CIRCO across borders: The Dutch Consulate General in Turkey


Collaborating cross-border with embassies of the Netherlands is helping the proposition of the CIRCO method towards potential partners. As such, CIRCO has been working successfully with the Dutch Consulate General in Istanbul for more or less one year now. Local CIRCO trainers have been trained to deliver CIRCO Track programmes themselves in the future.


10 December 2019

An interview with Bart van Bolhuis, Consul General of the Netherlands in Istanbul, and Ceren Erten, Senior Commercial Advisor at the Consulate General.

What are the challenges Turkey faces concerning climate change and sustainability?

“Here in Turkey they are not quite as far as in the Netherlands. The economy is growing and so the priority is not always with sustainability. For example, the country is still reliant on cole on one hand. On the other hand it is facing an increasing number of unemployed people. Theories are rising that quantitative growth is no longer the solution, but sustainability and the transition towards a circular economy could play a role, because it creates jobs. Generally this awareness is growing and even the new mayor of Istanbul wants to transform the city into a green and creative metropole.”

What are the opportunities for Turkey concerning the circular economy?

“The opportunities for the circular economy are threefold. Firstly, many companies are focused on the European market, for example in the textile and consumer electronics sector. They should stay ahead of competitors and rivalry, so they keep an eye on the market. They are aware of consumer trends, a changing market and a growing circular economy in Europe, and want to be a part of this. Secondly, Turkey is facing enormous waste management challenges. Concerns around this topic are rising, you see this in many other countries too. Lastly, the country is still very dependent on raw materials and virgin resources. From a micro-economical perspective it would be strategically interesting to decrease this import. Reuse, recycle and reduce of resources would make the country less reliant and more self sufficient, which will ultimately benefit the economy as a whole.”

“Some of the bigger Turkish companies are active in circular entrepreneurship. A good example is Arçelik, one of the largest producers of appliances. They introduced a vacuum cleaner with 90% recycled plastic and a washing machine with reused plastic bottles for the plastic parts. It is their mission to normalise the use of recycled plastic in the manufacturing industry. Another great example is Sütaş, one of Turkish largest milk producers, that reuses all of their organic waste in order to produce biogas.”

"The CIRCO method, in which co-design is quite important and people from different backgrounds are closely working together, fits in well here"
Bart van BolhuisConsul General of the Netherlands in Istanbul

How did the Consulate General get introduced with CIRCO?

“Two major design-related events took place in Istanbul in the fall of 2018; the Istanbul Design Biennial and the Turkey Design Week. The Consulate General organized workshops in the context of ‘Co-design; design livable cities together’. The main purpose was to bring together experts from different backgrounds and cities; the multi-stakeholder method, already widely used in the Netherlands, but not yet in Turkey, and the Consulate General wants to encourage that. CIRCO was invited for a mini workshop, a perfect fit because their sessions are built around designing together. Since then, the collaboration has developed and has continued to grow.”

Why do you think this collaboration works so well?

“The CIRCO method matches with the way of working in Turkey, because people like to work together, they are less individualistic and there is a lot of entrepreneurship. The CIRCO method, in which co-design is quite important and people from different backgrounds are closely working together, fits in well here. The first time I was present at a Track, I was surprised about the energy and quality of the participants, and something really happened. I immediately noticed that the method caught on.”

Turkije 2

Participants of a CIRCO Track show their certificates

How does the cooperation with CIRCO stimulates the Consulate General to achieve its own goals?

“Our role is primarily that of being the connector. We position the Netherlands in Turkey as the frontrunner of the circular economy, bringing in Dutch expertise and by creating commercial opportunities for Dutch companies in Turkey. The Consulate General also sets up relevant networks in Turkey to create connections between companies. Sometimes we do that very proactively; a good example is the funding from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) that we have received, enabling Turkish companies to hire expertise via vouchers for the transition towards circular entrepreneurship.”

“This arrangement mainly concerns the smaller companies because, as far as we are concerned, that is where the greatest challenge lies in the near future. Corporates often have capital available for transitions like this, but we must include the entire chain, also the smaller companies. The use of vouchers is so interesting because it enables them to take the first steps.”

What do you think are the strengths of the CIRCO method?

“The method is very strong because besides the business perspective, it sheds light on design strategies, in a very useful combination of both. The Track starts at the very beginning, everything is covered; from what a circular economy actually entails to value chains and a circular proposition. This inspires the participants and they can easily apply what they have learned. During the Track, a concrete roadmap is presented with which they can bring their new circular revenue model to the market, fitting the dynamics of companies in Turkey and the way people work. Finally, the ‘Train the Trainer concept’ is very important, because it makes the method applicable locally.”

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