S2E31 - Camilla Haugsten, Founder of Ouroboros

Camilla Haugsten is the Founder of Ouroboros, an online global consultant supporting CEOs and Executives to develop their companies in a sustainable direction towards a circular economy. 

Based in Copenhagen and Oslo their goal is to help 1,000,000 companies in the transition towards a more profitable and resilient business model with integrated sustainability.


  • Why Camilla choose to work with business leaders
  • With a career in sustainability for over 20 years, Camilla has journeyed with the environmental movement over its many different phases along with different shifts in identity.
  • Ouroboros helps business leaders find the sweet spots of business goals and positive environmental effects
  • Helping business find their identity can help expand their sustainability efforts
  • Being in alignment with your identity will make communication authentic
  • Sustainability needs to move away from being just a communication exercise
  • Camilla shared a story of how a company have yet to make a difference in how they operate even after adopting a the Sustainable Development Goal and understanding how the SDG agenda related to them
  • Nurturing a business culture that can embrace change at all levels is key to sustainability
  • Importance of having goals and vision while not knowing exactly how to get there
  • To find your purpose, use the Japanese concept of Ikigai or “the reason for being”: What do you love?, What the world needs?, What are you good at?, What can you be paid for?
  • Ouroboros is expanding their team and looking for partners to co-create their training programme.

Useful links:


Connect with Camila on Linkedin

Listen to more podcasts here.


Intro  0:08  

Welcome back to the Green Element Podcast where we feature business leaders and innovators transforming their operations to be more environmentally and socially sustainable. I’m your host, Will Richardson and I can’t wait to meet our guest today and help you on your journey of sustainability. 


Will  0:28  

Today, we have Camilla on from Ouroboros and they are a Norwegian company that help organizations and business leaders become more sustainable and there’s so much more to it than that and she has so much more to say than just that kind of catchphrase. It’s, I think it’s a really interesting conversation and she’s been in sustainability for a very long time and we can learn an awful lot from her experience and the way that she looks at sustainability as a whole. So I hope you really enjoy the podcast. 


Will  1:08  

Hi, Camilla. Welcome to the Green Element Podcast. Thank you so much for joining us today. You work for a company called Ouroboros? and please, why don’t you let us know who you are, what you are, what Ouroboros does?


Camilla  1:25  

Thank you Will and thank you for hosting me. Okay, so Ouroboros. Well, first, we currently are witnessing an unprecedented shift in the way that businesses relate and interact with the world and Ouroboros is founded on that very promise of really harnessing their unbridled potential of business as a vehicle towards a sustainable future. So it’s really founded on that purpose, and some call us a coaching consultancy for business and sustainability, which means that we primarily focus on making business sense out of sustainability. That’s at least the way that I prefer to say it, working to accelerate a sustainable society and creating business results with embedded environmental gains to follow. I’m not sure you mentioned but we are also Scandinavian based with offices both in Norway, Oslo, Denmark and Copenhagen and although we are Scandinavian based, we like to see ourselves as global participants. We like to have a global reach and also work with partners from different corners of the world.


Will  2:42  

Yeah. So you work, you do work outside Scandinavia? As well as, just inside Scandinavia? Okay. I don’t think I realized that and maybe you did say something like that when we first met, actually, and how long have you been doing this sustainability and what for?


Camilla  2:58  

In terms of me personally, this is not a new quest for me. I started my career when I was nine years old following the Chernobyl event. That’s really what carved out my journey in terms of what I wanted to do with my life and how I wanted to contribute and professionally I’ve been working within this field for well more than 20 years, which means that I’ve been part of and also journeyed together with environmental movement and many of the different shifts that, those movements have gone through, including, and people that have been part of that movement will hopefully understand what I’m referring to because including in those shifts, means also having to renew oneself as the agenda evolved and because it started out being kind of like direct actions and really opposing everything and it was all about getting awareness and then we had our identity in that position being this environmental warrior, but then we moved onward to the next stage and we had to leave that identity behind. So being and living within this movement has been, it’s been quite a few shifts in identity, professional identity. But yeah, so I just wanted to share that it’s it’s not something that I’ve chosen to do in in recent years, once this green shift that has been trending. It’s something that’s been with me for forever.


Will  4:27  

It’s interesting you talk about that because in that time with with the green shifts that you’re talking about, like I can totally relate to it becau se what I say is what it became, it was important, less important, important, less important, and we’re actually on the third kind of important, and every time you get to an important stage, I feel it’s more important than the the important stages before, but I don’t know whether that’s just me being optimistic going. Yes, it’s definitely gonna happen this time and I actually think that’s a bad thing for people like me to be saying that because actually that puts a tiny bit of negativity into it and some would say realism, but actually, you don’t want to have that because you want to have that surge?  and say yeah, everything is going to be brilliant. We are going to be, but I hadn’t thought I’d the environmental warrior bit that was the bit that got me and I actually remember that and yeah, that’s brilliant.


Camilla  5:26  

Yeah. As with Ouroboros, we founded Ouroboros close to six years ago now. So we are not a very old company but still hanging in there doing our services.


Will  5:42  

And what services do you do? Is it is it mainly coaching and online coaching? or?


Camilla  5:48  

Yeah, well, it’s maybe let me just first probably share like our target audience because our target audience is leadership, really trying to reach out l eadership – business leaders that are dedicated or have already made up their mind in terms of business and sustainability being a fit coming together, although some maybe early in their journey, others have been working with this for some time and just want to figure out what their next step is, and kind of like elevating their lead, so to say. So what we do is within that span from the people that are at the beginning of their journey to the one that’s more mature in their journey, there are also different maturity levels in terms of how to obviously in terms of how to relate to this. So we do everything from a very simplified sustainability due diligence of a company, figuring out where lies the opportunities, really harnessing or figuring out the sweet spot where you can actually achieve business result as well as having that embedded positive environmental effects of effort. So it’s everything from really getting launched with all small pieces of strategic elements to a full coverage of company strategy, all the way to the top where sustainability becomes that integral part of the business’s DNA. So it’s the full span of strategy, and very much followed with a coaching approach. So you have that support system, following all the shifts and changes that is happening and has to happen throughout the business transformation and cultural nourishment to accompany that.


Will  7:37  

You must be privy to quite a lot of really cool information and you must see some great cultural shifts within companies as well. In that position?


Camilla  7:49  

Yeah, well, sometimes Yes. And sometimes it’s me well, obviously, obviously, yes, but sometimes I’m really surprised in terms of like, let me share this one thing, it’s not because it’s has happened fairly recently and it’s almost that, I can’t believe I didn’t discover it sooner. Yeah. Because today, even though well, so I’ve been here within this field for a long time, and I see that it’s more substance like the movement that’s happening now the actions, the conversations, everything has its, holds more substance to it. So it’s more deeply rooted. However, it’s still a very much a communication agenda. And I really would like for us to get out of that position where it’s this communication agenda. So what happened was that we were discussing with or the first time it happened, then I’ve observed it several times. The first time it happened, we were discussing the Sustainable Development Goals with was, was not a client, but it was a company and all it’s just simply conversation and asking them like how are they working with their Sustainable Development Goals and the person was like, proud and relaxed and happy because they had they had supported it. And then asking further, it revealed that they were satisfied because they had now they had discovered how they had a relationship with the Sustainability Development Goals could be in terms of like how they could position themselves within them, and then how they can communicate from that. So their pain had been not understanding what this agenda was about and how it referred to them like to me, and now they had figured out a way of communicating from them. So pains released. Okay, problem solved. And went on a follow up question I was asking. So what did you actually change? What did you do differently. Well, we now know that goal number eight is our goal so really I haven’t done anything differently? And then the person kind of started thinking well, when you put it that way? Yeah, we will have to look at this again. So the thing is that it’s not it’s not from bad well, it’s just that that’s further than for many, the reflection level still lies and it was a surprise to me because I thought we had moved past this level. And yeah, and it’s just really a reality check in terms of how to meet the market. So, so yes, I still get very much surprised about the conversations that I have out there in the market and on the one end, and on the other end, I profoundly get some learned so much from our clients and leaders at times in terms of their perspectives and reflections and philosophical standpoint, when it comes to leadership and what it holds and believing in all almost like a new rise our leadership having to emerge for us to move onwards in this agenda. So it I mean, it’s yeah, I experienced the full range of everything.


Will  11:10  

Do you find that? It could be people and it could be I guess nationalities but there’s a difference in people that you speak to in from different countries with the way they think about sustainability or, or do you find that is actually comes down to the person not the country?


Camilla  11:29  

I think it comes down to the the person and the function that that person holds in their professional life, because that’s where you are, you’re mainly challenged in your thoughts and your thought processes and need to come up with new answers all the time. So I think it’s very much it’s a combination of the function and the person but obviously, all cultural background, being a business culture, and national nationality, or religion culture, even civic culture will affect people. I’m not sure I can say anything very precise in terms of like country wise. Yeah, but I mean people look to Scandinavia for being like a green area of the world and I want to, I want to be part of that leadership although being on the inside I but that could be my personality I still think that we do not do enough. I really think that we need to because we hold the position that we have in the world and that we have opportunities and the resources that we have that we very much so should step up and, and just show and lead by a different example by an even stronger leadership position. So that’s and you can say in Scandinavia is kinda like a very, very, very teeny tiny small area on the planet. Some of the conglomerates and so on, some of the companies are way larger and so it’s not merely the nationalities and the the national or the country wise culture that are all as much importance I think that’s what really fuels an interesting discussion is talking about business culture and how nurturing a business culture that can facilitate change and transformation and helping people, employees and leaders at all level really stay the course and kind of find I don’t know how to say this better way but find rest. Even like being in change because being in change something you are over a period of time. It’s not something you are one day in the next day it’s over. So you have to kind of find a way to to be in that that state of changing so that we managed to get through and on to another journey. Does that make sense? Yeah.


Will  14:10  

It makes complete sense. And I think that the conversations I mean, recently, on the podcast, I’ve been talking to quite a lot of people around the world, but a number from the US and, of course, the person I’m going to be talking to in the US is going to be green. But actually, it’s not necessarily that is the stuff that they’re saying about what is going on around them and it’s not, we’re not told about it in our media but there is definitely a it is and it’s actually what what you said it’s a business. It’s a business shift and there seems to be quite a lot going on in the US that I don’t think has been referred to, or infered to at any point in discussions because the US is put on a pedestal as badness but actually, I think there’s quite a lot of stuff that’s going on from a business point of view in the US, and, and I hope that’s the case around the world as well and it’s an interesting place to be where it’s actually businesses that are driving forward and not governments. Yeah, and so you and you have people like Microsoft, whether you agree or disagree or can’t work out how they’re going to do it. That kind of doesn’t matter. The fact they’ve said they’re going to be carbon negative by 2030 I think, 2050 I can’t remember but whatever it is, it’s the fact that such a big company is willing to say things like that. They may get it wrong in the first instance and it may not be necessarily correct, but they are actually going to be driving that agenda and they will get it correct at the end of it, but it’s better to say something slightly wrong than nothing at all, as far as I’m concerned.


Camilla  16:13  

Yeah, I completely agree and honestly, I wouldn’t believe them, or even believe in them if they had said that, and we have the strategy ready. We know how to do this. Because we don’t, it’s really about so I’m a very firm believer, and we need I mean, obviously, in having visions and having an ambitious goal, but that’s kind of like the general direction of things. And then it’s really about paying attention and making out what’s the, what’s the next and the best step and let things unfold from there because things keep changing all the time and if we look to I don’t know what the half life of knowledge is anymore. It used to be five years. And then it was four years and I don’t know, maybe it’s three years now. So things keeps changing, like the pace of change is so super fast. So if you lay out a strategy now and you commit to that, and you invest in all kinds of different pathways to see that through in a specific way, I don’t think that’s what’s going to serve and neither the company or the ecosystem that take parts around that company the best way, so I think it’s a Yeah, I’m really glad that they’ve kind of like, we’re determined to do this. and we’re starting out, we don’t have all the pieces in place, which I think I salute that I think that is really good. And I think that’s the honest and the bold way to, to lead really. 


Will  17:48  

Yeah, absolutely and you talked about communication before and I’m quite keen to explore that within your role while talking to businesses and business leaders. What’s the best way that you have seen from an effective point of view? So what’s the most effective way that you’ve seen people communicate with staff and try to change culture within organizations?


Camilla  18:17  

Okay, so one of the things we like the people that we’ve worked with our clients there are somewhat always, because we are founded on the promise that we are they’re always, always somewhat aligned with what we, our purpose as a business, but I think it’s safe to say that we always stretch and challenge them in terms of their greater potential and one of the ways we do that is addressing their business identity. Because if they figure out a way or if they kind of like, when we open up that discussion for, in many occasion it becomes real to them to the company that the identity that they have is formed or based upon a position they had in the past, it’s not an identity they can lead with going into the future. So when we start this kind of discussion, I mean, call it identity coaching or vision coaching or, or whatever and they are able to determine and deciding a different identity, different coordinates of identity, that affects their whole business, it effects really affects where they’re communicating from, and that’s my point. It’s calling the point where a communicating from that’s when you have effective communication, because if there’s a misalignment with the communication you’re trying to portray, and that identity or hold as a company or even as a person, it doesn’t really work. So you need to be in alignment with your identity and really rooted in that and talking from that perspective. Basically, then all communication works because it’s authentic. People believe it, so working with identity of businesses as a way of facilitating and boosting cultural change, development, evolution I think it’s really, really key and, and super exciting as well, I love to be involved in processes like that.


Will  20:35  

And what would you say? One piece of advice to our listeners to help them with their purpose?


Will  20:45  

One piece of advice to help them with their purpose? In terms of that, I would really actually I would explore that identity position and then I would challenge that identity position. You can do that from different perspectives but there is this Japanese concept of ikigai. Have you heard about that? No, I it was a business coach that introduced it like, for real, I’ve heard about it before, but I didn’t really grasp it before and then also I journeyed to Japan studying a little bit further. But it’s a it’s a common concept that kind of involves different dimensions. So it involves what a dimension of what the world needs, what you get paid to do, what you’re good at as a, as a company and also where you have your passion over you what you love and then talking from a company identity. So the intersection between those four dimensions is, is the concept of ikigai, which means what makes, I think it means what makes life perfect and life purpose or something like that. So it’s at least a way of exploring that position. But a simpler way of doing it is is really just looking to like what position do we hold in, in society, in business society in the greater society today? What services is it that we are providing? and What could it be? If I were to choose? On the highest selve ever? What could it be like what role could we hold in the greater society, be a client of ours just to give an example a client of ours has a Swedish sign producing company, or at least that’s what they used to be. It’s kind of an interesting process, because they, we had this identity discussion with them and they, they used to be, they used to present themselves as we are a sign producing company and they had a very, very well crafted sustainability strategy. So they had a they were a sign producing company with a sustainability strategy, but after working a bit and exploring different identity positions, they become a communicator of, a visual communicator in urban environments. I think holding or portraying positive impact for environments and the planet or human human, some planet, something like that, but it’s also they kind of like they expanded their immediately expanded their role and, and they even almost like they expanded a company as well because the reach became larger and their, their responsibility, the interaction with the world, the opportunities in terms of collaborative partners, and that points of decision making for how to communicate, how to explore opportunities, how to develop their business immediately shifted. So now they’re not a sign producing company anymore, Yeah.


Will  24:03  

Yeah, and you can see that, you can see the way that they would have evolved. Yeah, that’s, that’s, that’s a really cool example. I like it. Um, what’s the best way that we can connect with you and understand more about what it is that you do? And obviously all the links will be on our show notes as well.


Camilla  24:24  

Yeah, well as a general invitation, anyone listening and finding this interesting and see a win win somehow. I would, I would really love for you to reach out. I always love to talk to people, like fellow travelers, I would say and see if there are more things for us to explore together and you can reach out either through our website or on my personal LinkedIn profile. But actually, if I may, there are a couple of things that we are looking for as well right now. Yeah. So on one thing, we are looking to build our team. So we have taken a couple of years and found our way into the market and our way of working within this field and now we’re decided that we wanted to scale so there are two perspectives to this come work for us if you’re interested, but the other one is that we’d love to cocreate this is what I wanted to share, we would like to cocreate a training program or, or even call it like a train the trainer program for people who wants to take advantage and learn about the way that we apply our models and methodology and then wants to take out those onwards in their own practices and, and, and neighbors. So if anyone thinks that’s interesting, also I would, very much love to hear about that.


Will  25:53  

Brilliant. Well, I’ll share that on LinkedIn, as well and yeah, that’s great, that is cool, that’s exciting.


Camilla  26:03  

It is.


Will  26:04  

Thank you so much for coming on today, Camilla. It’s been an absolute pleasure talking to you. I feel like I could have carried on. Yeah, do you for ages, but I do know that we’ve got a kind of 40 minutes, and I don’t the listeners gonna be like, okay, it’s usually about 40 minutes. I’m aware of that but, maybe we could have you on another time. I would love to have to do a follow up on what, who’s actually come in and talk to you and that journey of because you would have ended up speaking to loads of really cool people. Yeah. Um, yeah, that’s because we aren’t going to solve sustainability as individuals are we? We are literally going to solve yeah, sustainability as a whole. There is no magic pill. There’s no, I can’t remember, with you know, but you know what I’m saying?


Camilla  26:59  

Yeah. I get it.


Will  27:03  

Panacea is what I was trying to say alright, yeah, thank you so much.


Camilla  27:09  

Thank you for having me. Thank you so much, and I’d love to come back.


Will  27:13  

I’ll take you up on that.

Camilla  27:14  



Intro  27:19  

Thank you so much for listening to the end of this episode of the Green Element Podcast. Do take a moment and share this with your friends and colleagues and rate and review the podcast wherever you get your podcasts. I’d love to know what has been your biggest takeaway from this conversation? What are you going to do differently? Please share your thoughts across social media and tag us so we can see them too at GE underscore podcast. For links and show notes for this episode, visit our website greenelement.co.uk forward slash podcast. Thank you again. I hope you will join me on the next episode and together we can help create a better world.


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