When I was in Guatemala at the beginning of this year, I began to explore a sustainable business concept with my uncle, who is a shrimp farmer. He was telling me about how some regions in Guatemala are loosing up to 20% of their local economy due to plastic contamination killing the fish. Since most of the contamination came from plastic bags, we wanted to make reusable shopping bags made out of Tul (plant that grows in abundance in lakes) to replace single-use plastic bags, a concept that has been used all over the world now. Our concept had three main benefits. There will be a demand for labor because the bags would be created by local artisans, there would be a reward for capital because supermarkets would eliminate the millions in plastic bag cost and transfer the cost of our bags to the consumer (while promoting a positive brand image), and there would be a positive environmental impact by decreasing the use of this wasteful bags.
I had to return to the U.S before we launched the idea but there was a really interesting thing that we realized when we did research on what would be the best way to implement the idea. In order for the concept of reusable bags to work, we needed to get the backing of ONE of the following groups or entities: the government (the law), the supermarkets (businesses), or the consumers.
Think about it. Much like in the plastic bag ban in Rwanda, if the law says that we cant have single-use products, no matter what business want to produce, or what people want to consume, the product will eventually seize to exist. If businesses refuse to produce single-use items, there is no way that they will end up in landfills or in the ocean. And even if they are not illegal, if consumers refuse to use these products, or better yet, demand renewable and reusable products, business would have an incentive to comply.
I believe a good approach that can lead us to create a Circle Economy, is to understand how we can leverage these groups and entities at a high-level and what triggers them to action.
1) Governments : They might be interested in reducing waste management costs, reducing deaths due to contamination (floods caused by drains clogged with waste, or toxic air pollution), improve local economies that depend on fishing, increase tourism, or attract people to move to a cleaner environment to stimulate the economy.
2) Businesses: They can seek cost reductions in better products and leaner supply chains, adhering to markets who ask for more environmental conscious products and services, positive PR can improve brand perception, or they might have a genuine desire for creating shared value and creating an impact.
3) Consumers: People get motivated to but things that are a good bargain and that also provide come lever of convenience. But consumers can also be triggered by a sense of contribution and belonging to a trend or movement.
4) Other: The previous three are the ones that I could come up with but this "Levers and Triggers" approach could be used for any group that could make a difference.
After knowing who these groups are and what triggers them, THEN we can leverage the innovations, methodologies, discoveries, products, and business models that we have all shared in this Research Phase to inspire action.