Joost de Kluijver of Closing the Loop tells us about providing green business solutions to prevent e-waste from ending up in landfills.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Joost de Kluijver: Thanks for asking. We are lucky to be healthy and managing the crisis quite well as a family.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Closing the Loop.
Joost de Kluijver: I have worked at a consulting firm for several years, where I was also working on sustainability consulting. Following Accenture, I also worked for the Global Reporting Initiative, where I enhanced my knowledge on corporate social responsibility. The idea behind Closing the Loop was born during a project I did in Tanzania, 2010. My former company brought mobile phones to Africa for reuse. There I saw that mobile phones create huge value – economic and social – for local communities. But when they become end-of-life, they turn into a problematic waste stream known as e-waste. That’s why Closing the Loop buys broken mobile phones (and other e-waste) in collaboration with local partners in Africa and ensures that the devices are recycled responsibly. This way, they prevent them from ending up in landfills. To fund our waste collection, we’ve developed an industry-changing circular procurement service known as waste compensation.
How does Closing the Loop innovate?
Joost de Kluijver: In 2016, we created a service that enables our customers, organizations across the globe to align their IT hardware procurement with their organizational values in a pragmatic, appealing way. The service allows our customers to make a positive impact with mobile devices that they (and their employees) use every day. When they buy a new device, we collect and recycle a scrap device from a country that lacks waste collection systems. This pragmatic, effective circular service results from trial and error, and we keep innovating to make sure the companies we work with get the best results and best services possible. We believe that SMEs are perfect for developing circular services, as they can still adjust to developments from the outside world.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Joost de Kluijver: Like all companies in the world, CTL has also been affected by COVID, and so have our supply chains. Luckily, however, the effect was minimal, and our supply chain partners are keeping safe. At the start of the pandemic, there was a collection pause for about 2 months during the biggest part of the lockdowns in Africa. Since then, collections and deliveries have been streamlined in order to reduce contact moments and traveling within the collection countries. As can be expected, the social and economic situation in our collection countries is very different from what we experience in Europe. Therefore, it is very good that the collection work can continue so that our supply chain can still receive income during these difficult times. This is especially important because many collectors perform this work part-time, and much of their other income streams have come to a halt due to the pandemic. As CTL, we are in constant contact with our partners in Africa, and we receive frequent updates on the situation, which we monitor continuously. For now, we are confident that all our supply needs are being met while keeping the health and safety of our supply chain in mind.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Joost de Kluijver: Definitely. We did not expand the team in the way we wanted, but the crisis was also a good reason to take an even better look at our HR needs, expectations, and results. Going through this crisis with the team made us all very aware that we need to work hard to get to where we want to be.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Joost de Kluijver: We have some large international clients and work with African local partners, which means that we are used to working digitally and internationally. We regularly update our clients on recent developments and their order progress and did not really change anything due to COVID.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Joost de Kluijver: The Dutch government supports almost all companies, which we are very thankful for.
Your final thoughts?
Joost de Kluijver: We always like to encourage two groups of stakeholders to act. Those that buy IT: please tell your supplier/vendor that you will love them even more if they offer you great services that are also green. And those that sell/produce IT: open up to social enterprises and circular service providers. By creating new collaborations, innovation will follow naturally.