Jules and Raphael, our two entrepreneurs who rhyme "circular economy" with Circul'R
SAOLAventuriers Jules Coignard and Raphael Masvinger are two entrepreneurs, in good standing, on a mission. These two 30-year-old Frenchmen met while working for Airbus in Mexico in 2014, jobs that could be described as the traditional path for all graduates.
United by their mutual passion for the environment, and aware that more needs to be done to protect it, they put aside their jobs and decide to leave for the first world tour of the circular economy.
Their project aims to study and prove that the global community has the resources and solutions available to grow, without causing further damage to the environment.
Seventeen months, 22 countries and 150 meetings later, the two friends have formed the largest network of companies and start-ups in the world, so that they can more easily co-create solutions for an economy respectful of people and of the planet.
The duo was finally kind enough to take a break from their environmental rescue (and surfing trips) to catch up with the circular economy movement, and give it a big boost. And as is often the case with charismatic duos, the conversation was inspiring and enthusiastic, so we let you discover it just below.
Jules surfing a wave in Anglet, France.
SAOLA: Before we go any further, can you explain to me a bit what the "circular economy" is?
CIRCUL'R: The circular economy is simply rethinking the way we do things.
It forces us to use natural resources in a smarter way. If you look at nature, it's the perfect model of the circular economy - a perpetual flow. One animal's waste becomes another's food...things grow, then eventually die; the nutrients then return to the soil and create an environment for new growth. And it's by far the most sustainable and efficient model, compared to us, where we just create-use-throw away.
But to be clearer, we found this VIDEO that really explains it all.
SAOLA: Ah cool. Thanks !
So, since the launch of Circul'R in 2014, how have you seen the movement for a circular economy develop?
CIRCUL'R: When Circul'R was launched, the concept of circular economy was still underdeveloped and not really used. Consumers, businesses, and organizations used the term less, which made it more difficult to start up and fundraise. But since we returned from our world tour four years ago, there has been a big evolution: events, press articles, and even the government have started talking about it and familiarizing the public with the term. Many start-ups have also been created based on this concept. But there is still a lot of work to do. We need to make strategies and practices more concrete and also involve large companies, so that they integrate the circular economy into their strategies. We're moving in the right direction and certainly making progress, and that's promising.
SAOLA: We're seeing more and more brands that are aware of their impact and trying to make an effort, but on the consumer side - is that also the case? Do you think the average consumer is hearing the message and taking action?
CIRCUL'R: Yes it's sure ! I mean, personalities like celebrities, corporations, and NGOs can have an impact in amplifying the message, but the consumer plays a key role through their purchasing decision. They are the ones who will favor one product over another and, therefore, influence the development of one sector over another. Today, we believe there is a global consumer movement towards more sustainable consumption. We are seeing more and more consumers being aware of the impact of the products they consume and holding brands accountable, which is good news. Fortunately, the act of responsible consumption is not based on a single practice - there are many common and daily actions that can have an impact: sorting / recycling waste, refusing single-use plastic, boycotting certain brands...all of these actions can and should become more common practice.
SAOLA: What are the obstacles (if any) to seeing a circular economy develop?
CIRCUL'R: We see three major obstacles to the development of the circular economy:
- The necessary change in mentalities: since the industrial revolution, everything has been done in a linear way, so moving to a circular model first requires people to think differently and change ingrained practices. Complicating matters further is that this change is needed at all levels to make it work – governments, businesses and consumers. It's really hard when we're used to doing things a certain way.
- Business interests: Since the Industrial Revolution, businesses have been developed to support a linear economy, primarily around the use of petroleum, so there is a conflict of interest in moving to a circular economy. Pressure groups are actively trying to slow down change, acceptance of innovations and circular technologies. It's a real problem.
- Profitability: the introduction of the circular economy can sometimes lead to medium / long-term profitability, but can also sometimes go against certain company policies seeking above all a short-term return. This can be very difficult for some companies, requiring a change in mindset. It is difficult to see them in the long term, even if their economic profitability will be excellent, with better performance from an environmental and social point of view.
SAOLA: What are your projects at the moment?
CIRCUL'R: At the association level, we really want to increase the Circul'R network by bringing together more and more start-ups and solutions focused on the circular economy. We have also launched the “Circul'R eco system” label, the objective of which is to label most start-ups and associations that act around the circular economy.
We have also just created the Club Circul'R, to bring together the various players in the circular economy. Large groups will be able to exchange their best practices around the circular economy, and see that they face common challenges. We will also be able to connect them with start-ups that offer solutions through four annual events that we will organize.
SAOLA: Where do you see your organization and the circular economy movement in 5 years?
CIRCUL'R: In five years, we want to bring together 10,000 start-ups and associations within our Circul'R network and have impacted more than 100 large companies in their transition to the circular economy, in order to have maximum environmental impact. We would also like to expand into other countries, replicate our model and adapt it to local cultures and work with locals.
Regarding the circular economy, it is hoped that the legislative framework will have changed, with the elimination of single-use plastics, more taxes on toxic / non-recyclable products and less taxes on environmentally friendly products. environment. We really want to see more start-ups born around this theme, with companies that are really committed to the subject, with a long-term vision and real investments to transform their activity, in order to leave a positive impact on the planet.
SAOLA: And to finish on a more fun touch, what are your plans this summer?
CIRCUL'R: With pleasure ! This summer, I (Raphael) is going to India to attend yoga trainings, both for my personal pleasure and to coach the Circul'r team when we take breaks.
As for Jules, he is getting married soon in the Basque Country, and will then go to Indonesia with his fiancée for their honeymoon. They plan to go surfing, and if possible, see some environmental projects there.
We also have two new members in the team: Stéphanie and Pierre, who are going on a bike tour of the Mediterranean, from Marseille to Athens, to find circular economy solutions that help fight plastic in the sea. Mediterranean. We will surely all meet in Athens at the end of the summer, to take stock and see what we want to implement in the coming year.
SAOLA: Awesome !! Nice program. And congratulations on the wedding! 😊 Anyway, we're really happy to have you as ambassadors at SAOLA, and we can't wait to see your progress. We can only say thank you for your commitment and your efforts towards a more sustainable world.