Transcript: Circular Economy in Healthcare and the Pharmaceutical Industry with Frederick van Deurs
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Katherine Whalen [00:00:03] Hey, they're Getting in the Loop, listeners. Ever wondered what can be done in your industry to help create more circular economy? To mark the one year anniversary of the Getting in the Loop Podcast, I've put together a short e-book to help you navigate key circular trends in textiles and apparel, ICT and electronics and packaging. And it includes links to related reports as well as relevant Getting in the Loop podcast episodes. It's yours to receive when you join up to our podcast newsletter at CircularSectors.GettingInTheLoopPodcast.com. So head over to our web site to get your copy of the Circular Sectors Navigator. That's again, CircularSectors.GettingInTheLoopPodcast.com.
[00:00:52] Hi, I'm Katie Whalen, and join me each week, I talk with experts around the globe about Circular economy. You'll find out what's being done to make it a reality and if it can really solve the problems it promises. It's time for Getting in the Loop.
[00:01:07] Thank you so much for tuning into the Getting in the Loop Podcast. Today, Frederik Van Deurs joins us on the podcast. Based in Copenhagen, Denmark, Frederik is the CEO of the Green Innovation Group, which has worked with pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk in a circular innovation challenge. Today, you will learn about this challenge and Frederik's takeaways. I really enjoyed our conversation and it got me thinking about circular economy in health care and how to address consumable products in a circular way, because Novo Nordisk produces over 500 million insulin pens a year, which are often only used a few times before being disposed. So let's dive into today's podcast and learn what Frederik has to say about the process of working with Novo Nordisk to look into plastic alternatives, take back solutions and the possibilities to use enzyme waste to produce new products.
[00:02:09] Welcome to the Getting in the Loop Podcast. I'm really excited to have you here today. And I would just love for you to start off by saying where you're calling from today.
Frederik Van Deurs [00:02:20] Excellent. I am calling directly from Bloks Hub, which just a Sustainability and Innovation, Urban Innovation Hub in the heart of Copenhagen and it's a really interesting place to work. You could say that it's a place that connects all of the people that have an interest in the built environment and an interest in making cities better and more livable. And, of course, that that fits right into our agenda and Green Innovation Group, where we work to make green business good business. And we do that by advising the major public and private bodies on green innovation and the green transition. So being here at the heart of the city of Copenhagen in the hub, that is sort of the hotspot for sustainable innovation, for Circular economy, for the built environment, that's that's really exciting sport. So, I mean, I'm glad to be here and I'm really excited about this podcast. So thank you so much for having me here.
Katherine Whalen [00:03:23] Of course, we actually we met face to face the first time at the World Circular economy Forum last year and two thousand nineteen. And now just thinking about that feels like such a different world like when we could all meet together in one one place. And oh, I'm longing for that.
Frederik Van Deurs [00:03:43] I think the Sauna Parties of the World Circular economy Forum in Helsinki that is something that is quite unimaginable in today's I'm only saying day and age, right? And it's just a year ago. That was an amazing conference, really. A shout out to sea as well for organizing such an amazing event. That was hands down the best conference I've ever been to. It was absolutely amazing.
[00:04:10] You had 2500 attendees and I didn't speak to a single person that did not have. A great professional connection and also a personal connection with. So it was just a very, very high quality facilitation and invitation of of the individuals that were there gathered from all over the world. Which, of course, would be completely impossible to do today. But hopefully we will be in a place soon enough where a gathering like that will become possible. But I'd also say that, you know, from that conference along. I would probably not need to attend many more conferences. Know, if I if I could just sort of harvest the benefits and the connections from from that one conference, then then I think, you know, if we actually can do the gathering's physical gatherings of humans into something as efficient as this, then then I think that in a relatively short time that could become possible again. I agree.
Katherine Whalen [00:05:17] I think, as you said, it was exceptionally well run. And one of the things that stuck out to me especially was the what to call it. But the networking app, I don't know if you use that at all.
Frederik Van Deurs [00:05:32] Yeah, I did. It work better than any other app that I've tried at a conference? So that was a it was also quite impressive to me all to work. We have done a lot of events, organization ourselves, and we've always chosen not to run with an app and then done, you know, a human curated facilitation of introductions since that which I mean, it always works if you have someone making there. Have you met Ted Intro then, you know, it's it just strikes something when it's a human doing it. But I think now Covid19 times, there's a fair chance that we have become more even more digitalized as human beings, meaning that I find that when I do introductions on Linkedin, for instance, between stakeholders that should just really meet and chat with one another, and those connections thicken can much, much faster than they did a year ago. So, you know, I think that there's also some some quite obvious advantages in terms of cross country collaboration and virtual collaboration models that that are all part of the transition into a circular economy as well, where we're looking at quite complex systems, complex systems of actors that need to speak together in different platforms and across boundaries, across businesses, of course, across industries. And we were not as digitally able a year ago as we are today. And I'm not talking about like a slight incremental increase.
[00:07:14] It's been very impressive to see how the response has actually been and how robust our societies have been compared to, you know, the significance of the blow of not being able to. You know, to have your hospitality industry up and running, to have your your retail industry up and running, you know, all of all of the things that we use to really appreciate in as being part of the human experience or as the work life experience. A lot of that has been removed. And now, you know, I think one of the tendencies we've been talking about for a very long time is that more and more people become city dwellers. And I think with the digital response after Covid19, I think that we're actually putting ourselves in a position where we can flip the switch and urbanization on a global level. If we're bold enough and I think to me that would be quite amazing. You know, if it's if we can rid ourselves of the need to transport, transport ourselves into cities and, you know, on a daily basis and spend one and a half hour and transit each her workday, you know, that that would just be magical. And when we're talking circularity, it would also mean that, you know, the usage of the buildings that we inhabit as humans would just get way, way, way better. Right. You know, since since March, I've been working from home for. I think we we got back into the office in around June. And General, I had entire days where I didn't leave. The house at all. I went to my garden and hung out in my garden and I would, you know, do calls sometimes from the basements, sometimes from the roof, you know, just switch things up a little bit. But everyone listens in. In the same position, in the same situation. So. Normally, for for something between six and 12 hours a day, that asset, that resource would just be empty. And I think that's something that's quite fascinating, that, you know what, if we could design our lives around making the workspace, that physical workspace where we meet together an option that we opt into.
[00:09:38] But we actually get the liberty and the freedom to inhabit a home that is a home with a workstation in it. So, you know, we rid ourselves of so many redundancies that we have in society right now. And another thing that has also fascinated me quite a lot is how trusting people are. You know that we always say in Denmark. That's that's an economy that's built on trust, that, you know, you can walk up to a prime minister, to the CEO of any major corporation. You can you can shake that person's hand as a normal citizen. And I think that's quite extraordinary. But I think after seeing what was working at home has actually meant for the companies that have been digitally capable of doing it and executing it means that, you know, people say that they fueled significantly closer to their families. They say they spent, well, quite obviously significantly less time in transit because they don't know it actually can can also help us to that transition from having. A priority of access to resource rather than ownership of resources, which is to me one of one of the key sort of switches that we need to flip in order to have a transition into circular economy. When we can make that switch, when we can have that trust in one another, we are we are all of a sudden enabling a sharing economy to a two quite a different degree from where we are today, you know, where people always like.
[00:11:12] But, you know, if if I want to rent out my car for six hours, I'm not using it. What about insurance? What about this? What about that? And at the end of the day, I think the insurance industry has shown quite a lot of willingness to actually, you know, take the risk of insuring whatever may come up. I think that has been quite impressive, actually, in the sharing economy, innovation. How many insurance firms have just been like, yeah, that's cool. We can we can insure that, you know, that's one of the places where I would expect more friction in that model. Right. At the same time, we also have, you know, all of the clothing stores that are going bankrupt now because they cannot afford the rent and, you know, the clients not there, they're the Christmas and the other. Why do we even have those stores now? When when you know, it's it's it's an experience to go down. It should become an experience design journey pedestal. Because most most outlets, they don't need it anymore. We've gotten so good at organizing things online. Removing the redundancies, making sure that people get exactly what they need when they need it. You know, we're we're we're we're in a time where I think we are approaching a fashion on demand. And we're also approaching a much more tightly knit together platform economy where you can actually buy and sell used goods secondhand from from consumer to consumer. So when we have these C2C platforms and they start gaining traction, you know, it it actually means that.
[00:12:58] I think that the clothing store will become a thing that we go to as a tourist activity. You know, it'll be something it'll be a leisure activity and not something you do in order to get, you know, get clothing on your body to to, you know, not not get evicted by the police or getting thrown off the streets because you walk around, they get precious up to death or whatever the reasons why people wear clothes, but, you know, I think that there's so many things that we've seen in response to Covid, that I actually kind of fortune-telling rate restaurants, sometimes it can be nice to go out and eat, but most of the time wouldn't we prefer to be able to build the perfect surroundings for me to put on my own music to, you know, set up my own candlelight dinner, if that's what I want, you know, to to create the atmosphere that I crave, that I need in the room where I want to spend my time. And I think that's something that has been quite removed from the human experience that, you know, we're. We are probably deciding to go out and explore, you know, that our brains take quite a lot of joy from that. But I think that to a very high degree, we are also designed to be a bit more in one place than what the modern city dwellers.
[00:14:19] And also be closer to other humans. So so, you know, I think that there's this. Of course, a bit of paradox and what I'm saying now. But what I'm thinking is a lot of restaurants and a lot of delivery services have seen huge booms and take away, of course, because people cannot go out to eat anymore. So they don't do that. But with will run. Centralized kitchen inside a hive of humans. You can actually deliver very high end food with a very little degree of loss in the process. And you can distribute it much more efficiently. So. So. So. I think that is just utilizing our resources in a much better and smarter way, actually. But of course, it also comes with the risk of driving loneliness. You know, if people cannot have humans for human interactions, then I think that's one of the risks that I'm seeing. But then I also see that we're organizing online communities and that that's the thing that, you know. Wouldn't it be magical if we would also stop speaking to your neighbors again as a consequence of this?
Katherine Whalen [00:15:26] It's actually gotten me to interact with my neighbors. And I like to credit this issue to the current situation because I don't think we would have been so craving human connection before that we would have been in our own little bubbles kind of with blinders on. But then, yeah, we kind of saw each other in the garden standing a distance, talking and having dinners outside at distance talking, because, as you said, I do think there is like this aspect of individualism and kind of doing your own thing. But we're at the at the heart of it as well. We'd like to go out. We like to connect with other people. So, yeah, it's it's an interesting time. And also it gives pause to kind of think about what's going to happen. I was actually giving a presentation the other day to some entrepreneurship students and they were rough. I was presenting something that I had presented usually a couple like the year before the past couple of years. So some slides before before presenting. I was looking through the slide deck and going, wow, okay, so I wonder how Covid is going to affect some of these trends and kind of instigators for like Circular economy, because there was one side that was talking about like the trend of urbanization and people moving towards cities. And I thought, okay, well, this who knows what this is going to do in the next and the next couple of years, like how cold it is going to impact that. And there was. Yeah. Also the utilization of resources. And I was talking about how the current economic system is quite wasteful. And what you said in terms of offices sit unoccupied for how many hours a day. And just thinking, oh, that has significantly gone up in the last couple of months. So, yeah, it would be interesting. And I think it has also driven a lot of companies to to really look at what is essential and how can they maybe take that, take the things that they're using and do it in a much smarter way. Like, do you actually need to have these four physical offices or would it be sufficient to just have one, for example? Yeah. So those are some interesting questions to think about in the in the coming coming years. But I know that I'm kind of going back and forth between the present and the past, but I really think it's important to touch on the challenge that you launched last year. I believe with Novo, I'm going to maybe pronounce it correctly, Novo Nordisk Innovation?
Frederik Van Deurs [00:18:11] That's great, yeah.
Katherine Whalen [00:18:14] Excellent.
Frederik Van Deurs [00:18:15] I think the marketing department would be proud. It's a tongue twister. It's probably Danish tongue twister. So, yeah, I love to talk about that. So Novo Nordisk launched the strategic goal and strategic plan called Strictly Procedural. So the goal is to have zero carbon emissions. And the way to get there is is to have Circular economy sold into every single step and every single process of their entire operation. So for the full context, you can fact check this and give the facts after. But I believe this is the sixth biggest pharmaceutical company in the world. They are employing some 60,000 people and they're the biggest producer of insulin, which we use to treat diabetes in the world.
[00:19:07] One of the key products is an injection pen. Looks like a lot like a Boldon, actually, that you were. You have the drug inside a little glass cartridge. You're having needles so you can poke the skin in the. And then you have a whole range of different elements in sight that can to enable that, I can dose however much insulin I need for my diabetes treatment and as well as, you know, a spring to make sure that the things go in and out and, you know, a number of different plastics and metals in there. And so that product is produced 500 million times per year. I believe it's half a half a billion units per year and which is a pretty high number. Of course, both diabetes is also a massive illness that affects a lot of people.
[00:20:11] So, you know, in a way, it's it's something where you have a product that people's lives actually depend on it. Meaning that those patients are actually, in a way, you could imagine them being the best possible ambassador for sustainability. Right. And they care that, you know, this product that they used to save their life. This is a necessary evil for them to live. But it means a lot to the patient that, you know, if I throw this away, will it end up in a landfill for the next couple of thousand years or will it actually turn into something else? And that, of course, poses a number of challenges where you can say, OK. They also have something called a durable pen where it's it lasts for several treatments. And, you know, you buy it once and then you keep it for several years. But not everyone can afford that. And there's this bunch of challenges to those models that that need to be regulated from Central Hall. So, you know, in some countries you can get a supplement to finance the medication of your illness. And in other countries, you really just can't. And as a pharmaceutical company, there's a lot of rules about how you can market, where you can market. And you know how how these things work. So. A lot of it comes down to, you know, how the regulation is in each and every market really for for how these models can work in different countries. But at the end of the day, when when you have a product like that, you know, a a single use device or it's it's not strictly single, the patient can use it for a couple of times.
[00:21:54] But then when the drug runs out, you know, it's done. And so it's a prefilled device. When you need to to get rid of it, it poses a circular challenge that, you know, of course, removing is half a billion pounds from from the world would not make any difference in the grand scheme of things. No, I think that's quite clear that we we produce so many items that are distributed and littered all over the place that I actually think that these these pens will very seldom end up in the wrong place compared to, say, a plastic bag or a sandwich wrapper or a single use cup or something. Right. Where people are throwing it around. But, you know, if you're a patient and you carry around a truck, you know, kill blister packs, it's also not the kind of trash that we find everywhere. Right. You know, it's that's not what they show on the Instagram videos. However, the infrastructure necessary to address this challenge is also the infrastructure that's going to be needed to address the other challenges that are probably more pressing. But, you know, I think that's that's where there's something that to me, as as an innovation, Greaney, that that's just really interesting. So essentially, when you have a pen like that. You have a needle that's a hazardous. You have the glass that can turn into shrapnel. You also have blood and you have a drug. And on top of that, you have a whole list of components of different materials. So so, you know, taking this single use pen and turning it into something that that can be up cycled. It's an incredibly complex maneuver because, you know, from the get go to get it out of the fridge of the patient, out of the dustbin of the patient and somehow circle it back somewhere.
[00:24:03] I mean, that would be a massive challenge because you would have to sort it as hazardous waste and then, you know, or you could get the patients, you know, you could in a hypothetical scenario, educate them to remove the needle and, you know, to do this and that or send it back or something. But but that's just not a really obvious model for how to make it works well. But we were looking at, you know, what, if we could do something where, you know, in the case it ends up in a landfill, that's probably where the majority of the pens wind up either incinerated or they're landfilled. If it ends up in a landfill, can we make it out of compostable materials that's still live up to FDA standards that still live up to, you know, the clinical standards that are that are needed in the med tech industry.
[00:24:54] And that was one of the challenges. And then, of course, on a secondary track, we had sort of two tracks in it. The second track question of can can we find innovations that can help reduce the nonsecular materials in the packaging? So. So for packaging, we're we're looking at everything from the pellet wrapping film or to, you know, the blister packs that the pill comes in to the cardboard box, that the pen comes in to everything in between, basically. So, you know, it's it's everything from the pellet that is also carrying any material from a supplier in a storage facility. The boxes that it's in, you know, all of these things. So that was sort of the scope of the challenge or how do we make the products more circular?
[00:25:47] And then we we we had an incredibly rewarding process within all Nordisk team in the device R&D department to figure out, you know, what is the actual challenge. And I was quite impressed with how, you know, how much knowledge they had acquired on this topic without having any external pressure. You know, because I think this this is one of the places where they've been quite bold in putting out something that is, you know, basically it's it's only Philips that have something that is, you know, a true lighthouse project in the in the medtech sector. So so Philips has defined goals for how many how big a percentage of their revenues have to be generated from sales of products or services that are secular. And that target, I think, for 2019 was 14 percent, which they reached. And they've been continuously ambitious on that. So, you know, I I think for Novo Nordisk to go in and do something like that was I was quite surprised with how much they knew and how much it meant to all of the employees inside the organization.
Katherine Whalen [00:27:04] Do they have targets like Philips or do they-- Did the initial stages of investigating?
Frederik Van Deurs [00:27:13] They've developed the model slightly different. I don't think that it's unrealistic that they could adopt something like that. But they have to find 13 tracks as part of the circular four zero strategy. And I think this is publicly available. But I know that the two tracks that that we were working with was publicly available. And, you know, I know that it's something that takes up a lot of the sort of the mental space of some of the brightest minds that we have in this country, so I'm sure that they're going to find ways to tie it into the business. But I don't think they have stated something publicly about it just yet. It's it's it's also important to bear in mind that, you know, in the family industry, if you say something, it has to be, you know, absolutely right to the dog.
Katherine Whalen [00:28:06] Yeah, cause it's a very scientifically driven industry, I think, yeah.
Frederik Van Deurs [00:28:10] And everything is very sensitive. Right. You know, if you make a claim that something is something, then, you know, you cannot say it when you are 99 percent sure. You know, you have to be all the way certain that that's the way it is.
Katherine Whalen [00:28:23] Yeah, I hope so. Yeah. At least you hope so. Right, so.
Frederik Van Deurs [00:28:28] Yeah, yeah, definitely. So the entire challenge was broken down in steps that started off with us mapping out 350 companies that could bring something to the table and this progress. And then we narrowed that down together with experts from all Nordisk into 12 companies that then pitched for senior management and then the senior management in the device R&D department in North Nordisk, where we're selecting the five companies that they found could make the biggest difference for them. And then after that, we facilitated, together with the partner organization in the program, Metzer from Chicago, really a really progressive sort of Kluster organization operating in the health care sector in Chicago. So we basically pooled together our resources. We knew a lot about green innovation. They know a lot about health care. So, you know, it was a really good match because we didn't know much about the health tech industry before. They didn't know much about green innovation. So, you know, joining forces are two and two became three or two and three became five. I think the proper way to go about it, let's go for bigger numbers to a true became so. So then after selecting that, we facilitated this innovation challenge where the companies was working quite closely together with not a subject matter experts on developing prototypes and figuring out how can they approach it.
[00:30:03] And the results were quite amazing. So. I don't know how much of this I can say, but the let's let's say that we went in there with an expectation that there would be one company with a solution that could come to fruition. And we definitely have a reason to believe that it would be significantly more than one now out of the five that that end up developing something together with them.
Katherine Whalen [00:30:31] So this was-- Was this like a pilot basically, or a pre sort of preplanned, like prototyping sort of?
Frederik Van Deurs [00:30:39] The goal for everything we do is to do something that makes business sense. So here, you know, we we made it a key focus area to flesh out the budgets for, you know, what would the cost for stage one pilot be? What would the cost for stage two pilot be? What would an industrial pilot look like, what a commercial pilot looked like? You know, how so should we have mapped out all of the steps all along? Also, so, you know, there's this chance that and the different departments can can say this will fit into our budgets. This will definitely not fit into our budgets. This will maybe do it.
[00:31:16] But we have to change this and that, you know, so I find that when you do corporate start of innovation or corporate ismy and innovation facilitation, it's really important that you you have to keep a razor sharp focus on the business case is if if you don't see the business case at the end for both parties, then, you know, it's completely pointless to move through with it. So that has been a strict focus from from the get go. And I think that's also the key to the success that. Corporate innovation programs, too seldom do they have the business activities as the center. You know, so if if we just need to acknowledge that companies are put in this world to make a profit. And if you cannot justify sustainable innovation within that space, then it's probably not going to happen. And that's you know, that doesn't make it impossible at all. It actually it just means that the projects that we are focusing on have a much higher chance of coming to fruition. Yes, because, you know, we we just need to be better. And that's the thing. We just need to be better. We need to step up our game. And that also goes for the investment scene. You know, green investments they don't have to be a dichotomy to good business, you know, I think green business is very good business. It's just another search criteria that you need to put on top. And then then to be willing to show much less compromise in terms of that. And then I think things are going to even out eventually. But we'll see on on how long a time line it will be. I don't think there's any chance that we're going to make the 2030 targets on a global level. But I do think there's a decent possibility that we can make the 2050 targets.
Katherine Whalen [00:33:18] Yeah, I think the one when you were first explaining this project, I was really interested in it because a lot of the focus that I've seen so far in Circular economy is kind of durable, like long lasting goods like electronics or washing machines and computers or medical equipment like MRI machines, for example. And there's a whole other sector which is like the health care. And now we're even seeing it with, you know, masks and different gloves and these types of products and. I think it was it's interesting to meet it that poses a really interesting design challenge about how do you make like consumables more circular. So I was curious to hear your your thoughts like any lessons that you're able to share with us about this experience. Because as you said, like is at the end of the day. You know, it has blood in it. It has a drug in it. It's multi-parts, many components.
Frederik Van Deurs [00:34:29] And it's pointy, you know.
Katherine Whalen [00:34:29] Yeah. Exactly. There's a needle.
Frederik Van Deurs [00:34:35] So many challenges. Yeah. I mean, that's the thing that, you know, we also need to look at what is feasible. And I think one one of the best. I've never seen a better way of certifying anything than what they're doing with cradle to cradle, that is hand. Hands down the best certification. I have I have seen and I've been looking quite a lot around for different certifications that work. So the cons concept in Cradle to Cradle is that everything you do, you take out from nature basically has to come back at the at the end of the product lifecycle.
[00:35:15] And they have an incredibly strict procedure for how to get that certificate. And that comes down to, you know, you cannot have any toxic chemicals in the product. You cannot have any greenhouse gas emissions from the product. You know, you can. You can do nothing, you know, and it's kind of like the easy thing would, you know, to would be to look at those demands and then go back to sort of the life of a Stone Age person. But I think what it has done and what it has proven is that it is actually also the kind of dogma that that we need in order to spur new design ideas and come up with with new excellent systems that can beat the old the old systems, you know, in the business arena. But it can also provide a product that is as good or better. And so one case I've been quite impressed about is the kale is pure print. It's a Danish company that does printing material where, you know, printing has been a multi use product, also a single use product. Quite often, you know, with fliers and brochures and all of this. And they were they were beaten to becoming the first cradle to cradle certified company in the world, I think with a few days from a Swiss company or something like that. That's just got I you know, that's got to be so tough to just see that certificate come in a week after the other one. But anyway, the the way and the methodology of doing that, this is something where I've seen nothing like it nowhere.
[00:36:51] So that's kind of the highest standard. And, you know, it would be absolutely magical if everyone could make it to that level of sustainability, of transparency, of integrity. But we just also got to ask ourselves, do we we really believe that if if everyone and everything in this world wanted us to get there, would we be in the situation we were into? And unfortunately, I think the answer to that is no, we would not be in that situation we are in today. So. So it seems naïve to believe that everyone wants that. And then we can say, well, what is it then? We want we want to have economic drivers that are satisfied that different degrees. So when we have a single use device like that, there's also a lot of practical reasons for doing like that. You know, the cost of production is ultra, ultra low. The cost of extracting extracting the materials ultralow. We're getting quite good at incinerating most things and turning it into heat and making that into district heat instead. And you know this there's a market for district heat or heat in, you know, huge parts of the world and in other in other parts of the world where he doesn't exist. I think we could find a way to convert that heat into something else.
[00:38:12] So, you know, the question is just do we need to be that militant about, you know, being absolutely secular or can we allow for a certain degree of pragmatism in it? And I think that's that's a place where the health care industry is just so interesting to look at because they have the demand for us for something that's sterile in a sterile environment. But they also have huge costs associated with everything that a doctor puts her hands on. And then on top of that, everything that you know, when you're done using an catheter for someone going into cardiac arrest and when you're done using the surgery equipment, when you're done using the stole me bag, you know it all of these things, it's so complex to clean it. It's so complex to turn it into other fractions that can be used again. And I think that's that's just one of the stages where we really have to ask ourselves what is even feasible. You know, if if we make multi, multi use equipment and we have to build, you know, freaking steam engine to cleanse the surgical tools for them to be ready to use again, you know, is that actually better than this finkler use model? And, you know, in some cases, it probably is. In other cases it might not be. So, you know, it's not a black and white answer. And I think that's one of the places where, you know, right now we would probably oscillate between, you know, single use as the best in the world is the best in the world. And there's probably a golden middle way somewhere in between. Leaning towards more secular, less wasteful. But a lot of what I see that we can do is on the collection side of things.
[00:40:06] And, of course, a single use masks. I mean, I have one in my pocket because it's demanded in Danish public transport that have use or like a facemask on. And I just haven't gotten around to to get to a place where I can buy a meal to use one, because I never take public transportation, I'm always on my bike. But originally, this is just a new type of trash that people have. But. But wouldn't it be great if we could just make, you know, that product? I think it would be quite feasible to make cradle to cradle. It doesn't really matter if it's collected and composted or if it's collected and incinerated. Either way, it turns into a, you know, I don't know, some fairy dust and nothing bad happens to the planet. But I don't think that's feasible to do with a camera that is like relatively inserted for corporations, which is why the clinical setting in the hospital is so interesting, because you have such a wide range of different devices that contain all kinds of hazardous waste elements and often quite often times, you know, a completely bonkers wide range of different materials in terms of polymers and metals. But on top of that, they also have electronics quite often. So, you know, you have single use materials that are probably. Among the most expensive single use materials in the world, you know, I think safe for the silk or something like that, rightwards, you know, a rocket that you used to to to wage war against someone that's that's probably in the range of the most expensive single use assets that we have on the planet. But besides that, I think middle medical equipment is probably a close second there. I just thought about, you know, the reuseable missile. That's something I could see split the waters at a conference.
Katherine Whalen [00:42:03] That's a topic for a whole other podcast, Frederik.
Frederik Van Deurs [00:42:06] Completely a completely different thing. No, but with the medical devices I think that we have something there where there's actually an incentive and and a test environment where there is the interest to develop a solution. There's also the my need to develop a solution. And there's also the infrastructure to get something up and running to to do a proof of concept where when we're looking at industries with much smaller margins, you know, if we're looking at fashion, for instance, where I don't know how the prices for clothes got as low as they are, even if you factor in child labor and you know all the terrible things that happen in the fashion industry, I don't get how I can get that cheap. You know, it's beyond me. I cannot figure it out. And when we're looking at that industry, it's like, you know, when how are you going to. You know, reused fabrics in a way where it makes economical sense. When when the margins on each product. Gets as low as it does. Right. You know, it's even Etchingham haven't figured out to do an infrastructure to recollect you killed in a good way, because then there's that little thing in the shirt that says how how you wash it. Right. And then this is made out of a polymer in some way. And this is cotton material. And then the polymer produced the fiber and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Right. And that to me, that should be a quite simple challenge. So, you know, just imagine when we start having, like, surgical equipment, sterile equipment, things like that. Yeah, it's it's an incredible challenge. Yeah. You know, there are. There are places that we had never imagined. I think that's where the missile came from, that when we saw the Elon Musk re landing the rockets, that, you know, that that used to be the most bonkers case of a single U.S asset. Right. You take a rocket and you fire it into space and then you just. They leave it in the ocean.
Katherine Whalen [00:44:13] Sayonara.
[00:44:15] That's it. You know that was, you know, proper bunkers. And, you know, I think that there's this there's probably room for figuring out new ways of doing it if we're bold enough and if we have a good business case on it. And that's exactly what they did with Space X, right. You know, they they said, hey, this can't be right. How do we spend this much money doing something like that? When we might as well just reuse it? And that's kind of where the challenge is with all the equipment you asked about the Covid19 response and what we've been learning from it. You know that the flex pattern from Novo Nordisk is so cheap. That coming up with a feasible alternative that makes business sense. It's just an amazing challenge. It's kind of on par with what we're seeing with the fashion industry just here. There's actually a margin and an interest to develop new things.
Katherine Whalen [00:45:16] Yeah.
Frederik Van Deurs [00:45:16] So, you know, I have I think that this potential that it will develop and I think if you came out on the market right now with a completely cradle to cradle facemask, it would sell like. Something that sells a lot.
Katherine Whalen [00:45:31] Hotcakes. That's how we say in English, sell the cupcakes, flying off the shelves.
Frederik Van Deurs [00:45:35] In Denmark it's warm bread.
Katherine Whalen [00:45:36] Okay, why?
Frederik Van Deurs [00:45:38] Warm bread, you know, it's like everybody wants it.
Katherine Whalen [00:45:41] Yeah, exactly. That makes a lot more sense. Maybe-- I always thought hotcakes were like one type of thing. But maybe it's like a hot cake as like warm.
Frederik Van Deurs [00:45:54] I don't know. I just imagine. Maybe back in the days there were lines in front of the bakery. You know, right when the with the cake and the bread came out and, well, like I had still warm. Yeah.
Katherine Whalen [00:46:04] I'm going to steal the Danish saying from now on though. But I think you touched on a really interesting point in terms of I like to call it like design for appropriateness. Like, it's kind of looking at where does it make sense from a business and also from. An environmental efficiency and effectiveness perspective for you to actually try to collect all of these different things and do do good instead of do less harm. So it's like this tradeoff between, okay, how do we how do we do it? And I think I'm a designer, so I really like the design perspective of starting with the design and thinking about scenario and then going from there to actually make the best, best decision and leading using that to lead your decision. But you also mentioned that electronics and so I wanted to ask you because I also want to be respectful of your time. We've been talking for a long time and I know that we could go on forever. But I know that you are a very busy person. So I want to be respectful of the time. And I want to make sure that we I ask you the question that I ask all of the Getting in the Loop Podcast guests, which is about the In the Loop game that I created, which is a game where people are, every player is a product producing company, and you have to travel around the board to make your products. So you need to get materials to make your product. And in the game, there's different events that happen and these change the market conditions in the game. So sometimes they help the players get materials. Sometimes they hinder players ability to get materials. And it really makes players start to think about how could they be reusing their resources and rethinking how they are doing business basically, and a lot of it hints towards doing business in a more circular way. So my question for you, Frederik, would be if you could create an event for the game, what kind of topic or focus do you think you would like to see in the game? Because a lot of times previous guests have linked it to their vision for the future or something like if this could happen today or in the short term for Circular economy. What would really get us moving in the right direction?
Frederik Van Deurs [00:48:30] That's a great question, and I would like to see an event where the people playing this game, the people in charge of the biggest pools of resources that we have. So, you know, to get the investment directors of the pension funds of the insurance floats off of the sort of heavy hitters of the financial world to get in and play that game, I think that's what I would like the event to be centered about. That's where we-- I asked this question the other day. Can we have a green in transition fueled by clean money in an inherently dirty economy? And I think, you know, if you accept the premise of that sort of question ending up with the dirty economy, there's been a lot of dirt leading up to the point in time where we are, which is what it is. Can we then have clean money? And if yes, how much money is there in the world and how much will it actually need in terms of investment to fuel the green transition? And to me, the answer coming out of that equation, this is quite simple. It's a clear no, we cannot, which means that we will have to educate the financial muscles of the world into how to flex those muscles for something that is actually creating a habitable planet for all of us rather than removing the potential for having a habitable planet.
[00:50:22] So that's why would we do something that includes the decision makers on the note, the massive infrastructural investment decisions that are being made and at large, the investments that are being made because that those are the biggest bodies of capital that are being moved around on a global level.
Katherine Whalen [00:50:46] Exactly. With secular business models, a lot of times you see the challenge in terms of making it profitable or the return on investment being much longer than the normal sort of. So does a traditional return on investments. And then it's-- in the long term, maybe it's better, but in the short term, it doesn't make the shareholders happy. So I think you've kind of hit the nail on the head in terms of trying to rethink how we do things. It has to be done from a systems perspective, and you have to make sure that you're including everyone who's currently part of the system. So, yeah.
Frederik Van Deurs [00:51:28] And I think a little addition to that is that no, I don't believe in the trickle down effect in the classical sense, but I do believe that that money does make the world go round. And if the big financial institutions say we have a lot of money for a circular infrastructure projects, you know. It would be quite strange if the providers of infrastructure projects then wouldn't start including circular principles in their office for projects, right?
Katherine Whalen [00:52:00] Yeah, I'm hopeful that this is happening from some things that I see. It seems like maybe this is coming. Well, let's hope it happens quickly and and that it does happen. But thank you so much, Frederik, for coming on the podcast. It has been such a pleasure to hear more about the work that you're doing with the Green Innovation Group and also the Novo Nordisk Innovation Challenge. And I'm excited to maybe see what comes out of it and how it continues to develop. I saw that there was a circular design guideline that was published as part of it, so if it's okay with you, I'd like to share that in the show notes of this.
Frederik Van Deurs [00:52:49] Of course.
Katherine Whalen [00:52:49] Excellent.
Frederik Van Deurs [00:52:51] I would also be quite happy to set you up with the Novo Nordisk team and have them come in and talk about it. I'm sure they would find that very interesting.
Katherine Whalen [00:52:59] Yeah. Yeah. Let's see how we can make that happen. And before you go, where can listeners go to learn more about you and the topics that we discussed?
Frederik Van Deurs [00:53:11] I think the best way is probably to go and add me on LinkedIn. I like to stay connected with the like-minded people to both give inspiration, but also to get my own inspiration. So I spend a lot of time on that platform, just, you know, basically consuming knowledge and articles and sharing what I find the most helpful and linking people up. And usually if there's something that's that's interesting that we are doing in the company, I will share it there. We, of course, also have our website, GreenInnovationGroup.com. But it's, you know, you can download our reports from there and then our LinkeIn page. But at the end of the day, we the individuals in the company are basically more active than the company page because we find it to be more real connections that come out of it. So that's something I prioritize quite highly. Yes, I'm in a privileged position where I get to talk to a lot of quite influential people. And, you know, if I can be in their feet and talk about sustainability and innovation and the need for a green transition and green business, then I believe my impeccable will be the highest. So, you know, to me, it's kind of like the reverse prop tactics. It's just about getting a lot of content about sustainability out there to as many people as possible. And I think that's probably something that a lot of us that work with sustainability do wrong, is that we've become too conscientious of the quality of the output that we have where, you know, it looks more and more like it becomes a battle of who can yield the highest. So, you know, I spend a lot of my time going out, just yelling sustainability in the feeds and then, of course, always hoping to provide value with with that yell.
[00:55:12] But it is something where I see that there's a need for us to be bolder in communicating when things are not good enough and how things can be better, and also to be a constant source for inspiration for the professionals that are sitting out in the organization and struggling with how can I actually implement sustainability principles and practices in my work life in the organization I'm working with. So LinkedIn is the best channel. That was a very long version. Sorry.
Katherine Whalen [00:55:43] No, it's very brilliant. I love it. I also like thinking when you're saying the Trump tactics for sustainability, yeah, we have the tendency. A lot of us are scientifically minded or come from like a research background and maybe even, shall I say, like a bit of a perfectionist background where you kind of wanna sit and wait until something's like, oh, it's not quite good enough yet or I don't have the actual answer. So I'm gonna wait until I have the answer. But I think, I don't know, I'm sure you've heard of the lean startup method. So maybe we need more of this, like lean startup method with how we do things. It's like, well, we don't have all the answers, though. We know something about this and let's figure it out together.
Frederik Van Deurs [00:56:24] Yeah, definitely, definitely and, you know, I think it's also, you know, it's a lot about killing the academic inside you that, you know, the academic will come for some problems that you need to solve in your life. But it's really not welcome for other problems. I mean, imagine when you had a romantic relationship, if you had to sort of get the same kind of bad coverage that you need in an academic argument to just, you know, say what you feel like eating where it's taking on scientific research has shown that right now my gut is telling me that I need to know. It's kind of like, you know, so sometimes you have to say we need to we need to do the right thing. And, you know, then just be bold in that statement and follow your integrity and your intuition, because we, you know, we do need to do better. And, you know, if we're talking about 1.5 degrees Celsius rise or 1.489, you know that that's not the center of the argument. That's actually gas lighting what we're really talking about. And I think that's a lot of internal gas lighting in the sustainability community, where people are going like average. You know, at the end of the day, is this really that's sustainable or is that decimals slightly off, you know? And then it's you know, we also need to pick our battles and go into the places where we actually believe we can we can have an impact by deploying sustainable businesses that are not damaging the planet and the environment as a whole and removing something that is. So, I think of a great case that sort of spurred the inspiration that I talked about before with a clean economy and the dirty money was that the Oatly was criticized for having a black rock as an investor. Oatly, the old milk producer just raised $200, American dollars and part of that investment came from an organization that has Sedita that is an avid Trump supporter and has a portfolio where two of the companies are directly responsible of deforestation in the Amazon. And then, you know, that becomes a case where people are saying, hey, stop buying Oatly because they have an affiliation with these guys and you just have to ask yourself, you know, can we not tolerate dirty money and clean businesses because, you know, replacing cow milk with plant based product, that's green business, and that's significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions on a liter per liter scale. And I'm not going into whether or not Oatly is a healthy alternative to me. It's way too sweet. You know, I would never drink it. I take my coffee back and, you know, that's just me. But from from a greenhouse gas emission standpoint, there's, you know, there's not a shed of doubt that's a much better solution for all of us. And, yes, the evil capitalists are going to capitalize on it. But that should not prevent us from celebrating that Oatly actually raised $200 million dollars, in my opinion.
Katherine Whalen [00:59:32] Exactly. And funny enough, Blackrock is also a Ellen MacArthur Foundation global partner.
Frederik Van Deurs [00:59:40] Exactly, you know.
[00:59:42] But I think what you highlight and you raise an interesting aspect there as well, right. So like, for example, if I don't know their intentions here, but, you know, let's say they were like, okay, actually, we would like to start contributing to more of these types of innovations then who are we to judge, if that's kind of what they're also trying to do? I mean, if you were to have a company that is starting to diversify and and realizes that this is the way forward, they need to start somewhere with how they start to change their investments, for example.
Frederik Van Deurs [01:00:19] Yeah, for sure. I mean, at the end of the day, the most sustainable company in the world, Astal, 14 years ago, they were an oil, coal and gas company, right. So, you know, we cannot be-- We cannot afford to be that adamant about what kind of things we will celebrate or not. And Blakrock invested in Oatly because they are gaining a ton of market shares and it's a growing market. And the food industry, the traditional food industry is going to be hit with the force of a train that is alternative protein. And it's not ready for it. And it is going to be one of the biggest disruptions we're going to see in this century. It's going to be the disruption of the food sector because it is going to be plant based and the CO2 reductions that we get out of that are absolutely mind blowing.
Katherine Whalen [01:01:14] Significant, yeah.
Frederik Van Deurs [01:01:15] I mean, just, you know, there's so many reasons to go into it. One, it's excellent business. Two, we can make it really, really tasty now. You know, I'm not saying this as a vegan or as an avid vegetarian or anything, but I had an impossible burger yesterday and I swear it tasted completely like a dead cow burger.
Katherine Whalen [01:01:35] It's delicious.
Frederik Van Deurs [01:01:36] It's delicious. And, you know, that's the only thing that need actually provides is flavor. Everything else is something we can-- and flavor we can mimic now, but at which cost, you know. So I'm not even talking about animal cruelty. I'm not even going into the ethics of it. Just saying, you know, if we're using 230 calories to produce one calorie for human consumption, I mean, that is so dumb. I cannot wrap my head around it and it's horrible business. So, you know, that's that's just what we need to ask ourselves, you know, how many calories will we allow to consume in order to produce how many calories? And I think 230 to one is it's not a good place to be.
Katherine Whalen [01:02:25] I would go out on a limb and say that's maybe bad design.
Frederik Van Deurs [01:02:29] That could that could be bad design. I will support that motion.
[01:02:36] Thank you for listening. I hope you enjoyed this episode. For show notes and links, go to our website at GettingInTheLoopPodcast.com and while you're there, subscribe to our mailing list to have new episodes delivered to your inbox every Monday. See you next week.
About the Show
Getting In the Loop is a weekly podcast dedicated to exploring how to transform to a more circular society. Join host Katie Whalen as she examines the challenges facing our current resource use and discovers alternatives to the ‘take, make, dispose’ way of doing things. Each week she interviews circular economy experts about what they’re doing and learning. Together we'll uncover what circular economy means in practice and find out what's being done to keep our resources in a loop rather than sent to waste.