This is one of a series of interviews that started when Rosie Warin, CEO of culture and communications agency Kin&Co, began having conversations with high–profile, values–driven leaders of the ‘purpose revolution’ about the future of leadership. Each explores how these leaders got to where they are now, and what they think the future of values–driven leadership looks like.
How did the man who now turns abandoned fishing nets, old tires and coffee residues into clothing get to where he is today? We found out when we sat down with Javier Goyeneche, founder of Spanish eco-fashion brand ECOALF.
Rosie Warin: Clearly, you run a values-driven company, but what are your most important personal values?
Javier Goyeneche: Passion, for sure, then thinking differently and not being afraid to do so. Finally, not taking ‘no’ for an answer!
RW: Who are your heroes in the values-driven business space?
JG: I don’t really believe in heroes. But someone I respect and who is doing interesting work, although I haven’t met him, is Elon Musk. Also, a businessman who really impresses me is Howard Shultz, CEO of Starbucks. I’ve met with him several times and he really is brilliant.
RW: If you could wave a magic wand and have one wish to make the world a better place, what would it be?
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JG: Water. I think water is going to be a huge problem in the future and my wish would be to address this.
RW: One of the big pluses of having a values-driven company is that employees are more motivated. How do you inspire your team?****
JG: It’s true – it’s amazing how motivated the team at ECOALF are. They are a very young team and they are very dedicated to what they do. I believe that everyone has to be aligned behind the mission and the objectives of an organisation that’s values-driven.
RW: Tell me about a big failure you’ve had and that you’ve learned a lot from.
JG: I learnt a lot from the first company I had, a bag company, which failed. I had about 18 shops in Spain. Just before the crash in 2007, I opened another 50. When the crash hit we lost everything, but by 2010 I had realised that what I really wanted was to work in sustainability, and that’s how ECOALF was born.
RW: What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever done for work?
JG: A few years ago I received a phone call from GQ magazine, asking for one of our vests in mustard yellow colour, to use on the cover of their September issue. Without thinking, I answered that we didn’t do the vest in mustard and we had no fabric left. I then realised what I was doing, and the opportunity I was about to waste! The factory we were using couldn’t do it in time so I found another we could use, had the vest made, and flew almost instantly to the US with the vest, just in time!
RW: If you could give advice to your 25-year-old self, what would it be?
JG: Oof - a lot! Firstly, I would say to listen more to yourself. Not out of a sense of arrogance, but because I think that we often know more than we think we do. I would also tell myself to learn how to say no - this is something I’m still working on now, though!
RW: As we move forward from a year full of political upheaval, the onus is on purpose-driven business leaders to continue driving sustainability agendas. What do you see as your biggest priorities and challenges for 2017?
JG: For Ecoalf, our biggest priority for 2017 is to continue replicating our Upcycling the Oceans project in other parts of the world. After consolidating all the coast of Spain and involucrating over 4,000 fishermen, we want to expand the project to the rest of the Mediterranean coast. We want to raise as much awareness as possible about the problem of marine debris.
Other interviews in this series: