But for the public, this is an ambiguous message. For example, researchers found that the message “Drink Properly” was frequently interpreted to encourage “looking cool” when drinking, or drinking the right kind of alcohol.

Much of this ambiguity comes from the lack of detail on how much alcohol, consumed over what time frame, constitutes “drinking responsibly”. At a minimum, reference should be made to the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) low-risk drinking guidelines, which recommend a maximum of ten drinks per week, and no more than four in one sitting. This can be an effective way of increasing awareness of safe drinking limits.

Even then, the NHMRC guidelines reflect risk for the average person, and are not applicable when individual-specific vulnerabilities are at play. “Drink responsibly” messaging focuses on those who are able to drink responsibly to establish that drinking can be safe. In fact, by exploiting uncertainty in research regarding potential protective effects of low-level consumption, it is often implied that drinking can be positively healthy. But for many conditions and many people, the reality is quite different.

For example, it is well-established that for several types of cancer, any amount of alcohol increases a person’s risk. The same goes for liver disease and accidents or injury. Put another way, when it comes to avoiding these conditions, the most responsible kind of drinking is to not drink at all.

Similarly, there are periods across the lifespan when people are particularly susceptible to alcohol and its effect on brain health, including gestation, adolescence, and older adulthood. Additionally, some individuals may find themselves unable to maintain “responsible drinking”. Despite a focus on individual responsibility, addiction is not a simple matter of willpower. So again, for pregnant people, minors, or those with alcohol use disorder who are unable to maintain controlled drinking, the most responsible kind of drinking is to not drink at all.

It’s time for government regulation

It’s clear that self-regulation doesn’t work—studies have found that messages and advertisements produced by the alcohol industry are less persuasive than those made by public health authorities. Unsurprisingly, there is no clear evidence that “drink responsibly” slogans are effective in reducing risky drinking. While the new requirements for pregnancy warnings on beverage labels are a step in the right direction, a more thorough overhaul is required.

Online gambling companies are now required to replace the “gamble responsibly” slogan on all advertising with one of seven evidence-based taglines. Alcohol warnings should follow suit. They should be mandated by law and their content should be clear, evidence-based, and externally determined. Reference should be made to the NHMRC’s low-risk drinking guidelines. Gambling companies must also rotate those seven messages to counter desensitisation. For alcohol, this is also advisable.

Lessons could also be learned from tobacco product packaging, with evidence that warnings highlighting causal links between alcohol and specific health outcomes (e.g., cancer) can be particularly persuasive. In fact, Ireland and South Korea already mandate that cancer warnings be displayed on alcoholic beverages.

Finally, warnings on products and advertising should be prominent and visible, and should not presume drinking.

“Responsible drinking” messages and alcohol industry self-regulation have never served the public health interest. Public health policies, including warnings on products and advertising, should be designed with the most vulnerable in mind. It’s time for government-mandated, evidence-based warnings for alcohol products and advertising. With alcohol one of the leading causes of disease burden among Australians, responsible messaging around alcohol needs to be taken seriously.

Rachel Visontay is an NHMRC-funded PhD candidate at the Matilda Centre for Research in Mental Health and Substance Use at the University of Sydney. Her research explores relationships between alcohol and long-term health outcomes, with a focus on identifying causal effects.

Professor Maree Teesson AC FAHMS, FASSA is an NHMRC Leadership Fellow, Director of the Matilda Centre & Director of the NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Prevention and Early Intervention in Mental Illness and Substance Use (PREMISE) at the University of Sydney. Prof Teesson is a former National Mental Health Commissioner (2018-2021), former member of NHMRC Council (2018-2021), an Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences Fellow and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Social Sciences.

Associate Professor Louise Mewton is a University of New South Wales Scientia Fellow and public health researcher with a focus on the epidemiology, assessment, prevention, and treatment of alcohol use and related disorders across the lifespan. She currently leads the Dementia Risk Factors Group at the Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing, University of New South Wales.

Image credit: Gilaxia / Getty images

2023-01-16T09:28:30+11:0012 January 2023|

We need to engage with men and boys to end violence

What is required to translate recent policy progress into practice when it comes to engaging men and boys to prevent violence in our society? Changing the way men relate to themselves, to people in their lives and to deeply embedded norms that put pressure on men to be a certain way are key parts of the solution.

Content warning: This article contains references to violence and mental illness.

Tomorrow marks the end of the annual 16 days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence. Since 1991, this campaign has called for the elimination of violence against women. The associated events, marches and advocacy have been and continue to be crucial work.

But what would change if these past 16 days focused on activism against men’s violence? The reality is that 95 per cent of people who experience violence report a male perpetrator. Victims of violence include people of all genders.

To end violence, we have to change the behaviour of men. This article shares lessons from our violence prevention work engaging men and boys at The Men’s Project—an initiative of Jesuit Social Services.

First, our context

Established in December 2017, The Men’s Project builds on Jesuit Social Services’ 45-year history working with men and boys, many facing crises: experience of violence themselves, time in child protection and out of home care, time in prison, expulsions, suicidality and addiction to substances. Our focus is on prevention and early intervention before these crises occur. We seek to address the root causes of harmful behaviours, including the impact of outdated attitudes about masculinity.

There has been welcome recent policy progress. The statement from victim-survivors in the National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children 2022–2032 puts it plainly: “Abuse and violence is a problem for victims, but it is not the victims’ problem.” The National Plan is part of a suite of recent policies that highlight the importance of engaging men and boys including the Respect@Work report, recent changes to parental leave, Respectful Relationships curricula, and the Victorian Government’s efforts through the Second Free From Violence Action Plan and the Building Equality Policy.

These policies build on hard won change. Women and feminist organisations have brought issues of family violence, sexual harassment and assault into mainstream discourse, calling out the reality that too often women have been disbelieved and had their voices silenced.

Yet, there’s still much to do. We live in a society that continues to value the masculine over the feminine whether it relates to the ongoing prevalence of violence, the burden of unpaid household labour, undervaluing caring professions or the underrepresentation of women in leadership roles. Patriarchy is ever-present, and bestows unfair benefits on men while subjugating women. In some spheres, male dominance is the norm—consider any recent analysis of pornography, or the seemingly never-ending stories of off-field misbehaviour by our male sporting “heroes”. This patriarchal reality, and challenging it, must sit at the core of violence prevention efforts.

Patriarchy also has negative impacts on men. In 2004, bell hooks wrote: “The first act of violence that patriarchy demands of males is not violence toward women. Instead patriarchy demands… all males… kill off the emotional parts of themselves.” Indeed, emotions outside a small range—anger, happiness, pride—are too often relegated to being seen as feminine so must be denied to prove one’s manhood. This can result in an inability to process complex feelings and tragically underpins the use of violence against women as well as some men’s desire for dominance over other men.

We face a conundrum

Men receive unfair privileges from patriarchy. Men also perpetrate and passively condone violence. And yet, engagement with men and boys needs to be mindful of their subjective realities and intersectional disadvantage. As writer Jess Hill highlights, while “men are powerful as a group (and are often told they are entitled to power), they do not necessarily feel powerful as individuals.”

A central question in violence prevention work is why some men don’t feel empowered and secure? Why is their sense of self so tied to dominance over others, especially women? What impact do patriarchy and masculine norms have on their sense of identity?

One of our first and foundational pieces of work was our “Man Box” research. The Man Box is a set of norms that place pressure on men to be a certain way—to be tough, not to show emotion, to be the breadwinner, be in control, and use violence to get respect; and to have many sexual partners. These social constructions of stereotypical masculinities vary across cultures and over time. What’s consistent is the value placed on stereotypically male characteristics over stereotypically feminine characteristics.

In partnership with Equimundo, based in Washington DC, we brought the Man Box idea to Australia. We surveyed 1,000 randomly selected 18 to 30-year-old Australian men finding that the majority of men surveyed felt social pressure to live up to stereotypical ideals of what it means to be a man. We also found that fewer men—still too many—personally endorsed these Man Box norms. For instance, 43 per cent of respondents agreed that society told them “a man should always have the final say about decisions in his relationship or marriage”. This dropped to 27 per cent when respondents were asked if “in their opinion” this should be so.

We found strong associations between Man Box attitudes and a range of harmful behaviours. Compared to men who subscribed least to Man Box norms, those who subscribed most were 20 times more likely to self-report sexually harassing a woman, 14 times more likely to report using physical violence and over twice as likely to have experienced suicidal thoughts. While the reasons for these harmful life outcomes are multi-faceted, the impact of the Man Box dwarfed demographic factors which we controlled for such as where men live, their cultural background, religion and levels of education.

Men’s conformity to the Man Box is reinforced through perceived benefits personified by online personalities such as Andrew Tate. The prize is a spot in the alpha male “in-group” in return for endorsing a mix of misogyny, homophobia and classist bile. In some contexts, stepping outside the Man Box can result in immediate sanction—“don’t be a girl”; “what are you, a pussy?”. At their core, although often destructive, these dynamics centre around a search for identity, connection and belonging.

When Man Box norms are threatened, research finds the response can be dire. Consider one part of the Man Box—that “men should be the breadwinner”. A recent ANU study found when this norm is violated—i.e., women earn more than their male partner—the likelihood of men’s violence and emotional abuse against their partner increases. Importantly, there is also other evidence which suggests that greater economic equality can lead to more gender equal relationships. However, in the face of threats to the male breadwinner norm, rather than work through why this feels personally challenging, some men will choose to denigrate and degrade their female partner to assert superiority.

This does not seek to excuse violence or justify maintaining a gendered pay gap. Rather, by better understanding contributing factors to violence, we have a greater chance of addressing it.

Some emerging lessonsfour practice directions

Here are four (non-exhaustive) practice directions which form part of The Men’s Project’s approach to violence prevention.

These directions cannot be achieved through one-off workshops. They require a holistic approach involving ongoing engagement with people who can positively influence men and boys —parents, family, early childcare workers, teachers, social workers, coaches, and other community leaders—and attention on structural inequities often reflected in policies or processes. Influencers—ideally working in mixed-gendered groups—need space for self-reflection including on their own power and privilege. They need to be equipped to respond to inevitable backlash. In doing this work, we partner with organisations—including women’s health organisations—who prevent and respond to violence. While valuable guides and tools exist, there’s still much to learn. Those doing this work, including ourselves, should be explicit regarding their approach and engage independent evaluators supported by funders who are also adopting a learning mindset.

First, through group discussion, we must increase understanding of and facilitate reflection on the harms associated with stereotypically masculine norms. This work is deeply personal. Men—including this author—will have fallen short in the past, failing to challenge or perhaps actively supporting Man Box ideas. Group discussion should traverse reflection on research such as the Man Box and stating plainly the horrific facts about family violence, while also elevating the lived experience of those who have been victims of violence—including men who have experienced violence due to the behaviour of other men. Through our work, we aim to change the way men and boys relate to people in their lives as well as to cultural norms such as the Man Box that we know they’re perceiving.

Second, there’s work required to help men and boys better perceive the gap between what they think society believes and what their peers in fact believe. The Man Box findings add to research that suggests men overestimate other men’s sexist and violence-supportive attitudes while also understating men’s willingness to intervene to prevent sexual assault. Unsurprisingly, men who subscribe to Man Box attitudes are less likely to call out a sexist comment due to fears related to belonging. We’ve got to teach skills and create cultures that equip men and boys to intervene. While not all men are violent, all men have a role in preventing violence.

Third, demonstrating positive alternatives is crucial. Professor Michael Flood from the Queensland University of Technology offers some helpful principles: healthier masculinities are gender equitable, diverse, not unique to men and boys, and healthy for men and boys themselves.

There is not one set of behaviours appropriate for all situations. We must not create another Man Box. Research suggests that to decrease the use of violence we need to build greater consciousness of “rote-learned” thoughts or scripts. For instance, an effective violence reduction program delivered in Chicago, Becoming a Man, found that young people’s use of violence was often due to reflexive and over-generalised responses to provocation. In short, they were confusing when (unfortunately) a more confrontational response may be required for their own self-protection as against situations where they were safe.

We are all at risk of this; self-reflection and slowing down takes effort. An awareness of context matters. Dominance and competitiveness against opponents on the sports field can be appropriate, but have devastating consequences in a discussion with an intimate partner. And while we want men to be aspirational and seek out what they want in life, this is problematic if carried over to a sense of entitlement in the context of rape and sexual assault.

When positive alternatives are explored, we can also aspire to detach from socially-constructed masculinities. As Professor Bob Pease has pointed out, if part of the problem relates to masculinity being valued over femininity, any effort that continues to foreground masculinities is likely to be inherently limiting. In some contexts, our facilitators at The Men’s Project are using healthier identities as an alternative to healthier masculinities.

Fourth, men and boys need skills that enable a deeper connection with themselves, others and our planet. Understanding the impact of the stories we tell ourselves can loosen the grip of negative conceptions tightly linked to Man Box ideas. Trauma can compound these dynamics, including, and especially, boys and young men’s experience of male violence in the family.

Each of us need to learn critical self-reflection skills including what has shaped the way we relate. These need to be taught. It is not enough to point out that rigid attachment to Man Box norms may be at the root of problems or that violence is not acceptable. We have to support people to embrace the dignity of each human being—including themselves—as inherently and equally deserving of love, connection and belonging. To do this, boys and men have to be allowed and encouraged to feel and express the full range of human emotion without fear of being ostracised. It’s not surprising that research suggests describing emotions—a skill—is a protective factor that mitigates against aggression when young men are distressed.

So, what will come from 16 days of activism against men’s violence? My hope is that there will be nuanced discussions regarding the merits of different approaches to violence prevention work with men and boys. My hope is that the calls of advocates are acted upon and we place the perpetrator at the forefront of efforts to address violence, filling the blanks on statistics like 1 in ? men has perpetrated physical violence, 1 in ? men has perpetuated sexual violence. My hope is that men and boys—standing in solidarity with people of all genders—make a meaningful contribution to ending violence.

Matt Tyler is the Executive Director of The Men’s Project at Jesuit Social Services working with a team committed to providing leadership on the reduction of violence and other harmful behaviours prevalent among men and boys. Prior to joining Jesuit Social Services, he worked as a Fellow for Harvard’s Government Performance Lab focused on child protection and he has also previously worked on reforms to family violence services and child protection in Australia. He is trained as an economist with a particular focus on statistics, holding a Master of Public Policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School and Honours in Economics from Monash University.

The ideas presented in this article have been shaped by engagement with countless collaborators and have also been informed by The Men’s Project’s experiences delivering our Modelling Respect and Equality and Unpacking the Man Box programs in partnership with schools, workplaces and other community organisations.

Image credit: Ibrahem Bana / Getty Images

2022-12-09T09:05:40+11:009 December 2022|

Conscious decoupling: creating a more sustainable model of material use in a growing economy

Australia’s material footprint per capita is rising. But with the right policies, we can break the nexus between depleting our ecological resources and improving economic growth.

Nature by itself is a circular economy – its wastes are reabsorbed back into the environment for productive reuse. However, the disproportionate global growth in waste, and the rapid proliferation of inorganic waste that is difficult to break down, is entirely an anthropogenic problem. Left unaddressed, this is creating cumulative impacts on our biodiversity, food security and way of living.

Depleting natural resources at current rates is unsustainable

We are seeing an unprecedented rise in the consumption of primary materials – farmed, mined, harvested or extracted from the natural environment in other ways – which are not being replenished fast enough to sustain this level of human consumption.

Each year, Earth Overshoot Days are getting progressively earlier, indicating intensified consumption activity. By Global Footprint Network estimates, it would take the biocapacity of 4.5 earths if the world’s population lived like Australia. Only six other countries in the world currently have bigger demand for ecological resources per capita than Australia.

Our consumption and production patterns based on the linear economy approach of “take, make and dispose” are creating more and new types of wastes. At the same time, insufficient prior investment in better solutions means that resource recovery rates are not growing sufficiently quickly to keep up.

Australia is a world-leading consumer of raw materials (at over 40 tonnes per capita in 2019) and has a material footprint of 47 tonnes per capita to service final demand. Both metrics are around double the OECD benchmark. At the same time, Australia’s resources productivity is low, generating economic output of USD 1.18 for every kilogram of material consumed: less than half the OECD benchmark in 2019.

In 2020, the European Union’s second Circular Economy Action Plan highlighted the need for the EU to keep its “resource consumption within planetary boundaries”, given that global consumption of materials is expected to double in the next 40 years, and waste generation increase by 70 per cent by 2050. Resource extraction and processing alone will account for half of total greenhouse gas emissions, and over 90 per cent of biodiversity loss and water stress.

Which countries are leading the world in resource productivity?

A circular economy is one where economic growth is successfully decoupled from material use.

An analysis of OECD nations’ material footprints demonstrates the slow rate of progress towards decoupling, even in many high-income economies. The “material footprint” represents the total volume of raw materials needed to satisfy the final demand of an economy. This includes not just the raw materials used domestically, but also upstream raw materials used overseas in producing the finished or semi-finished goods that are used by an economy.

NSW Circular’s analysis reveals four groups of countries at different stages of progress towards a circular economy (Figure 1 shows a selection of these countries).

Leaders: This group comprises Japan and advanced European economies including Austria, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain and Switzerland. They have managed to steadily reduce their material footprint per capita while increasing economic growth (absolute decoupling) and continue to progress in this direction.

Progressing: These economies are generally tracking in the right direction in terms of decoupling, although momentum in reducing their material footprint per capita has decelerated in recent years. Within the OECD, this group comprises Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Slovak Republic and Sweden.

Losing momentum: This mix of large and small economies have seen some progress in decoupling in the early 2000s to 2010s, but this momentum has stalled or even reversed in recent years. Within the OECD, this group comprises Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Mexico, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Laggards: These countries have seen their material footprints per capita steadily rising (albeit at a slower rate than economic growth, i.e., relative decoupling), and have shown no real progress in reducing their material footprints per capita since 2000. In the OECD, this group comprises Australia, Chile, Colombia, Estonia, Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, New Zealand, Poland and Turkey.

Policy options for a more sustainable model of material use

How do we break this nexus between depleting our ecological resources, while improving economic growth and standards of living? Here are some policy solutions:

  1. Set goals for sustainable material use, with an action plan that includes measuring and setting targets for reducing our material footprint. Australia presently has a range of policy strategies that target different aspects of our material consumption and disposal. These range from the National Waste Action Plan (and similar strategies by the states and territories), to various infrastructure, manufacturing, and innovation programs that include the circular economy and new materials as priority sectors for development.A holistic national circular economy action plan is needed: one that goes beyond waste and recycling targets to consider all parts of the materials supply chain contributing to our consumption activity, with a view to reducing our material footprint. For example, the European Parliament has called on the European Commission to propose science-based binding EU targets for 2030 to significantly reduce the EU’s material and consumption footprints, and bring them within planetary boundaries by 2050. Independent researchers have even suggested, for example, a target cap on household resource use based on their material footprint, such as in this study from Finland. For Australia, a first step towards such a national action plan could be for governments to embed metrics to track our consumption and material footprints, and resource productivity and sufficiency, into policy frameworks to monitor progress and inform implementation. State and territory governments could also consider planning guidelines to maximise industrial symbiosis, such as those incorporated into EU law in 2018 with member states required to promote replicable practices.
  1. Incentives to maximise material reuse. Waste levies and product stewardship schemes, including container deposit schemes, are currently the main policy tools with financial levers for reducing waste across Australian states and territories. These are effective to a point, but by themselves are not going to be enough to reach government waste reduction targets.Further incentives should be considered for households and businesses to reuse, repair or repurpose goods. These may take the form of business incentives for repair shops, concessions for customers using these services, incentives to transition from disposable to reusable materials, and requiring design standards and labelling to facilitate repair and recycling. As a start, the government should implement the Productivity Commission’s Right to Repair report recommendations from 2021 as soon as practicable. Other policy options could include banning unnecessary waste, such as the destruction or disposal of unsold durable goods. Clothing and household goods, for example, typically have a high environmental footprint in their manufacture, are often not easily recycled, and can be donated for reuse, resold, repurposed or recycled. Similar bans have already been introduced in France and are being considered in the EU and Scotland.
  1. Set targets for low-carbon materials or material reuse in publicly funded infrastructure projects where feasible to slow material supply risks. Australia is projected to spend AUD 1.5 trillion in infrastructure development up to 2040. Infrastructure Australia estimates that investment in major public infrastructure over the next five years alone will exceed AUD 218 billion. This presents a significant opportunity to deploy more sustainable low-carbon materials – including recovered materials – into constructing buildings, roads, landscaping, and fit-out materials, among others. This need to slow the depletion of natural resources and shore up materials supply chain resilience is urgent. Demand for materials is expected to rise by 120 per cent over the next three years. Significant supply risks are expected from increased demand for quarried materials such as rock and bluestone (240 per cent), steel (160 per cent) and concrete (110 per cent). Beyond ramping up efforts to recover all reusable demolition waste generated through development projects, governments at all levels will also need to work with industry and groups such as the Materials and Embodied Carbon Leaders’ Alliance to find new solutions to drive reductions in embodied carbon in the built environment.
  1. Industry development policy to accelerate the supply and take-up of sustainable and low-carbon products. We need more sustainable products to reduce our material footprint. At the same time, we need to develop market depth and innovation to create commercially self-sustaining markets for these emerging products.Currently, Australia’s federal manufacturing policy is based on six sector-specific roadmaps. Of these, two focus on improving our use of natural resources and materials: resources technology and critical minerals processing, and recycling and clean energy. A more holistic version of this approach is needed in a sustainable product policy framework that connects research and industry policy with the material productivity targets. This framework must cover all stages of product development, including product design as it can determine more than 80 per cent of a product’s environmental impact over its lifecycle. The European Commission’s recent proposal to introduce Ecodesign for Sustainable Products regulation (repealing their 2009 Ecodesign Directive) is an example of such policy action.

Another critical policy lever is through government procurement frameworks, which can be strengthened to prioritise sustainable and low-carbon products and service models to support the proposed material and carbon reduction targets. This can be supplemented by public reporting of progress towards targets. Japan’s Ministry of the Environment, for example, discloses estimates of greenhouse gas reductions brought about by its green public procurement actions.

Economic growth and positive environmental outcomes are often viewed as a hard trade-off. However, in the case of the circular economy there are some clear solutions to overcome this dilemma: by maximising the productivity of the materials we use and, by doing so, reducing waste. This generates both economic and environmental benefits.

As Australia continues to rebuild from the pandemic and local natural disasters, there has never been a better time to focus on turning our waste and resource supply challenges into an opportunity for a stronger and more resilient economy.

Dr Kar Mei Tang is Chief Circular Economist with NSW Circular. Her work focuses on how environmental and economic policy can intersect to bring about better local and global outcomes. Her experience spans many years of senior executive and governance roles in these fields in the public and private sectors, in Australia and internationally.

Caption: A circular economy generates both environmental and economic benefits. Materials recovery facility in Australia. (Photo by Peter Virag/iStock)

2022-10-24T10:23:39+11:009 May 2022|
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