We are delighted to welcome circular economy consultants Thijs Maartens and Juan Bakker to our team. They will work as consultants within the Environment, Health and Safety area of expertise at Philips Innovation Services – and share our passion to create a better world for current and future generations. In this interview, Thijs & Juan tell us more about their passion aims working for Philips Innovation Services.
What inspired you to choose a career in circular economy?
Thijs – The combination of being able to do good and do well at the same time. I come from a family of healthcare professionals. Doing good and taking care of ourselves and the people around us is in our genes. Unlike my father and two of my three sisters, I did not study medicine. However, I do share with them a passion for improving the lives of others. I deliberately chose to combine a background in business with an integrated view on sustainability. Because I believe the most effective and efficient way to create a better world for current and future generations is through business.
Juan – As a biologist, and growing up in developing countries, the effects of traditional production and consumption on societies as well as natural systems has been painfully clear to me. I firmly believe however, that rethinking the way we produce and use products and services can lead to profits on all fronts, including business. Rather than just focusing on what’s wrong in traditional systems, I prefer to take opportunities to change for the better. Circular economy is an appealing field to be active in, especially because it focuses on opportunities.
Where have you worked prior to joining Philips Innovation Services?
Thijs – I see my career as a professional field hockey player as my first working experience. Playing in the top teams in both the Dutch and Belgian league and having had the opportunity to represent my country in the national team, I got exposed to high performance team environments at a very early age. During this time, I combined my studies with daily training sessions. When I graduated, I combined my work as a strategy consultant in the domain of private and public partnerships in sports with my sports career. Soon thereafter, I moved to Belgium where I had the opportunity to be a partner and co-found two successful and sustainability focused start-ups. In this role, I learned what it takes to run a business and started enjoying responsibility to manage different teams.
Before coming to Philips, I worked for an American NGO and was responsible for the broadening, deepening and scaling up of the Cradle to Cradle Products Program across different European markets. In this capacity I became familiar with the systemic dynamics of the circular economy and the corporate needs related to realizing value in a circular economy. I moved from start-up to NGO to a corporate environment. A little A-typical, just like me.
Juan – During my studies I combined my subject (biology) with a specialization in Science, Management & Innovation. Combining the two, my graduation project was on the future of bioplastics in the packaging industry, on behalf of one of the Netherlands’ largest banks. The combination of working on sustainability topics in a corporate environment appealed to me, so I started my professional career at a private consultancy firm. I consulted manufacturing companies, producing products varying from packaging materials to building elements, and from start-ups to multinationals, on how to redesign their products and processes to make them ready for a ‘safe and circular’ economy – from a strategic to a molecular level. After that, I worked for the Dutch National Institute for Public Health & the Environment as an advisor on the same ‘safe and circular’ topics, with the main difference being that I was now advising national governments and ministries rather than businesses. During the latter period, I really learned to zoom out, because the perspective switched from improving a single product line or group, to (inter)national material flows.
How would you describe yourself as a circular economy consultant?
Thijs – I see myself as a pollinator. Radical collaboration is key in a circular economy. I work from the understanding that my most important skill is to show how we can learn from each other and from ourselves. Complex challenges often need complex solutions. This means that as circular economy consultant it is important to connect experts from different domains, stay open to unpredictable outcomes and guide and guard processes towards regenerative solutions. Being able to zoom in is just as important as being able to zoom out in my role. As a circular economy consultant, I work from the moonshot to the molecule (and back).
Juan – I completely agree that circular economy challenges need to be approached from an integral perspective. Circular economy is truly a multi-disciplinary field of work which requires expertise from materials and design, to supply chains and production, and new business models and IT, to name some. I see myself as a ‘jack of all trades’ within the broad picture, able to recognize integral value throughout the chain. I do have a special affinity with materials and their connections. Material selection and product design define such a large part of a product’s integral value, from carbon efficiency and storage, and the effect on human and environmental health, to the end-of-use potential.
Last question: which challenges do you like to tackle?
Thijs – For me circular design (including material health) is a foundational and necessary building block for a circular business and/or ecosystem. Changing rules, roles, relationships and resources to help achieve desired outcomes often starts with a vision of regenerative design. I am very passionate about circular design. It is something that you can wake me up for.
Juan – Again I must agree with Thijs. ‘Safe and circular’ design (specifically the combination) is a cornerstone for an effective circular economy and despite all the work done so far, there is still so much left to do. I feel that there’s an overall sense of urgency within corporate environments towards positive change. I see it as my job to help translate long-term ambitions into concrete actions for today and tomorrow and am excited to be part of these developments.
Read more about Circular economy consultancy one of our services from the Environment, Health & Safety key area of expertise.
If you need support in the field of circular economy, please feel free to contact Thijs or Juan directly.