In a circular economy, existing materials and products are used as much as possible when they are borrowed, rented, reused, repaired and recycled. There is a lot of talk about circular economy, but truly functioning, practical examples are still quite rare.
In the item rental service developed by CoReorient, the support of a community enhances the use of goods. The service, awarded by The Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra, allows community members to borrow, for example, renovation tools or hobby equipment.
Item rental services have, of course, existed for a long time, but the information is often scattered, and it has not been easy for the consumer to find and use them. But items can be easily found on this company’s platform.
There are at least hand and power tools, as well as bicycle helmets on the shelves of the rental facility. The tools are practically of professional quality, as they have to endure a lot. All cargo bikes are rented out this time.
Big changes in transportation and mobility
All in all, there is a lot to do in order to get the circular and sharing economy off to a good start. Both circular economy and sustainable consumption are needed to slow down climate change.
– Finland is supposed to be carbon neutral by 2035. If we are going to stick to this goal, things should happen quickly, says the CEO, Mr Harri Paloheimo.
Reaching the goal of carbon neutrality requires big changes in transportation and mobility. CoReorient has also a solution for minimizing traffic emissions: to facilitate carpooling. It has developed a digital platform for these services.
Mr Paloheimo points out that Finland is not a pioneer, as we easily like to think. He gives us an example from France, where customers trying out carpooling receive a gift card worth 100 euros after a three-month trial.
According to Mr Paloheimo, public transport operators in Finland could cooperate with carpooling services. For example, the service could pick up passengers from certain bus stops and take them closer to their destination.
The company also promotes both sustainable development and circular economy in cooperation with others. The Luontoarvot.fi website developed by CoReorient for the Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners (MTK) is a marketplace for sites that can safeguard natural diversity and promote nature conservation.
The purpose is to get the material side flows of farms into use with the help of the marketplace Kiertoasuomesta.fi, that is another website the company has implemented for the MTK.
Easy and cheap circular economy
Mr Paloheimo founded CoReorient in 2011 together with Mr Heikki Waris. Both men have a background in Nokia product development.
One key idea of the company is that the circular and sharing economy must be easy and cheap. People do not have to make choices between right and wrong, but sustainability is included in the service.
– Thus, sustainable consumption is spreading, and effectiveness can be achieved.
Decision-makers are, however, required to come up with solutions that will take us in the right direction. As an example, Mr Paloheimo points out that by lowering fuel taxes, people get used to wrong behavior patterns.
Over ten years, the founders of CoReorient have proven that the promotion of the circular economy does not happen overnight. Changing attitudes takes time, but regulation slows down progress, too.
Mr Paloheimo says that the continuation and possible success of a business operating in the circular economy requires resilience.
– Many emphasize the importance of focus. However, based on my own experiences, I can say that it depends on the situation, whether it is really worth keeping all your eggs in one basket.
For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, when carpooling stopped quickly, the company was saved by its item rental service.
Mr Paloheimo urges startups promoting sustainable development to be active and participate in various events. Networks should be built broadly, rather than strictly limited to one’s own field.
It is undoubtedly worth connecting with people who are genuinely looking for sustainable solutions. Mr Paloheimo values a positive attitude towards development and innovation.
It goes without saying that persistence is needed. It is good to remember that even though your own business idea and company have their own schedule, the rest of the world may have completely different ones.
– The bigger potential partners you approach, the more patience is needed. In your own message, you must clearly state how you can help others. That’s how the good goes around.
Practical advice from Growth Path program
CoReorient is one of the companies in the Growth Path program of the Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council. In addition to expert sparring, companies get various contacts and cooperation opportunities in the program.
Out of the 200 companies that participated in the program, it was among the 60 most promising ones to compete for the Growth Company of the Year Award.
– It has been a good program. We got extremely useful sparring during the event days, Mr Paloheimo says.
In his opinion, the best thing was that the company was not given general advice, but that its challenges were carefully reviewed.
– In the sparring sessions the experts analyzed how we look and what things we should be able to develop. We also received useful information on taxation and potential investors, Mr Paloheimo sums up.