case study

A Roadmap to Circularity for Wannon Water


Wannon Water hopes to be a regional leader in circularity by 2025. For the South West Victoria water services provider, the shift to circularity requires reexamining their operations and inspiring organisational mindset shifts.

Motivated by the increasing pressures of climate change, population growth, changing consumption patterns and regulatory requirements, Wannon Water knew it was time for a purposeful and holistic transition to circularity.

They approached us to help them co-design a circular economy roadmap, creating an intentional and tangible path towards their 2025 goal. With more than 100,000 residents and thousands of businesses relying on their services, the course of action needed to be robust, comprehensible, and have the potential to inspire and rally other businesses in the region.

case study

The Challenge

Traditional business models operate on a linear economy model, a ‘take-make-waste’ approach that exhausts resources. In contrast, the circular economy proposes a closed-loop system, prioritising the reuse and recycling of materials.
Having made circularity shifts before – such as reclaiming biosolids from wastewater to spread on farmland – Wannon Water was familiar with the premise of circularity. But as a large organisation with regional influence, they knew they could do more.

Wannon Water identified that a roadmap to circularity, co-created with ThinkPlace, could help them overcome a number of challenges, including:

  • Abiding with regulatory compliance: New regulatory requirements, such as those outlined in Recycling Victoria, mandate the integration of circular economy principles into business decisions and reporting targets.
  • Enhancing material flow management: Waste generation, recycling, and disposal are a massive operation at Wannon Water. They wanted to improve the management and understanding of these material flows.
  • Influencing a mindset shift: A desire to facilitate a shift in organisational mindset and culture, with the hope to embed circular economy principles into everyday operations and decision-making processes.

This project with Wannon Water aimed to undertake a comprehensive analysis of the company’s operations, identify circular economy opportunities and develop a roadmap and strategies to bring these opportunities to fruition. Our experience in stakeholder engagement and facilitation, strategic planning, and roadmap development proved the perfect co-pilot for Wannon Water to strive towards its circular economy goals.

Our Response

Contextualising the journey to circularity

After first establishing a core design team (which included employees of Wannon Water), we then set about understanding the current state of Wannon Water’s circularity efforts. We engaged environmental and engineering consultancy Tonkin + Taylor to undertake a comprehensive analysis of Wannon Water’s operations. They produced a Material Flow Assessment, which, when combined with our own desktop research, helped us set an intent for the project.

The essence of co-design is engaging the people who will use the service you’re creating or fixing, so we conducted 29 interviews with both internal and external stakeholders to serve as a launch pad for the rest of the project.

Identifying circular economy opportunities
Having grasped attitudes, concerns and details from our interviews, we then dove deeper with key stakeholders conducting two co-design workshops with both Wannon Water staff and external stakeholders.

Additionally, we set up a pop-up circular economy hub at the Wannon Water office. The hub was open for a week and gave staff the chance to stop by whenever they had a question or had thoughts to share.

We then had a prioritisation workshop with our core design team, distilling the most effective steps and strategies to create a robust roadmap.

Image: Wannon Water co-design workshop

The Outcome

The key deliverable of this project was the Wannon Water Circular Economy Roadmap 2023-2025. By creating this roadmap, along with supporting resources, we’ve empowered Wannon Water with a clear pathway to circularity. Through tangible outcomes, assigning key roles, and creating a clear timeline for achieving goals, the Wannon Water Circular Economy Roadmap sets the path for sustainable transformation.

Image: The Wannon Water Circular Economy Roadmap 2023-2025

Our collaboration with Wannon Water also kickstarted a range of valuable actions. Here are just some of the outcomes this project achieved:

  1. An integration of circular economy principles at an organisational strategy level
  2. Improved waste management practices
  3. Enhanced stakeholder engagement and collaboration
  4. Achieved regulatory compliance
  5. Inspired knowledge-sharing and capacity building, supported by a toolkit that outlined the process taken

Finally, the success of this project prompted Wannon Water to engage us again, asking us to create a resource for staff education. Our circular economy visualisation aims to inspire dedication and action at an individual employee level. Read more about our second collaboration with Wannon Water here.

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