This is how we build impact-driven business models that tackle plastic pollution

As you might already know by now, venture building lies at the heart of the Zero Waste Living Lab’s mission to close the tap on plastic pollution. Seeking to systemically overturn the inefficiencies of the current plastics economy, we build ventures that provide meaningful and lasting solutions, catering for all stakeholders involved. 

But how exactly do we build these impact-driven ventures?

Human-centered design

An essential component of our approach to developing sustainable business models is human-centered design (HCD). If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, HCD is a business development approach that puts the drivers of change — that is, the consumers — as well as other key stakeholders, at the center of the entire venture building process. From ideating the solution to validating it to implementing it on a larger scale.

When it comes to solving a problem in the plastics system, we engage in thorough research to map the leverage points where our potential reuse solution can deliver the most meaningful social impact. To do this, our team in Indonesia immerses itself with local communities in order to gain a better understanding of the opportunity areas for solving the issue. 

For example, to make Koinpack’s reuse system as convenient as possible, venture builder Bintang Ekanada frequently visited warungs (small neighborhood shops) in West Jakarta where he chatted with store customers to get a clearer picture of their needs. “After talking to about a dozen warung customers, I found that being able to dose their homecare products would be a key opportunity that we could leverage to encourage switching to reusables,” Bintang explains. “Among the downsides of single-use sachets is the fact that consumers have to rip them open, rendering them unable to dose the product as they wish. This can also lead to the product leaking out of the sachet pouch,” he adds.

This particular insight was essential to the eventual design of Koinpack’s flip-top reusable bottles, which enable customers to use as much product as they wish, allowing for a much better user experience than the environmentally unfriendly and inconvenient sachet pouches.

Letting the ideas flow

After getting a good grasp of the issue, we then commence with the Ideation phase which involves taking a wide lens to generate a host of possible solutions and ideas. Throughout this brainstorming process, the communities we’re trying to serve are at the heart of each solution as we explore how to best facilitate them in driving the reuse movement forward.

Once we have taken a careful look at the range of ideas at hand, we identify the one most likely to deliver a meaningful impact. The ultimate choice is determined by identifying a solution that is desirable (could appeal the most to the community we’re trying to serve), feasible (is technically practical to implement) and viable (is financially attainable). 

Where the rubber meets the road

Next comes the Validation phase, where we test the solution in the field. This is an iterative process that offers the opportunity of continuous learning and improvement through numerous cycles of feedback — a key feature of HCD. The feedback is collected throughout the entire process of piloting our reuse ventures. And by continuously learning what went well and what didn’t, we are able to refine and improve our models as they evolve.

This concerns each and every aspect of the venture, from its design and operations to marketing and communication. Here we are mindful of each challenge and opportunity that may arise as we validate the solution and tinker with the model. Such considerations can reveal what key partnerships might need to be forged, and what additional resources will be essential to the venture’s successful operation.

During the pilot of our refill venture Qyos, for example, we have learned that in the context of a pandemic some customers may mistake the machine for a hand sanitizer dispenser. This means that bold branding of the products is essential to improve the machine’s visual communication and thus make it stand out for its actual utility. What’s more, as the pandemic has shifted consumer preferences towards home care products that are hygienic and safe, the machine’s touchless and cashless system has proved its worth. This will definitely influence the machine’s follow-up User Experience design.

Leading the way

Once the models have been validated through many cycles of learning, co-creating, testing, and measuring, our ventures are ready to fulfill their purpose of changing the market. This is done by inspiring other market participants and showcasing reuse models as viable, attractive solutions to combating the plastic waste crisis.

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