‘We should stop trying to establish a uniform definition of CE’

‘We should stop trying to establish a uniform definition of CE’

THE GREAT 8 OF CE

‘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.

The professional’s thoughts

Gispen is in the middle of a transition toward a circular economy. We talk about it every single day. It does have an effect on people. Some aren’t convinced yet, others have fully embraced it and go out trying new things in their spare time. The best example, in my opinion, is that of an armrest that we had to match to an existing office chair in response to a tender request. We could not find an armrest that would fit. One weekend, one of my colleagues from the factory set out working on a solution in his shed at home. Monday he knocked at the door of my office: ‘Look what I made’.

Rick Veenendaal Manager circular economy

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What is the definition of CE in your opinion?

There is no definition of CE. To me, it is a philosophical way of thinking, where you think about materials, systems and energy. How can we utilise these efficiently and how can we close the loops? I think that we should stop trying to establish a uniform definition of CE. It’s similar to the concept of democracy; simply impossible to define.

What does the circular economy mean to you?

Keep thinking about why you do the things you do and sometimes move out of your comfort-zone and try a different approach. I think that deep-down we all believe that throwing things away is a shame. It’s not a coincidence that my grandparents always told me: ‘Finish your plate, we’re not throwing it away, it might come in useful’. Why buy a new washing machine? This one still works fine. Somewhere along the line we lost that mentality, but now we’re going back to how we did things 100 years ago. Appreciating what we have and taking care of it. We’re going back to our roots. Doing the logical thing.

How do you apply this philosophy at home?

The baby room! Ninety percent of it is reused. My electric BMW i3, however, is not such a good example. Although it does have all kinds of recycled, reused materials in it, supplemented with renewable materials made from plants. I’m not that good at sorting household waste. I have an apartment in the centre of town, and if you separate your plastic from your other refuse it starts to smell. It’s just not practical, which tells me that a circular economy should be easy, practical. And as a company, you should also be able to make a profit from it. There is nothing wrong with that.

You should – of course – make an effort, up to a certain point. We can get all wound up over the fact that flying produces high CO2 emissions. But the reality is that globalisation is an active process and all evidence suggests that this is a growing phenomenon. Therefore, we should just figure out a more clever and efficient way. This also holds true to sorting waste. Supermarkets, for example, don’t offer me the option whether I would like packaging material or not. I come home with 30 wrappings, mostly plastic. I do bring my own shopping bags. And if I come across rubbish on the street, I throw it in the bin.

Why are you engaged in this at home?

We have furnished our baby room in a circular way because we know we’ll only use everything for a limited period of time. I therefore only find it natural that you pass it on to someone else once you are done with it. A sofa, on the other hand, can last 15 to 20 years. So in that case I would be less inclined to buy a second-hand item; investing in a new product can be worth it.

Clothing is a different story. I have seriously considered leasing a pair of trousers, which you can do via MUD jeans, for example. But I’m not convinced because I currently have between 8 and 10 pairs of trousers in my wardrobe and if I were to pay a monthly fee for all of them, that would not do my checking account any good. I do deposit all my old clothes in the Humane clothes container, where the items are given a new lease of life.

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

Yes, because they hired me. We talk about it every single day. Some aren’t convinced yet, others have fully embraced it and go out trying new things in their spare time. The best example, in my opinion, is that of an armrest that we had to match to an existing office chair in response to a tender request. We could not find an armrest that would fit. One weekend, one of my colleagues from the factory set out working on a solution in his shed at home. Monday he knocked at the door of my office: ‘Look what I made’. I also come across people who deliberately avoid certain things, because they simply don’t know what to expect. A kind of anxiety. This tells me that the circular economy is becoming tangible. Some colleagues are under a lot of pressure in certain areas of our organisation, and change is not always welcome when you’re in that position, I appreciate that. But we are certainly on the right path; we are investing time, effort, money and people’s own time into this change.

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

I was watching a documentary about India the other day. It showed how efficient the people in the slums work with the materials that are available to them. Examples like this really get me excited. It’s so straightforward; they work with what they have, nothing more nothing less. I have seen many great examples in my trips across Asia. People make do with whatever is available. Six people on a moped, piglet in between. We all laugh and have opinions about it, but we don’t realise they actually have super efficient ways of working with what they have. Plastic bottles are collected on every street corner. When you walk down the street people ask you whether they can have your bottle, because they either want to use it themselves or trade it in for some money. This is in fact a real clever revenue model that prevents the spreading of waste at the same time.

What is the best possible circular service for our clients?

Rendering a service. We provide a ‘seating solution’ or ‘a healthy interior design’. What we are really saying: Gispen provides you with an interior that always meets your requirements. For me, this is the best possible circular service we can provide. The ultimate goal. A package that includes design, manufacture, delivery and even working with environmental psychologists to eventually provide the perfect service. ‘We offer a great place to work'. Which is our mission. We are no longer in the sales business. No, you are judged by your achievements. In addition, you are responsible for how your products are being used and how you shape the material loops. This is how we gain right to exist in a circular economy. Salesmen become consultants. Our interior architects are already part scientist, which is a good step in the right direction.

Please share your CE success story

I have a really neat baby crib, of cast iron, that has been in use for many generations. And I will certainly pass it on to the next generation. It was quite an emotional farewell for the people I bought it from. They told me they had had it in the family for a long time. We are now greatly enjoying it and we will keep it in the family for many years!

Thank you, Rick. To whom will you pass on ‘THE GREAT EIGHT OF CE’?

I would like to pass on the baton to Maikel Ruijs, our sales tiger!

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