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100 Never too old to be bold transcript

Circular Economy Podcast Episode 100 Catherine Weetman Never too old to be bold

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Interview Transcript

Provided by AI

Catherine Weetman  00:58

Well, it’s Episode 100, I can still remember the scary moment of putting the first episode out into the world back in 2019. Creating these podcasts has been a fantastic experience. And I’ve had the privilege of meeting so many amazing inspiring guests along the way. People from all around the world starting disruptive businesses, researching to help us get clear on the issues, campaigning for a better fairer and more regenerative world. So we can have enough for all of us and future generations.

I’ve met so many people who, as Paul Hawken might say, a healing the future, not stealing it. I want to thank you as well for listening and providing feedback. I love hearing from people who enjoy the stories of circular progress on to suggest fascinating guests for future episodes.

Today’s episode is going to be a bit different. And it’s something I was encouraged to do by Peter Desmond, who’s been a great mentor and supporter over the last five years. Peter wanted me to share a bit of my backstory. How did I come to be helping businesses get clear about the circular economy, and specifically to focus in on how going circular creates deeper levels of value for all stakeholders by delivering profitable, affordable products and services to customers. We’ll come back to that in a minute.

At the end of 2022, Peter moved on from Rethink Global to focus on local circular and sustainability initiatives. And to build on the success of the recent World Circular Economy Forum in Rwanda. You might know that Peter co founded the African Circular Economy network (ACEN), after his master’s degree project on mobile phones in Africa, he’s now finalising the major project of building a multi country team at ACEN, to accelerate the take up of circular, fair and regenerative solutions across Africa. Peter has a wide range of business experience, and his career included projects aimed at making business more inclusive and fair, including the concept of stakeholder value. In other words, business should be accountable to wider society, rather than existing purely to make money for its shareholders. I’m incredibly grateful for Peters work, guidance and wise words over the years. And I wish him all the best in the many important initiatives he’s involved with.

So back to this episode, I was feeling really uncomfortable talking about my story. And then fate stepped into lend a hand – someone I’m a big fan of, Sarah Archer invited me to be a guest for her very popular speaking club podcast.

Sarah is a speaking and marketing coach, writer, comedian, performer, and ex human resources director. This mix means she’s uniquely qualified to teach us how to create content that makes our audience stop, engage, and fall in love with our message.

Sarah is on a mission to show authors, experts, coaches, and aspiring changemakers how to create a signature talk that uses stories in a way that aligns to your values – and without losing your personality. I’m trying to make more impact with my talks, and Sarah has been helping me out with that.

In this episode, you’ll hear Sarah’s interview with me asking what sparked my interest. Why I decided to call time on my corporate career and go all in with helping people shift towards the beautiful, fair, regenerative future that we know is possible.

Coming up in the next episode 101 we’ll dig into why businesses should aim to lead on sustainability, not just follow others. Why the circular economy is more than just vintage clothes and recycling and we’ll unpack some of the myths around sustainability. Let’s jump into the interview.

Sarah Archer  05:07

Catherine, the first thing I want to know is what started you on your circular economy journey?

Catherine Weetman  05:14

Yeah, well, I guess it’s kind of how far back do I want to go. And I won’t give you all the all the boring and gory details on this. But thinking back about my interest in sustainability, which kind of started with food, after a dodgy bottle of water on holiday in the 1980s, which then turned into a food intolerance that went on for ages. And at that point in time in the 80s, food intolerance just wasn’t, you know, an accepted thing in the medical profession. And that kind of made me realise in retrospect, that experts often don’t want to look at information that’s outside their normal frame of reference. And also, that I could find out enough to be dangerous as one of my bosses used to say, you know, kind of getting enough information to be dangerous on a topic. So I kind of set off on my own path. And I can’t remember how I came upon this, this guy, but there was somebody on Harley Street in in London, who was looking into food intolerance. And I kind of, you know, read about this and thought, well, that fits exactly. So that, you know, kind of got me on the path to, but but as part of the food intolerance thing, it meant I had to read all the ingredients, labels. And I was really shocked to see how how many things were in simple, simple, you know, even muesli bars and stuff. And how many I’d never heard of, and that seemed to be some kind of complicated, additive, or chemical. So that really got me thinking about what was in food. And then quite a long time afterwards, in 2003, I was really into mountain biking, I was in a kind of orienteering tight race one day, waiting to cross a road and got hit by a car. And kind of ended up in intensive care for 10 days and in hospital for five weeks with multiple injuries, and lots of complications, and a quite difficult path to recovery. And my one big goal was to get back to the level of mountain biking that I’d been at before, that was kind of the driving factor. Because it wasn’t just a sport, it was you know how I spent most of my social life and holidays and everything else. So there’s experiences of that dealing with an MRSA infection, lots of complicated breaks. And even trying to adapt the bike to deal with you know, now I couldn’t bend my one of my legs more than 90 degrees, and you need 110 degrees of bend to pedal. So all these kinds of things, set me off on path trying to work out how I was going to solve this particular particular problem. But the same thing happened that lots of experts didn’t want to look outside their existing frame of reference. But this time, it was easier to find out, you know, on the internet, there was the internet. So it made it a lot easier to find out what else I could do, and to kind of go a bit off piste. So I guess that that kind of embedded this feeling that, you know, people like to stick to the, to the kind of path that they know. And subconsciously, I must have adopted that in my work. So that kind of, again, got me thinking about about diet. And I think I was just starting to hear lots more about sustainability issues.

And then it sort of dawned on me that in the work I was doing at DHL supply chain, we had lots of big companies as clients, big electrical retailers, supermarkets, breweries, chemical companies, you know, automotive, everything. And all I was doing at work, and helping them develop better supply chain strategies or get more efficient at their operations was that I was just helping them get better at selling more stuff that we didn’t need, that was all wrecking the planet. So in effect, while I was banging on about, you know, sustainability and organic food and all the rest of it, I was kind of contributing to the problem. So I was thinking, well, some, you know, there must be a way past this, there must be a way that business can do things in a better way and still make a profit. So that kind of set me off on another research quest. Now if you know what was out there, I’d had loads and loads of research because I was terrified about standing up in front of somebody who was going to pull the rug from under me with a really clever question or, you know, climate deniers and all the rest of it. So loads and loads of research got really depressed, and the only way forward seemed to be that we’re all just going to have to have less and you know, who was going to buy into that. But along the way, I was coming across new bits of, of terminology and kind of intellectual and scientific jargon. And one of those terms was the circular economy. And when I started trying to look into that, which was quite early on in the, in the sort of discourse I came across the first book published by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, aimed at school kids called Sense and Sustainability by Ken Webster and Craig Johnson. And when I read that, it was just like, you know, the the lights went on. And suddenly I could see a way forward a way that we could just do things differently. Meaning that people could have nice things and things that we need, and everybody could have a better life. But we didn’t have to wreck the planet at the same time. And all this was possible, just by doing things differently, and yet still being profitable and having a resilient business. So that was kind of, you know, in a very long, long, rambling way, how it all started.

Sarah Archer  10:43

I love that. And I love the title of that book, how clever is that – Sense and Sustainability? I think that’s the thing, isn’t it? I think people have this impression that in order to, to do good, good by the environment, we have to go around in hair shirts, for you know, flailing ourselves on the back. But that, you know, that isn’t say, saleable to most people. And I love the fact that you have a charting a path that shows that it is possible to, you know, yes, you may have to do things differently, but it is possible to have nice things and, you know, look after ourselves via the planet for the longer term. That’s brilliant. So, so you’ve discovered this, this alternative path for organisations, you were still working for a company at that point. So what happened next, what made you go all in because now today, you are a circular economy expert. And what has happened since?

Catherine Weetman  11:52

Yeah, well, lots happened since but, but just push back. And this is another Well, it’s, it could be the same boss who had the, you know, know enough to be dangerous phrase. But he used to banish the word experts. And he always said, you know, an expert’s “ex is a has been, and spurt is a drip under pressure”. So I prefer specialist in this circular economy. So yeah, I, once once, I’d got all this info, and I’d already pitched for a talk to a senior business group, like a supply chain group that I was part of, and I’d done a talk to them, and it went down quite well. And I started then identifying all the circular economy, things that we could be doing as DHL for our clients. And I was getting some traction, but it was just all too slow. And, you know, people wanted to focus on business as usual, and tweaking this, that and the other. And so I was getting really frustrated, and probably becoming a bit too vocal with that. And then we were having several reorganisations. And, in one, redundancy was on the table. But I chickened out, and kind of found myself another job in in what was called the Global products team, which was all about finding things that we could develop. So I was kind of thinking I can use this to really promote the circular economy. But my boss just was not interested. And I was banging my head against a brick wall. And I also had this you know, as soon as I’d accepted the job, and turned down the redundancy. I was kind of kicking myself, it was one of those things that you know, you wimped out, Catherine shook on for this. So I was just thinking, well, there’s bound to be another one in the next year or so, you know, I’m not going without. Now I’ve had the offer of redundancy. So yeah, so the next next thing that came up, I thought, right, this is it jumping in with both feet. And sort of had this naive sense that, you know, people must be wanting to know how to do this. And so that’s, that’s the path that I started off on just trying to help businesses adopt more circular approaches, and to understand what it is all about what the circular economy isn’t, which is, you know, just recycling a new materials. I really tried to get to the heart of how the circular economy can unlock a new way forward for business.

Sarah Archer  14:21

Just just for a timeframe. When was that? When did you go all in? When did you say that’s it? I’m jumping in what where were we?

Catherine Weetman  14:28

Yeah, so the end at the end of 2013. So I did my first big talk in 2011. And then at the end of 2013. You know, that’s when I jumped all in and started the business. You know, and came up with a name of rethink. So, because I think it is all about just rethinking the business strategy reimagining the way forward and I didn’t want to tie myself to the circular economy in case something better came Come along, which I think it now is in terms of regenerative strategies, you know, we need to go further than circular. And also, I wanted to be able to bring in other elements like ethics and fairness and, you know, different business models around employee ownership and cooperatives and that kind of thing. So I kind of wanted to leave that open.

Sarah Archer  15:23

I mean, things is, I would imagine things have changed. It’s certainly from what I’ve seen that now people are asking, and now people are interested. But what Where are we 2013? We’re, what, nine, nine years on now, almost 10 years on. And we should have really been starting back when in that 2013, because we’re, we’re really sort of reaching crisis point. And I think you describe the challenge that we face as a super wicked problem. And I wondered if you could explain what you mean by that?

Catherine Weetman  16:03

Sure. Well, first of all, it’s not my invented term, I wish it was, but it’s not work, your problems were first defined back in the 70s, by to, you know, to American scholars, Rittell and Webber. And they sort of brought together problems that have a number of characteristics, including the each problems unique, the problems or symptom of other problems. So that makes it really complicated. There’s no exhaustive list of potential solutions, you know, you can go on trying to find things that partially solve it, and they don’t stop. So you’ll never properly solve the problem. And then a super wicked problem is all of that plus, it’s really urgent. So when we stopped to think about our current problems, and I characterise that as being on a fragile planet, with finite and depleted resources, nature that’s been destroyed by us at a frightening rate, and people everywhere, under all sorts of pressure that seems to exactly fit that definition of a super wicked problem.

Sarah Archer  17:06

Absolutely. And I feel like, this is like when you used to think about the universe, and if you ever did this, so I used to, like, think about the universe, and I’d be there and I’d be like, Oh, my God, this is too much too much switch off, switch off. And you know, just move on. And I think that’s where a lot of people feel about this problem at the moment, you know, you, you start to see to see it, and then it’s just feels so complicated. And it feels like you as an individual, and perhaps even a business, you know, business, it just feels like you can’t make it a dent in this. And so we sort of go back to putting our heads in the sand or ignoring it. And I think that’s one of the big challenges to overcome, because as soon as you go down, you know, we talked about this before. As soon as you go down there, it’s sort of fear route, you know, and all of this bubbles up, people just just throw up their hands and run away. How have you been sort of able to overcome or been thinking about overcoming that?

Catherine Weetman  18:14

Hmm, I think you’re absolutely right. And that’s something that comes up for, for me, I was talking to my husband this morning on our walk, something came up, and he used it, you know, we’re we’re up. He swore but essentially, you know, we’re all doomed. Anyway, am I kind of pushed back on that was that more and more people are doing things like me, trying to make a difference in your own life, at work, and, you know, by talking about it. So I think there are, there’s a growing number of people who want to do the right thing. There’s also the sort of power of small actions, you know, voting with the money in your pocket, by choosing to spend money with companies that are doing the right thing, choosing to not spend on something where, actually, we’re just being shamed into thinking that, you know, if we don’t have this, we’re not, we’re not cool, or we’re not doing the right thing. We saw that with pandemic didn’t, we were suddenly, you know, you weren’t being good. Parents, if you weren’t disinfecting everything to within an inch of its life. Even though, you know, a bit of vinegar and bicarb would do the same thing. So all this kind of shaming or symbols of success, you know, where we’re, we’re told that if we don’t have this, then we’re not going to look successful. So opting out of that, and deciding to spend your money in more purposeful Well, ways, sends really good signals back to the businesses, both to the businesses that are doing better things, and to the businesses that are losing customers. So I think that’s incredibly important. And then there’s also the cognitive dissonance element to this and you What I found personally is that just just as with that first decision to go all in on this, but with all the tiny decisions that I’ve made, to stop buying, whatever, to recycle, you know, find it find a way to recycle something. Every time I’ve done that, there’s a realisation that actually that was making, not doing it was making me really uncomfortable, and making me feel dishonest with myself. And once you do it, you start to feel better. And you then get energised, to do the next thing and talk about it. And really at the heart of this, it’s about caring, isn’t it caring for the things caring about what we buy, caring for things when we’ve got them, and caring for nature that we utterly depend on for everything. And once you’re doing that, as people who are in caring professions find it’s really fulfilling. And even though, you know, there’s lots more you could be doing, as long as you’re kind of moving forward in baby steps, that helps you feel much more positive about your place in the world is my kind of take on it.

Sarah Archer  21:08

Yeah, and I want to talk a bit more about this in a little bit, too. It is sort of examined some of these myths and stuff about, you know, about sustainability, regeneration, and all of that good stuff, but want to touch on the one idea. So you focus very much on working with businesses. And you’ve got to make a case that is compelling to businesses. So if you had to sum up in one idea, what you need businesses to understand, what would that be? How would you do that?

Catherine Weetman  21:50

First of all, it can’t this can’t be solved, this is a wicked problem, it can’t be solved by doing a bit less bad, or by recycling stuff. It needs systems scale change, where we’re reimagining business strategies, you know, from from the very heart of the of the business, so that we’re thinking about healing the future instead of stealing it. And I see circular and regenerative approaches as the key tools to help businesses move forward on that, by creating deeper levels of value for all stakeholders, customers, employees, investors, the communities around you cites everybody, by shrinking the footprint of the business, the waste and pollution and emissions. And by and through that becoming more resilient, sustainable and profitable. So it’s kind of about thinking, you know, how can I make products that last that have a life of their own? And how can I find customers who are going to become my superfans? So I’ve got customers for life, instead of this pipeline, where we’re trying to just sell more, and, you know, push more, more through it every year.

Sarah Archer  23:00

And I think the case is compelling, isn’t it? Because this isn’t just about doing good. For others, it’s about making this business last because, you know, we, you and I often talk about Kodak in, in relation to this issue. Because, you know, it does sound you know, from a business perspective, all those things, you said sound like, oh, that sounds like a lot of work, you know, so that I can tick the green box. But it isn’t just about ticking the green box. Is it what it’s it’s about other stuff as well. Can you elaborate on that? Why should they what’s the compelling argument?

Catherine Weetman  23:45

So it’s all about becoming future fit. And I think, in the course of trying to write the next book, which is going to help businesses make the business case, I’ve tried to kind of sum up where I think we are. And I think over the last decade or so, the landscape has changed utterly. And so in the last century, it seemed like, you know, a rolling landscape with endless New Horizons to go and find new markets with customers to sell to a new resources to exploit. And everything seemed to have infinite possibilities. But now that landscapes changed, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s full of rocks and crevices. And as soon as you start to look into any resource, I’ve just been doing a blog about lithium for electric cars. You know, that’s not only is that essential if we want to have all electric cars, but it’s essential for all sorts of other products as well like glass and lubricants. And so everybody’s kind of competing for a resource that isn’t in short supply, but the consequences of mining it are horrific for the people and the environment. So, you know, we’re kind of Have this well, we’ll just get more lithium, but the but the consequences are awful. So every resource that you think about using up has consequences, whether that’s destroying habitats, you know, and we need more nature, we need nature to be drawing down carbon, we need nature to be cleaning up after us, as well as providing us with food and fibre. So everything we’re doing kind of has all the you know, it’s it’s the wicked problem again. So it’s, it’s about thinking of the future and thinking that the, it seems to me the only way forward is that we have to stop pushing stuff through this pipeline, and trying to pump evermore resources, energy water in at the beginning, and evermore waste and pollution out at every stage of the process, as well as the end of life. So the only way we’ll do that is by making products last longer. And everybody then starts thinking, you know why that’s hard. But in the last five years or so, I’ve helped my parents replace electrical items in their kitchen, a fridge, a cooker hob that they put in, in the 1970s. And these weren’t top end things, these were just everyday bog standard brands, and yet they’ve lasted 40 years, we haven’t, we haven’t had the kind of, you know, a brain failure that stopped us designing things to last, companies have just decided to follow a planned obsolescence route or make everything fashionable, you know, apparently sofas and our fashion item that you’re supposed to replace every couple of years.

You know, it’s it’s just all about this myth that selling more is what makes businesses successful. But we can’t keep selling more when we’re on a finite planet with finite, you know, finite resources and where we’re, we’re busy undermining the very foundations of society, you know, we’re using up resources, so they’re no longer available. And we’re wrecking. The very thing that we depend on, we’re destroying nature, which is what we utterly depend on, for clean air, fresh water, that’s safe to drink, and, of course, healthy food with nutrients. On top of that, we need nature to help us lock up all that carbon and methane that we’re putting into the atmosphere. So we utterly depend on nature. And yet, we’re just, you know, destroying it. Without thinking, so, so thinking about the future and thinking, Okay, let’s imagine we are on this, you know, imagine you’re on a little island, then how are you going to make sure that you don’t pollute that island. And, you know, use up all the resources, chop down all the trees and end up with nothing, it’s that kind of thinking. It’s not, it’s not difficult thinking. It’s just the scale of the scale of change.

And, you know, we’ve talked about Kodak. And that was, that was a great example of a company that could see the change coming, you know, they’d even employed the guy who invented the digital camera. So they were, they had first mover advantage. But what they tried to do was use digital to keep people printing photos, because film and printing was the cash cow. So they couldn’t get away from this idea that they had to keep people printing photos. And yet, they’d failed to understand what customers really wanted all along, which was to be able to share their stories, people weren’t interested in having a bit of paper with a photograph on it. They wanted to, you know, show it to people and they could show it to people online on social media. And so, you know, now that’s so obvious. But Kodak, we’re kind of locked into this. We can’t like we can’t let go. It’s this. It’s this kind of what’s the phrase for it? The the. So fallacies, that sunk cost fallacy, you know that we’ve got this thing, we can’t let that go. So they’re misguided strategy was all about, you know, let’s bundle it together. Whereas Fuji, the number two, who also depended heavily on film, business and printing, they saw the future much more clearly and realised that this was going to be really difficult. So they embarked on a massive transformation project, and used all their knowledge in how to make these chemicals to find new markets for those chemicals and become much more diverse, and through that more resilient. And so Kodak ended up in the space of a decade going from market leader to filing for bankruptcy, whereas Fuji increased their revenue by 50%.

Sarah Archer  29:33

Wow. And I think this there’s two sorts of things that come up for me around this one is going back to that frame of reference thing is like people get fixated on one sort of resource pass. So like the lithium now it’s got to be lithium or oil, it’s got to be oil in and then there’s sort of, let’s let’s just literally go all in on that instead of looking at alternatives and it’s all So, if you’ve got a business, I don’t, this is just me simple terms for me. You want to diversify your income streams to protect your business and make it sustainable in the long term. But we also need to do that at the front end in terms of the resources that we use to make those products. But we don’t seem to do that, we just sort of get fixated on one thing, that’s, that’s the first thing. The second thing is around status. Now, when I, I find, when you look at problems and pain of customers and stuff like that, when you peel back the layers of a problem, it always comes down to status. And, you know, my parents, we talked about your parents, my parents have lumped in all of the environment, and vegan and all of this stuff together in a sort of package of they like using that awful term work. But so they’ve put it all together in that. But it you know, they’re quite modern thinking they want the new thing, instead of like, we’ve got, you know, and I think the change is happening, we want to make it sexy to have things longer term, rather than to keep chopping and changing, but it’s it’s systemic, we’re conditioned to want new to keep up with the Joneses. Do you think that it can change in time? Do you think that the change is happening? I think it is. But I think it’s is it fast enough? That’s the question.

Catherine Weetman  31:39

Yeah, I guess, I guess at the moment, it’s not fast enough. But these things can change overnight can’t like, if we think about smoking, drink, driving, things like that, that have been socially acceptable in the past, and then you know, become not so that things can can change quite quite quickly. And there are, you know, there are lots of things that, that governments could be doing to encourage that. Thinking about drunk driving. There was an example where in America, they were finding it really hard to get people to be the nominator driver who’d stay sober. And so they they just encouraged friends and another sitcom, to just build it into the scripts. And within a few months, things change because suddenly, it was normalised and, and people could see role models doing that. And so suddenly, it became cool. So there’s lots of ways and I’m really encouraged by some of the stories I’m hearing about youngsters. Just this morning, again, on the same walk, we were talking about the daughter of some local friends we’ve got who’s only buys stuff off. Vinted doesn’t buy anything new, and neither the most of her friends. So I think this is really interesting, because this is youngsters deciding, deciding that their identity is their own identity. It’s unique. They’re going to be more imaginative, creative. And I think that’s probably much more rewarding than just copying what some influencers warn that you can, you can buy. And then when it comes through the door, you realise actually, it’s shoddily made, it’s awful materials. And once you’ve washed it, washed it once it looks like, like a rag. So people are starting to discover that there’s a different way. And you know, one of the things I’d love to see is marketing literacy courses. You know, we’ve got carbon literacy. Now helping people understand, you know, where carbon comes from and how we get rid of it. So marketing literacy, where people understand how they’re being manipulated, and can choose to then step back and think well, I’m not buying into that into this into this myth that unless I’m disinfecting everything within an inch of its life, you know, I’m not being a good parent.

Sarah Archer  33:55

Love that. That is my one when actually I’ve got my mum on Vinted. But she’s, she’s buying loads though. She’s still doing loads of shopping that she doesn’t need. But she looks she’s doing it on vintage. So those little when

Catherine Weetman  34:12

the next stage then is to get it to be reached reselling it on vintage or donating it and yeah,

Sarah Archer  34:17

yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. One thing that I’m interested in, I think people will be particularly interested in from the speaking perspective is have you switched up your content or delivery style? Over the course of the next 10 years that you will watch is longer than that since 2011. Talking about this stuff, to meet people more where they are, and bring them on board.

Catherine Weetman  34:45

Yeah. Now I try and include more stories of disruptors. So I’m not just talking about the circular economy as one set of challenges, but trying to help businesses understand that we’ve been through through these kinds of systemic changes before, when, within a few years, like with digital, everything’s been completely transformed. And just as with digital, the circular economy is going to affect every part of your business, back office, front office, everything. And unless you start to really think about that, then you know, you’re not going to, you’re going to be left behind. And I think digital is recent enough in most people’s memories, for them to kind of think, oh, yeah, here are the things that we did wrong here that here’s the place where we didn’t spend enough time thinking about the implications. So, you know, hopefully, people have got long enough memories to do that. Or there was a kind of listening to the thing about the the Silicon Valley Bank in the news this week that, you know, kind of suddenly got into difficulties. And Gillian Tett who’s, who – I think she’s the Financial Times American editor now. But she’s got an anthropology background. And she’s really interesting in interesting in terms of the, the sort of social context of this. And she was saying that now, there are too many people who can’t remember high interest rates, I certainly can, you know, I got caught out with 16% mortgage rates and the house price crash that followed that, but people are just, you know, lost sight of the fact that things could change. And so weren’t looking at the signals, and hadn’t thought about what they would do, what are the what ifs. And so that, you know, there’s just so many areas where businesses just get fixed on, this is the way that we’ve always done it, this is the way that we’re all gonna is gonna do it. And yet the evidence is everywhere that that that doesn’t work, you know, things have to change. There’s always a disruption.

Sarah Archer  36:54

Absolutely. And how important is speaking as a vehicle to get your message out there and to, to build that sort of consultancy practice? Because, I mean, obviously, this is your business, you’re absolutely passionate about it. And I know that you just shy away from being called an expert, but I’ve never come across anyone who’s so well. Read, like you, you know, so much. And you’re so but you’re, you know, you’re always learning like it’s a journey for you, like, you never know, you use it either. Perhaps you say I’m not an expert, because there’s so much more to know. But it doesn’t, you know, I think you are, whether you embrace that or not. But how important is speaking to you, as a vehicle to build up, you know, the practice and getting into companies to make those changes and actually making people aware of them?

Catherine Weetman  37:46

Yeah, it’s, it’s very important. And it’s the thing I’m most focused on getting better at because it feels like the number one way to help people engage with the topic to begin with, so that you can open up Windows of possibilities for people, and help businesses understand the systemic reasons why business, as usual, is a race to the bottom. But here are the things that you could be doing differently instead. And there’s a quote I’ve started using recently from a guy called Alvin Toffler, who says, you know, the, the literate’s of the future are going to be the ones who can learn, unlearn, and relearn. And that’s kind of, you know, everything’s changing so fast around us that that’s what we have to be doing all the time. You know, so I’m out and I’m open to other alternatives, maybe maybe the circular economy. While I know the circular economy doesn’t go far enough, you can do things that are circular, but cause what’s called rebound where we end up with more consumption, because suddenly circulars made something cheaper or more acceptable. So there is no perfect solution. But there are lots of things we can be doing to make every business more future fit, and profitable, and you know, to be loved by customers, investors, employees and suppliers.

Sarah Archer  39:05

I love that. And thank you for sharing so many real, like, there’s practical strategies in there for people to sort of, to grab hold of, and starting points that you’ve shared. And I will sort of give you the opportunity to, you know, if add anything if you think that we’ve missed something out, but I’d like to switch into our standard questions. Now I know. Now, I know that you listen to the show, so you got a heads up on this. But let’s start with the first question. What you know, what does speaking mean to you? What has it done for you?

Catherine Weetman  39:51

I guess it’s given me a route in to lots of businesses, community organisations, policymakers and so on. to try and help them think differently about the future.

Sarah Archer  40:04

Yeah, and you’ve spoken already, for some big organisations like United Nations use.

Catherine Weetman  40:10

Yeah, I do do some talks for the United Nations, they have an open, circular economy course every year. So I do a couple of lectures on that, alongside two of my former podcast guests, Brian Bauer from El Greco, and Sandra Goldmark, the author of a really interesting book called Fixation about why we love objects and what causes us to get things repaired. So yeah, so that so I really enjoy doing doing that every year, and then, you know, keynotes for businesses and conferences and so on.

Sarah Archer  40:48

Yeah. And there is another form of speaking you do? Which is your pot, your own podcast? How’s that been for you? Because that I mean, people dismissed that speaking, you know, at the end of the day that is speaking and getting your message out there. How has that been?

Catherine Weetman  41:03

Really interesting. I think the number one thing that it’s done for me, is engaged me with all these disruptive businesses, because that’s what I try and focus on is, you know, small businesses and organisations that are doing circular things. And that’s where I’m seeing the kind of signs of change. So it really helps keep me optimistic, and it helps me understand how those circular strategies are creating these viable, profitable businesses that are really going places.

Sarah Archer  41:34

Excellent. Okay, next question, then, what’s the book that’s had most impact on your life and why?

Catherine Weetman  41:44

Well, there were quite a few candidates for this. But I think the one that opened my eyes, obviously, there’s, you know, Sense and Sustainability by Ken Webster and Craig Johnson that I mentioned earlier. But a book called “Mistakes were Made (But Not By Me) [by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson] all about cognitive dissonance. And I read that probably five or six years ago, and it really changed my outlook on everything. And they look at various fields of expertise, from the law, to the medical profession to researchers, and they look at how it’s possible for people to be influenced by the wrong thing. Or to just get bound up in a myth, or, you know, an identity, and not be able to see past that, despite all the evidence to the contrary. But it shows how easy it is. And they kind of describe a pyramid, there’s a there’s a an experiment, they cite where students sitting in exam are given the opportunity to cheat, and they’ve just been given a question that wasn’t on the syllabus, so nobody could have prepared for this question. And then they’re given the opportunity to cheat. And they interview them all afterwards to find out, you know, what, what they’re now thinking, and the ones who chose to cheat, justify it and sort of say, oh, you know, I need the results from a job, everybody’s going to be cheating, or, you know, all these justifications, and the ones who chose not to cheat, have kind of gone the other way. And that anybody who cheat should be thrown off the course. And, you know, it’s absolutely immoral, and so on. And they kind of describe this process as being like, you know, when you make the decision, you’re at the top of a pyramid, but very quickly, you’re at the base of the pyramid miles away from the, from the person who took the opposite route. And we can, you know, once you start to think about that, you can see it in so many areas of discourse, particularly now with, you know, identity politics, and, you know, the way we talked about woke, and the woke culture earlier on, and you know, kind of people getting on one side or the other, and then not being able to see any other points of view. And I think this is one of the big issues around our, you know, way of way of living and way of being these days.

Sarah Archer  44:04

And that’s interesting. I know, it’s something that I talked briefly about within the answer who you introduced me to so thank you for that. And I know that you picked up on but it ties back to that book, then the this mistakes are made is interested, there’s some correlation between that their position, their sort of idea and what Anne was saying.

Catherine Weetman  44:25

Yeah, and the other other good books on that, The Scout Mindset [by Julia Galef] is another one, which has got a set of tools to help you be more of a scout than a kind of you know, she she contrasts scout and soldier mindset. So soldiers just kind of you know, it’s right or wrong, immediate conclusion, which is what our brain wants to do. Our brain doesn’t like uncertainty, but trying to have more of a scout mindset. And, you know, people who celebrate being wrong because it means you know, I’ve learned something. So just different ways of thinking.

Sarah Archer  44:55

And lovely, brilliant. Okay, what’s the best bit of business advice you’ve had and why

Catherine Weetman  45:01

I guess the frequent one from my husband that you’re never too old to be bold, and to just kind of, you know, go for things.

Sarah Archer  45:09

I love that. And you embody that I always enjoy speaking with you. Because I always learned something because you’re always learning something. Yeah. Brilliant. Okay. Last question. If you could have one mentor, and they can be alive or dead, fictional or non fictional, who would you choose? And why?

Catherine Weetman  45:31

A comedian, a UK comedian called Mark Steel, who on Radio 4 does Mark Steel’s In Town. And the reason I’d like to have him as a mentor is, he’s funny in a very empathetic way. So when he does, this goes to town, you know, turns up at a random town in the UK, looks into the history and culture and idiosyncrasies of that town. And then people in the audience are from that town. And he kind of gently teases them about some of these things. But he does it in a way that everybody joins in. And so it’s it’s kind of holding people to account, it’s shining a light on things that they might be embarrassed about, or you know, that that just look weird. But he does it in a way that’s that’s very inclusive, and, and kind of encouraging. So to have some advice from Mark Steele, about how to do that with business audiences on a on a really difficult subject, I think would be would be great.

Sarah Archer  46:33

is great. He’s great. Well, listen, thank you so much for sharing all of that. Great advice for businesses and individuals about how we can move forward and make a little mark in this wicked problem. And is there anything else that you feel that you need to share or say, in order to call this interview complaint?

Catherine Weetman  46:57

Just to say, thank you very much for inviting me onto the podcast. Thanks for doing your podcast, which I’ve just learned so much from. And I know I’ve got so much more to learn from. It’s all about, you know, learning, unlearning and relearning. So unlearning all that corporate stuff. So yeah, thanks for doing that. And for all the work that you’re doing to help people get their messages out there, and, you know, do good stuff in the world. So thank you very much.

Sarah Archer  47:25

You’re welcome. You inspire me every time. As I say, every time I talk to you, Catherine, you inspire me. And I’m really pleased to help you be able to get that message out there and make the change that we all need to jump on to. So thank you. So thank you so much for your time, and everything else and have a great rest of your week.

Catherine Weetman  47:50

Thanks, Sarah. And thanks for some brilliant questions. As I mentioned in the next episode, Episode 101 will cover my three circular strategies, and how they’re better for people planet and profit. We’ll dig into why businesses should aim to lead on sustainability, not just follow others, and we’ll unpack some of the myths around sustainability. So that’s a wrap for this episode of the circular economy podcast. Thank you to our awesome guest interviewer this week, Sarah Archer for being so generous with her time. And thanks also to Emma Hopkins for making the episode possible. As always, thank you for listening, and letting me know what you think it means a lot. You can find out more about Sarah Archer, her brilliant coaching programmes and the speaking club podcast. And check out all the other links we mentioned in the show notes at Circular Economy

Want to dig deeper?

Why not buy Catherine’s award-winning book, A Circular Economy Handbook: How to Build a More Resilient, Competitive and Sustainable Business. This comprehensive guide uses a bottom-up, practical approach, and includes hundreds of real examples from around the world, to help you really ‘get’ the circular economy.  Even better, you’ll be inspired with ideas to make your own business more competitive, resilient and sustainable. 

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