Enviu was a venture builder pur sang, we were setting up ventures in various industries and various countries. But we saw a few things: these ventures did not have a lot of support from each other, each operating in a different world. Enviu staff was extremely spread over various ventures and various industries, not always being able to deliver the support that was needed. Thirdly, the ventures in itself had some nice impact, but as a group they were not systematically tackling a specific issue. Lastly, we were fundraising for each individual venture.
At that moment we realized we needed a more systematic approach, and we started working program based. We aimed to focus on a few markets and really learn the market failures through a strong issue analysis. Based on this analysis we get a clear view which dynamics need to change to make a market more sustainable, we set ourselves a Big Hairy and Audacious impact goal, and a wishlist of partners could play a role in achieving that. Together with these partners we then ideate or replicate various solutions/businesses that strengthen each other and can act as an example to all players in the industry.
The same parallel goes for our work in the apparel market. We founded Khaloom in 2017. Khaloom is a venture that makes beautiful handwoven fabrics out of recycled yarn in India, killing 2 birds with one stone, saving water by re-using textile waste, and bringing back to live jobs filled with pride through handweaving.
However if we wanted to make a serious impact in the textile world, we needed to do more than creating nice sustainable products. We needed to trigger the larger brands and manufacturers, we needed to upgrade a full supply chain, and we need to partner to make sure it happened.
This is when we started to draw the contours of Reweave, a program that is building a circular supply chain. We spent a few months speaking to all players in the Indian market, understanding the system failures, dynamics. Recapping our learnings, we understood that we needed to create a full supply chain of circular businesses to really be able to change the industry, and not stop at just production or just branding. In addition we needed innovations from outside of india, to bring circularity to scale. Thirdly we need an ecosystem of suppliers and customers of this supply chain, to ensure circular products will get adopted in the market.
When we started in 2018, we set our targets for 2025:
- Building ~5 ventures that together can proof a circular supply chain in India is possible
- Saving 40 mio KGs of textile waste from going to landfill or being burned in India
- Saving 2 billion litres of water, by using circular textile products
- Creating 5500 fair and circular jobs in India
- Create an ecosystem of partners that think a like, and want to work with us towards a circular textile chain
- At least 15 large brands/manufacturers work with us to find solutions for textile waste
- At least 25 other companies use the waste collected in the program in a sustainable manner
- Platforms are provided to us in which we can share our knowledge on,
- Our work is recognized and supported by government entities in India and Europe
In 2021 we are well on our way.
- We have 4 ventures starting in India, each tackling another part of the supply chain
- We are at 40.000 kg of waste, 3 mio litres of water and 200 jobs
- We have agreements with ~5 large Indian brands/manufacturers, 2 large European companies, and work with 15 solution providers at this moment
- We have partnered with the government of Karnataka, the dutch government and with GIZ in sharing our knowledge to the wider public.
- We brought innovations from the US and Europe to the table in India
- We have closed a long term partnership with CAIF (Intellecap’s circular textile program) so we can join forces in creating a circular textile value chain in India
Our main insight is actually well represented in a quote we started using at Enviu a lot: If you think you can do this on your own, you are not dreaming big enough. Partners are crucial for success and vital for bringing impact to scale.
An ambitious program like Reweave asks a lot from all parties involved. We are aiming at achieving something very impactful, by setting an example of how the apparel industry will become more circular. It is a path with risks. Two steps forward, one step back. You can only do this with partners that have the same impact goal in mind. It is about a joint success, not about individual profits. We learned the hard way, that this is probably the most important aspect of a successful cooperation. When a partner is more focussed on its own goals, it will eventually not work. Our lesson here is to test these joint impact ambitions from the get go.
A third learning is that it takes time to integrate the way of working of government agencies, start ups as well as multinational cooperations into one program. This is a serious role for an ecosystem builder and should not be underestimated. Governments look for thorough decision making, start-ups look for quick decision making, and corporates often bring multiple decision makers to the table. If no-one is taking the lead in translating all the different needs and requirements into one agenda, ideas will not be taken into actions and implementation will fail.
Lastly, be sure that you involve impact investors at a relatively early stage. An objective view from an impact investor will definitely help in structuring the right scalable business models from the get go. It will increase the chance that the ventures built are scalable and can become financially sustainable.
- Intense Collaboration and Bridging the Pioneer Gap – A Path towards Zero Waste in Textiles and Food
- Enviu CoLab Award Submission
Ankie van Wersch, CEO, Enviuemail@example.com