‘Once the circular seed is planted, the groundwork is laid for things to develop’

‘Once the circular seed is planted, the groundwork is laid for things to develop’


‘THE GREAT 8 OF CE’ is a blog series in which we ask Gispen employees eight questions about the circular economy. From our managing director to our factory workers, from the receptionist to the Support Manager. Every department is paid a visit, going through all layers of the origination. Transparency is vital for making the circular economy a success, and for this reason we are showing you how we are transitioning towards fully circular entrepreneurship.

De professional aan het woord

'Mijn meest succesvolle productontwikkeling zit hem niet in één product of actie. Het succes bestaat vooral uit het bij elkaar brengen van mensen, denkpatronen, ontwerpen, materialen. Door anderen te enthousiasmeren en mensen mee te nemen in ons verhaal ontstaan samenwerkingen die écht de wereld een beetje beter maken.'

'Als je eenmaal het circulaire zaadje geplant hebt, zie je het overal uit de grond omhoog schieten'

Sarah Schiffer Product& Concept Manager

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What is the definition of CE in your opinion?

Getting rid of the notion of ‘waste’. By taking care of your products and materials, allowing them to be used forever, or by adopting a new mindset that does not include discarding things.

What does the circular economy mean to you?

I consider the circular economy to be a combination of altruism and self-interest. By not being selfish and considering the environment on the one hand, but still utilising a viable business model on the other. This may seem contradictory, but it does appear to work in practice. A great example of this is our Sett sofa, which is made from 100% recycled material. The idea behind the design was to limit the amount of plastic that floats around in the ocean, but how do you make this a financial success? We can’t include the sofa in our collection if no one wants to buy it, so we came up with all kinds of clever ways to make money off plastic and, as is turns out, it works. By finally adding so much value to plastic that you are left with a designer sofa! This is what really gets me going and what is, in my opinion, the epitome of the circular economy.

How do you apply this philosophy at home?

My plastic-bag phobia is driving my boyfriend nuts. I always insist that we take our own bag when we go shopping. I just won’t ‘waste’ another plastic bag at the cash register. In addition, I separate my household waste; paper, plastic, organic waste, glass, we have a separate container for everything. Also I try to be conscious of what I buy. I’d rather spend more on a single item that I really enjoy (and keep enjoying) than buying cheap stuff time after time that just keeps breaking, which I really dislike.

Why are you engaged in this at home?

Because I believe that it all starts with yourself. I know, it’s such a cliché, but it’s true. Now that I am so deeply involved in the process at work, I can’t seem to shake off this mindset and automatically apply it when I’m at home.

Are you noticing that Gispen is in a transition toward a circular economy?

Ik geloof eigenlijk dat we al om zijn naar een circulaire economie. Ok, we zijn er nog niet helemaal, maar we kunnen zeker niet meer terug. Wanneer je eenmaal de circulaire manier van denken als een zaadje geplant hebt zie je het overal uit de grond omhoog schieten. Zo gaat het ook bij Gispen.

Which country/company/initiative serves as an inspiration to you?

I think that Interface with its fishing net carpets is the best example because this was the first concrete (and feasible) action that I became aware of when I started getting involved in the circular economy. Fishing nets posed a big problem in Asia, and the people were not by any means motivated to do something about it because there was nothing in it for them. Interface came up with the clever idea to pay the fishermen to pull the nets out of the ocean, so that Interface could make carpets out of the material. Such a great idea! The circle is complete because all the parties involved could make money out of it, but also because the idea is very appealing.

What is the best possible circular service for our clients?

The fact that you, as a supplier, share the responsibility for a product with your client. This is a true win-win situation because the supplier creates a product that functions optimally and retains its value and the client – in his turn – takes extra good care of it. It won’t work if someone in the chain doesn’t stick to the agreement, so both parties need to be fully invested. I’m convinced that the best possible circular partnership is formed when both parties take their responsibility and trust one another. There is lots to gain for everyone in a circular economy; you really can get a good deal out of it.

Please share your CE success story

My most successful product development can’t be found in one particular product or action. The success is most tangible in bringing people, mindsets, designs and materials together. By inspiring others and including people in our circular economy, partnerships are created that truly make the world a better place. The biggest success lies in the trust that Gispen has placed in me to work on the transition towards a circular business model.