Circle Economy Foundationnews
Published on: 
February 9, 2024

Ivonne Bojoh: ‘I believe that laser focus is far more effective than trying to be everything to everyone.’

In celebration of Circle Economy Foundation’s 13th birthday, we are thrilled to introduce you to our new CEO, Ivonne Bojoh. With a background in digital technology and professional services, Ivonne brings a unique perspective to the forefront of our mission. In this interview, Ivonne shares her vision for the future, her passion for the circular economy, and the transformative impact she envisions for Circle Economy Foundation.

As a former start-up and scale-up professional, Ivonne Bojoh was always fascinated by cutting-edge technology. However, as she progressed in her career, she became increasingly aware that technology and economic growth can also have detrimental effects on nature and humanity

‘This happened when I went on a weekend trip with my husband in 2019,’ Ivonne recalls. ‘With ample time for introspection, I contemplated what truly energises me and aligns with my heart's desires. It became apparent that I wanted to do something on a global scale to address the societal and environmental challenges that I had observed in Southeast Asia, where I lived at the time.’

After this pivotal moment, Ivonne stepped down as a co-founder and CTO and came to the Netherlands in pursuit of her next opportunity. It was during this phase that she crossed paths with Martijn Lopes Cardozo, the previous CEO of Circle Economy Foundation. 

‘When Martijn introduced the concept of the circular economy to me, I didn’t immediately grasp its meaning,’ confesses Ivonne. ‘But then he illustrated it with an example from nature, where waste essentially doesn’t exist. I thought: “This is so simple, anyone can understand this! Anyone can see how a dead tree serves as a home for small animals, or that elephant dung is an incredibly energy-rich fertiliser. It’s a beautiful system. Why isn’t everyone living in this system?” This is when my admiration for the circular economy started.’  

Given Ivonne’s extensive experience in digital scale-ups, it came as no surprise that Martijn Lopes Cardozo invited her to develop a digital strategy to accelerate Circle Economy Foundation’s impact, and later to join the organisation as Director of Digital. In 2021, she also became interim COO, and in December 2023 succeeded Lopes Cardozo as Circle Economy Foundation’s CEO.

Reflecting on her new role as CEO, Ivonne points out: ‘Circle Economy Foundation has grown quite quickly in the past couple of years. What we need right now is to refine our internal structure and operations, ensuring we sustain the momentum needed to accelerate the global circular transition. At the same time, I see a tremendous opportunity for extending the foundation’s impact beyond the Global North. My roots are in Indonesia, so I have an intrinsic motivation to bring our work to Southeast Asia and the Pacific region. In addition, there are a lot of opportunities for us to support the circular transition in the Middle East, Africa and Latin America.’ 

Prior to assuming the position of CEO, Ivonne played an important role in developing the foundation’s new impact strategy. According to her, while its core vision remains unchanged—building an economic system that ensures the planet and all people can thrive—the organisation's role in this systemic transformation has become better defined. Over the next eight years, it will deliver on three specific goals for the four priority systems (housing, nutrition, manufactured goods, and mobility):

  1. Ensure that decision-makers have the indicators and evidence needed to ensure accountability for their circular ambitions. 
  2. Guarantee sufficient financial capital flows to circular and just solutions.
  3. Empower the key actors with the awareness and capacity to implement circular solutions.

‘I believe that laser focus is far more effective than trying to be everything to everyone. There are far more objectives that are needed in this global transformation, but these are the three objectives we feel we can contribute to best,’ says Ivonne. 

While doubling global circularity to around 17% by 2032 may appear a daunting task, Ivonne remains optimistic in light of the growing awareness of the adverse impacts of the linear economy: ‘If humans were made without the gene that causes greed, our jobs would be easier. Unfortunately, we are who we are. During the era of industrialisation, our unchecked greed took centre stage, and we kept on producing more, thinking that more is better. We’ve unknowingly gotten stuck in a finite system—we can’t continue like this forever. But the good news is that, increasingly, policymakers and industry leaders are aware that this system is tremendously flawed. The question is “Do you know and act or do you know and look away?”’

Amidst the complexities of her role, Ivonne finds solace in the proximity of a protected dune area, with 3400 hectares, the Amsterdam Waterleidingduinen are one of the largest connected hiking areas in the Netherlands. Describing her experience, she states, ‘Being able to just take a walk in nature and hear birds, see animals… it really calms me.’ For her, the ability to connect with nature fosters creativity, allowing her to recharge and approach the foundation's mission with renewed energy.

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