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How collaboration can support implementation of circular economy principles in Wales with the support of digital tools / SOPHIE MULLINS

Swansea University Author: SOPHIE MULLINS

Abstract

This thesis presents a qualitative exploration of the role of collaboration in the pursuit of circular economy outcomes, and the part that digital tools can potentially play. The research was carried out in the Welsh context and involved a number of actors. The currency of the research topic is sign...

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Published: Swansea
Institution: Swansea University
Degree level: Master of Research
Degree name: MSc by Research
Supervisor: Brooks, Simon ;
URI: https://cronfa.swan.ac.uk/Record/cronfa59517
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Abstract: This thesis presents a qualitative exploration of the role of collaboration in the pursuit of circular economy outcomes, and the part that digital tools can potentially play. The research was carried out in the Welsh context and involved a number of actors. The currency of the research topic is significant. Within the sustainability field the emerging discourse and practice around the Circular Economy is especially fertile ground for exploration. In particular, the need for collaboration seems axiomatic to allow the systemic functioning of the circular economy, but little is currently understood about the nature of that collaboration and the form that it takes. Chapter one of the thesis sets out the definitional work to contextualise the rest of the document. Circular Economy practice in the UK context is evolving at a pace which means that research is in some senses trying to ‘catch up’, to help understand and make sense of how Circular Economy is thought about and implemented. For this reason, this thesis not only explores the peer-reviewed literature on the Circular Economy, but also offers a chapter setting out the landscape in terms of reports based in practice and policy. The evaluation of the policy and practice context undertaken in chapter two shows clearly that Wales is a particularly rich context for research, given that the principles of sustainable development are written into the Government of Wales Act (1998) that established the Welsh Assembly. These principles are now made law through the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act (2015). Chapter three builds on this and addresses itself to the peer reviewed literature on the Circular Economy, seeking to define Circular Economy, identify its genealogy and key features, and locate it in wider debates on sustainability. In addition, implementation is considered, which links forward to the next chapter bringing together Circular Economy and collaboration. The data was gathered through in-depth interviews carried out with twelve key respondents in Wales, including former government ministers, practitioners from companies both large and small, and senior civil servants. Content analysis of the interview transcripts showed that implementation of the Circular Economy requires further exploration before a digital tool is selected for the Welsh context. The speed of change in the current context of the developing area of Circular Economy means that deciding the best way to use technology presents a challenge. A common theme emerged in that collaboration based on relationships needs to be more fully constructed before digital tools could be usefully employed. A clearer understanding of the current landscape is important. A key challenge was presented by all respondents suggesting that one blanket technology or digital approach could not currently be effective. While recognising the bounded nature of this thesis, and the clear need for future research, both a conceptual and practical contribution is proposed. Firstly, the research presents a model for collaboration for circular economy implementation, with four key stakeholders, consumer, government, business and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). It is proposed that this model could form the basis for further empirical exploration using a variety of methods. Secondly, it is proposed that the Welsh economy could benefit from implementing circular principles. The context is fertile, with a variety of actors potentially supporting Circular Economy initiatives. Wales could provide an opportunity for research surrounding circular economy implementation; respondents argue that the scale of the institutions in Wales offers a more welcoming than larger nations such as England. The suggested model, regional level and development of the circular economy research provide an environment for circular economy implementation and the exploration of digital tools in future.
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College: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences