“Often, we are a bit shy with our ambition, vision, and we don’t like to present our vision, but the actions we already took. But, for me, it has always worked better when I have presented the next thing that I want to achieve. If this interview aims to inspire people, people should not be shy about what they want to achieve.” – Lou Tamaehu-Plovier
I have been working in the circular economy for about seven years now. I am a business graduate, having a specialization in Marketing and Finance. Initially, I was going towards a very traditional business career until I crossed the circular economy path.
Then, I was obsessed with it and wanted to share the message as much as possible, and that’s when I took a career turn. I started doing that back in 2015. I was hosting conferences for small and medium companies in Montreal when the zero waste movement was increasing a lot. But, the small and medium companies didn’t have the sustainable practices ready. Circular economy was the topic discussed with large corporations at the government level, but there was a gap of knowledge for companies that were trained to answer to the needs of zero waste consumers.
We worked with different industries like retailing, clothing, zero waste shops etc., to gather all the pioneers of those regions. It was interesting to know where they got inspired from etc., to create a door for collaboration. I got a chance to spread the message in universities, companies, and more prominent stakeholders like industries, etc.
I am also originally from French Polynesia, and at some point, I decided to go back there and also worked locally. As the concept is new, it’s also important to the local specificities.
I co-founded Fenua with a colleague of mine, Luana. We worked with municipalities, universities, and chambers of commerce to spread the message and adopt a circular economy to answer the needs of local specificities.
The first thing that comes to my mind, more than technology, would more be like a shift in the consumer mentality—a change from a consumer society towards a creator society. Everything is so abundant in the world we live in, making consumption so easy, and we need to find respect again in the products we consume and that we can be more conscious and respectful of all the work and resources that are required first to produce and also of the impacts at the end of life of everything we consume.
Much more awareness and respect from the consumer is needed.
We are on the right path on this. It is impossible today to not hear the message on sustainability, circular economy, and its presence in every discussion with climate change. Interest from consumers also, some things asked by society, demanding more transparency from businesses and government.
Awareness and good information to make more conscious choices would be the idea of the future.
The value chain of a single product is challenging today for a company to provide info. Organizations need to answer these questions. And for that, we need more innovation and technology.
The first action is to reduce consumption: It doesn’t cost anything; it saves money! Think- Do I need to buy this product? Do I need to buy that much? Do I already own something that serves the same purpose? Creativity instead of consumption. Think of alternatives instead of buying something new. There is an opportunity to collaborate, like talking to your neighbours etc. Reducing consumption does not mean reducing the quality of life. Look for alternatives, and if they are not existing, why not create them.
I grew up in French Polynesia, and it’s a very privileged environment, surrounded by nature. It is very easy to take that for granted. I went to study and moved abroad. My memories are about the importance of nature and how people relate to it, like many of my family members are fishermen or depend on preserving natural resources to make a living.
It’s really like the importance of preserving nature for environmental purposes and socially, as so many people depend on the quality of the environment to survive.
Majorly it’s the sea waste coming to our seas. The plastic continent is in the Pacific Ocean. At some point, it would be coming to our shores.
Other than that, it’s globalization and consumption that is having a significant impact. More than 90% of the fruit that is being consumed in our country is imported. Everything we purchase comes in packaging. We have to sort and dispose of it locally. We have the same lifestyle, consume the same products, and have the same amount of waste per person compared to other cities. But we own an island of 200,000 people where facilities for sorting and recycling are less to cope with the waste.
It was one of my first jobs in textile production. I was in charge of the production and accounting in a small company in Montreal and all the waste that we were creating. Initially, I looked at the numbers of the raw material bought, half of it thrown away. Economically, it didn’t make any sense and then when I was looking for options, I came across circular economy practices.
It was a revolutionary moment that there is a model that can have a positive environmental environment and help in efficiency and optimising processes within a company. Before that, I felt sustainability and business might not be confronted with each other.
Then we had to make sure social values were being integrated. It was a first step towards reconciling these two elements.
Governments need to support innovation and entrepreneurship towards these goals. The creativity comes from entrepreneurship but what happens out of it depends majorly on governments. If there are incentives, funding, and opportunities, there are more chances of these entrepreneurs being successful and India making an impact.
Then, implementing regulations is the most important part to put incentives to stop businesses as usual. Otherwise, no matter how many solutions we have, if business functions as usual, it’s the cheaper option and hence becomes hard to convince people.
Businesses should stop working in silos. More collaborations should be there—Cross-industries, cross-universities, cross-everything. So much innovation and tech are already existing. Proper Conversation with the right people is not happening. It’s the main issue.
As we saw in the case of COVID, e.g. in Montreal, Canada, sewers started using discarded fabric to make masks to help nurses. Three different industries that usually do not talk to each other had the solution, opportunity, and available material to answer that need.
It was achievable because companies kept an open mind, flexible regulations, and we forgot businesses as usual. Did people start asking- Why not? Why is it not possible?
Maybe it’s related to why I accepted this interview. It’s essential to stay positive. We are living in difficult times. It’s hard to forget what’s happening around us, global warming etc.
I hope I can bring a positive message and show people that positive things can still happen. People are working on it. Bring light on these aspects, and the more I can do it, the more people I can convince to make an impact, the happier I will be.
It’s very inspirational, and when you present your concept, you are looking for people who leapt faith. That’s it I have been into all the time. I get interested in something; I jump into it. People should trust their intuition. That’s also how you get inspired. Often, we are a bit shy with our ambition, vision, and we don’t like to present our vision, but the actions we already took. But, for me, it has always worked better when I have presented the next thing that I want to achieve. If this interview aims to inspire people, people should not be shy about what they want to achieve.