Connecting the dots: my personal journey towards a circular, collaborative future
Distancing myself from the daily work hustle and bustle, gave me the opportunity to draw powerful lessons and allow them to sink in. After 18 months of traveling with my family in 2003 and 2011, two things really got through: people all over the world want a better future for their children. And if you believe in this future, you have to get involved creating it.
My personal drivers: improve the world, let others grow, keep adapting
A big part of my professional career and personal life I have dedicated to causes I believe in: 16 years in the Royal Netherlands Navy, 11 years in hospitals, close to 3 years in politics, among other things. Always from a belief that I have to give my best effort to propel people and organisations forward. And always with the objective to serve the customer, the patient, the taxpayer, my colleagues, or whoever I considered the true beneficiary of my activities, best.
My key achievements were in enhancing cooperation within and between organisations - for instance with mergers of hospitals - and in reducing complexity. This helped people get, or sometimes regain, trust in a clear future, and subsequently develop and execute a step-by-step approach towards this future.
‘The Age of Access’: my first conscious encounter with circular economy principles
My first conscious encounter with circular economy principles was in 2001, when I was writing an article and I was suggested to read Jeremy Rifkin’s ‘The Age of Access: The New Culture of Hypercapitalism Where All of Life Is a Paid-For Experience’. Although I hadn’t heard about a ‘circular economy’ yet, the book was about going circular.
In the article I wrote that Rifkin argues that ownership of physical goods is becoming less important and access-providing companies will try to commodify almost any human experience. Companies will try to become the trusted intermediary for a customer, and aim for a lifetime relationship. My wife and subsequently decided not to build that second house; and some years later we didn’t own a car for some years. Our first circular steps.
Travelling broadened my view
The traveling experiences I mentioned, were a catalyst for a more profound insight: we live in the Anthropocene - a human-influenced era, with overwhelming global evidence that atmospheric, geologic, hydrologic, biospheric and other earth system processes are now altered by humans. Even in a vast open country like Australia for instance, several species were under severe pressure by the expansion of agriculture areas.
Getting involved, leaving my comfort zone
Late 2015 I decided to leave my comfort zone and really get involved in contributing to a world with a sustainable future, substantially reducing the negative effects of the Anthropocene. I quit my job in the healthcare industry and started a journey into ‘sustainability’.
Early 2016 I had the chance to be co-author of a white paper of De Groene Zaak (the leading sustainable business association in The Netherlands), aimed at all the Dutch political parties for the parliamentary elections in March 2017. And mid 2016 I joined the board of Liberaal Groen ("Liberal Green"), to influence the Dutch liberal party VVD towards a more sustainable and circular future form within.
Joining Innoboost to help businesses go circular
Recently I decided to join Innoboost. Our values are aligned: businesses can be a force for good; it starts with your personal commitment for positive impact; and starting from the customer needs is the best way to innovate. Innoboost supports organisations in taking their first step towards a business model where customers pay for the experience. We help them to start experimenting!
Innoboost has already worked on inspiring circular experiments, like supporting Mud Jeans to strengthen their lease-a-jeans concept and Vereijken Hooijer to work on more circular business models in the pig industry
My strength of enhancing collaboration between existing or new partners in the value chain is of key importance for realizing innovative, circular outcomes. It often requires executives to leave the comfort zone of their existing business model. Shaping new collaborations for a circular futures and a step-by-step execution is where I specifically see my added value.
Towards a circular future: start experimenting
Although Steve Jobs said “You can't connect the dots looking forward”, I will give it a try.
I am convinced that people are becoming more and more aware of the challenges we face in shaping a future that does not destroy our environment. The change can start on any level of an organisation. As Mahatma Gandhi said: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” I add to that: start experimenting, evaluate the results and make your next step.
As Rifkin already suggested, customers will increasingly value access to functionality over possession of goods. Why own a car, if you really need mobility? Why keep a pasta-maker and a crepe cooker crammed into our cupboards? Just order them when you need them. When products are turned into services, no one has an interest in things with a short life span. Everything is designed for durability, repairability and recyclability.
And policymakers need to do their part too. The most promising measure for circularity: lower taxes on labour. This strongly supports business models aimed at service / maintenance, repair, refurbishment, and recycling. The Ex’Tax Project proposed a detailed plan for the Netherlands, with a € 33 billion tax shift from labour to resources (read more).
Collaborate for this circular future
Do you also believe in this circular future? Start collaborating with existing and new partners to create it. Let’s have a coffee if you want to start this journey!