Interview with Taco Snippen

 

For this second interview, Taco Snippen talks about his experience as procurement specialist and circular economy expert in the Netherlands. He mention the main pilars of a circular economy in the industry, starting from procurement and supply chain, and share with us some tips and references to get inspired and have a better impact on the environment while traveling.

In a few words, could you present who you are and your background?

Today I am a circular economy expert and procurement specialist, acting globally from my home country the Netherlands. I started my career as a chemical engineer and worked and stayed for 8 years in France.


In your past experience, you have been working on supply and purchasing, between others at Air Liquide. How is circular economy welcomed in private companies?

Generally speaking, in multinational stock listed companies, quick return on investment rules. There is focus only on sustainability in order to be compliant or for business opportunities– so, often circular innovation is only interesting if it contributes to the companies ’financial objectives.
This is different for companies owned by families, where personnel non-financial values are the driver for circular innovation.
My former company Air Liquide is a stock listed company, so financial business cases have high priority. However, return on investment is strategically to be expected after 15 years. Therefore and because of well spread of business risks, it has created its position of one of the most innovative market leaders in the industrial gas sector. For several decades it has embraced the principle of providing gas a service instead of delivering production facilities. It takes innovative initiatives in developing an H2 economy, bio based economy and closed loop[ CO2 economy – thus making their core business based on fossil energy more and more sustainable – by small steps.

Contractors have been realizing that public tenders can only be successful if their organization and their subcontractors apply circular economy principles.

 

You are based in Netherlands. We frequently speak about the country as one of the pioneer for circular economy, above all in the building industry, with the Cradle to Cradle. One of the example is the one of the Park 20/20. What about other industries maturity in terms of business model transformation?

In the building sector, you see increased emphasis since the past 2 years on applying circular economy principles as they create a big positive impact. The Dutch government deserve a big compliment by taking the lead in requiring circular solutions as a launching customer. Contractors have been realizing that public tenders can only be successful if their organization and their subcontractors apply circular economy principles.
We see very promising initiatives like the Madaster material data bank, the development of building facades ‘as a service’ and the national Cirkelstad initiative to build regional ecosystems. So, the circularity being spread over the building sector, a lot of circular awareness is to be created in the whole sector.
Circularity is also an important theme in redeveloping industrial basins like the Port of Rotterdam into a bio refinery port. The Wageningen University is an important global institute in the development of bio based economy (tip: check out their MOOC on this theme) . Apart from that, we see a lot of new activities from e.g. Ikea, and the textile industry. But in the end, today, circular products are still a curiosity and so there is a lot of pioneering work to be done.


Supply chain is key in a circular economy. What would be for you the key success factors to develop a circular economy, regarding supply and purchasing?

It starts with a trigger; a problem or an issue which leads to ambition for developing circular economy initiatives. Name any problem (employees working satisfaction, competitively, compliance with governmental policies) and circular economy principles often offer creative solutions and positive flow. But then, turning ambition into reality takes a lot of realism, time and effort. Seeking the 100% circular solution is not very efficient; better do the work according to the pareto rule: reaching 80% result with 20% effort.

Buyers need to be proactive, in order to be be better involved in the transition and processes.

 

How could buyers be better involved in the transition and processes?

Be proactive. In most organisation strategic procurement officers have personal development goals. If you, as a procurement professional or as a procurement organization, have the ambition to integrate circular economy in your work, speak about it with your employer in order to influence your yearly targets.
In public tendering, the quality of tendering documentation is still in an early development stage when it comes to circular economy selection criteria. Public procurement officers coordinate tender documentation so they are well positioned to make positive steps in this area, with help from circularity specialists.

You are also a creative musician. What link does exist between this and your other activities: procurement and circular economy?

All three contribute to personal life balance; I need both the creative expression and stretching my brains on complex analytics. From time to time I play the piano at work, but do not have upcycling plans for my piano yet. 😉 I am convinced that live music has a positive impact peoples brains, so on the wellbeing of individuals including their time spent at work.

You have been part of the Circulab network for 2 years now. Why did you join this network?


I was looking for ways to create professional service products in circular economy in corporation with other freelancers in an international context. At some point I got in touch with Wiithaa, the creators of Circulab. Together with the Circulab network I have developed an interactive training on Circular Procurement, which you can consult at the event list at https://circulab.eu/#agenda


A last word ?


Circular Economy is a useful term and model as a starting point for positive change for the global society. It should not work as a dogma, but as an enabler to reach sustainable goals. These goals can be different depending on the individual or organization. My goal is to contribute professionally to a good life for every creature on the planet without losing sense of reality.
If you wish to contact me, you can contact me through www.snippenconsulting.com


Do you have any books, references or travel to recommend to the people willing to activate the circular economy?

  • The Natural Step is a good book for imagining the steps required to develop a sustainable business model for organizations.
    I have some travel tips as well:
  • Compensate CO2 reduction by planting a tree through www.treesforall.nl or similar. If you can afford to travel by car, train or plane (like most people do), CO2 compensation is just a very easy step.
  • Decrease your CO2 footprint by shared travelling by Blablacar. A social experience and money saving opportunity.
  • Combine a European city trip with our Circular Procurement Training, dates and places on https://circulab.eu/#agenda
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