Contributed by Maxim Mulyadi (EO Indonesia East), the founder of Circularity Coach International, which is on a mission to help entrepreneurs achieve remarkable profits while balancing their purpose and the planet. He is also the co-founder and owner of Pelangi Water, a CPG/beverage brand in Indonesia.
Some say that economic growth and environmental protection are on opposite sides. In many ways, I once felt the same way, until I realized how far it was from the truth.
My journey to prioritize the environment was an organic (no pun intended!) progression: growing up in Indonesia, I experienced first-hand the complex relationships between consumers, businesses, governments, and the planet. When I became a parent, the gravity of the situation hit me hard. I knew what kind of world I wanted my daughter to grow up in, and it was different from how the world seemed to me at the time.
I began to notice what was happening around the world. Things looked bleak, but there were glimmers of hope. At the macro level, GDP per capita in countries such as Denmark, the UK and Italy has grown all while their CO2 emissions continue to decline. Developing countries such as India and China have slowed or stabilized coal consumption as renewable energy sources become cheaper.
I thought: if governments are capable of making transformative changes in their commitments, why haven’t small and medium-sized businesses, entrepreneurs like me, done the same?
I saw an opportunity for people, planet and profit to coexist in harmony. All it would take is a change in mindset stemming from a whole new philosophy on how we lead our businesses. Entrepreneurs, after all, are the engines of change in the world. I knew that if circularity could be made a reality, it would start with entrepreneurs.
Definition of circularity
Above all, circularity is a philosophy: it’s a mindset, a way of thinking and an approach to business that applies to all sectors, regardless of size. It’s about taking actions that harmoniously impact the 3 P’s: people, profits, planet. Specifically, it means:
- Use business as a positive force for the environment
- Create a company culture that values the growth, vulnerability and innate compassion in all people
- Seeing people as more than resources, and seeing work as part of people’s journey to expand their soul
There have been elements of the philosophy of circularity. With my first company, Pelangi Water, a bottled water brand and manufacturing facility, I began to integrate elements of the ‘circular economy’ from a materials management perspective.
However, I quickly realized that circularity is much more than a business practice for manufacturers. Circularity can be applied to any business, including service companies, of any size anywhere in the world. Circularity is a flexible model and could change the world as we know it.
Circularity: leadership and company culture
As entrepreneurs, we’re on a constant quest to find ways to ensure that high-performing talent sees our company as the most attractive place to work. However, after coaching many entrepreneurs, I’ve learned one truth: Our companies can never attract the best talent to help us grow our businesses if we’re not building them an amazing home.
When it comes to building a culture of Circularity, the starting point is within. As leaders, we must be able to self-evaluate and think critically about ourselves before we can evaluate others.
It’s not always easy to do. When I was much younger, I remember not having the ability to self-evaluate or set clear goals for the future.
Once you look inside, the beauty of Circularity is providing a way to value the things around you, starting with the people in your company. Once your purpose is clear, you are ready to activate the circular effect of helping the teams around you expand their souls. His soul expansion feeds your soul expansion; as a result, together we are better equipped to align purpose with profit and the planet.
You want your company to be a place where the entire team can express themselves and reach their full potential, where they feel safe from the fear of retaliation and where they can thrive in their most authentic individuality. The more your culture becomes one where each person is working toward something bigger than themselves, the more joyful energy contributes to innovative thinking and productivity.
The circular effect also affects us as entrepreneurs and leaders. The more you care about the well-being of people, the more you will be in tune with your own well-being and abilities, and the more you can contribute to your mission of harmonizing benefits with the planet.
Rethinking failure, waste and entrepreneurship
One of the key principles of circularity is to rethink the way you experience and manage waste. Historically, this has only applied to material waste, but Circularity can inform you about how to change your perspective on the things you “throw away” as a leader.
Society tells us that “waste” is bad. From missed opportunities to wasted potential to wasted time and wasted business resources, we’re told that anything wasted is akin to failure.
“Waste” is actually a human invention. Nature does not understand or use waste; all that is rejected returns to the earth.
Growing up in Indonesia, I’ve always felt a tension between the most beautiful natural world you can imagine and the man-made “waste” that seeps into the natural world.
But examining nature made me realize that waste is always part of a larger circular pattern. In nature, waste is food. Nature does not eliminate waste; nature channels it.
A circular mindset helps you rethink the “waste” that entrepreneurs often focus on. Instead of automatically feeling that negative emotions should be dissipated and forgotten, Circularity reminds us that negative emotions can be channeled for positive impact, recycled to fuel your growth.
Similarly, Circularity reframes how we see failure. Entrepreneurs (myself included) are known for prioritizing achievements. However, failure, like waste, is a key component of the cyclical process of success; cannot be dismissed, ignored or deleted. It is precisely from failure that success is often born: how many stories have you heard about entrepreneurs, scientists or explorers who failed numerous times before finally succeeding? Success and failure are part of the same circular spectrum. The careful management of both, for me, exemplifies the truest entrepreneurial spirit.
My perspective has changed dramatically since my childhood in Indonesia. I once felt cynical about the ability to strike a perfect balance between business growth and the world we live in. Today I know that balance can be achieved with the right mindset. Growth is not an enemy of the planet. Profit, people and the planet can be allies that contribute to the development of others for the benefit of all.
My plea: become a circularity entrepreneur like me. Together, we can build profitable businesses while leaving the world a better place for our children.
Don’t know where to start? The journey to achieving a Circularity mindset begins within. The rest will follow, naturally.
For more information and inspiration from today’s top entrepreneurs, take a look EO to Inc. and more articles from the EO blog.