The environment is rarely perceived as a luxury. Water and air surround us: they are everywhere, plentiful and free of charges. Due to this overall perception, worries over man-made climate change have been met with mild attention or utterly discarded. However, surveys and researches show us that our planet resources are far from unlimited and our actions today will leave to future generation a far poorer earth.
Increasing awareness and subsequent concern over the consequences of pollution and environmental exploitation has called for solutions from every actor in the society: the institutions, the civil society and the business world. Economical growth should never comes at the expenses of the environment and many business companies are now turning towards green solutions. Companies are discarding a short-term vision focused on fast returns on investment in favor of incorporating long-term environmental and social risks in their development plans. More sustainable solutions for economic growth can be elaborated by working in partnership with both financial and social actors, in a joint effort and built on the knowledge of the environment.
Highly aware of the importance of sustainable business, Mantra is an environmental consulting company based in Bali. The team at Mantra works side by side with the local community and the tourism industry to elaborate sustainable plans of business development. We interviewed Sean Nino Lotze, co founder of Mantra, to learn more about the history and work of his company.
Could you tell us more about Mantra and what is its vision?
“We work with hotel groups and large developers, the big players when talking about environmental sustainability. We have developed an approach that improves their resource efficiency, lowering their water and energy consumption and reducing their overall waste. The achievements we reached with our work, are due to a comprehensive program that builds on data and past projects performance and monitoring results. We combine environmental sustainability with financial success and this is interesting for business.
The big private groups are always looking to improve their financial performance. The CEO has to answer to the shareholders and the board with facts and figures proving the ongoing success of the company. We can prove that environmental performance increases and we save financial costs at the same time. Mantra understands the importance of showing environmental improvement in a measurable way, allowing the company to celebrate its success on resource consumption efficiency and sustainability, supporting every steps toward green leadership.”
Although Mantra works mainly with the big players, you are involved also in projects active in rural areas of the island. Could you tell us more about it?
“We have a program that builds waste/material management infrastructure for village communities. We collaborate with Bumi Sasmaya and several Balinese stakeholders. Merah Putih Hijau empowers local communities to reduce waste to landfill by up to 90%. It is a simple set of rules and guidelines that grow with the communities socio economic hierarchy. The locals need to enforce the rule of separation on to villas, restaurants and hotels. Without an actual enforcement or incentive of separation at source, there will never be a big improvement in the waste management sector. Separation truly is the key to successful waste/material management.”
On what are you currently working and what are the next steps you are planning?
“We are working with big companies, helping them to see the environment as a true luxury, and pushing them toward a more meaningful form of investment. We are planning to collaborate with the Bali tourism industry and the local government, to help develop and enforce environmental standards and guidelines that improve the energy, water and waste landscape. Our team has been collecting a lot of valuable environmental data and we need to find a broader application that helps improve future decision making.”
Why did you decide to create Eco-Mantra?
“Both me and the others co-founders grew up here in Bali. Later in life, we left to study in Europe and found good jobs in international companies, even though we were not fully content with our lives, deep down we knew it was not what we wanted to do. We decided to come back to Bali and we created Mantra. It has been a long journey: being an entrepreneur in Indonesia is not easy especially when there is so little care for the environment and everyone is blaming somebody else for the problems. In general, to be an entrepreneur, it takes patience, persistence and diligence to handle the bureaucratic and legal process. Good partners make the struggle worthwhile and having a joint vision and principles is essential for collaboration and decision making.”
In your opinion, what do you think is the difference between an entrepreneur and a businessman?
“The center of the entrepreneur is his passion. He follows an idea. The business comes later, at the beginning you are just seeing a problem and trying to find a solution. Entrepreneurs are focused on big problems that need to be solved, while businessmen are focused on returning an investment and act as an administrator and project manager.”
What advice would you give to future entrepreneurs?
“My advice is first and foremost to invest in building strong and valuable partnerships that are meaningful and important for your vision. To actively collaborate with the local community, understand their problems and their desires: it is the only way to make your idea sustainable in the long term. My second advice is to not commit to debt: do not build an “early” idea around the basis of financial investment because if you do, you will lose decision power and with that the possibility to follow through with your idea and vision. Investors give you money, but they want it back with interest. If you are successful, money will come eventually. Grow slowly and with patience. Less is more.”