The circular economy offers a systemic response to the climate crisis. It is about rethinking how we use our raw materials and resources to create a sustainable economy free of waste and emissions. It means shifting from the current linear model of ‘take, make, waste’ to an economy where we ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’.
People and businesses need to change the way they produce and consume. Companies have to design differently, sell differently and value differently. They have to rethink their propositions, redesign their organisations, and cooperate more often, with more parties.
Many companies have started a journey to become more circular, which happens in many shapes and forms. There are well-known companies enabling product-sharing. Others like Signify and Michelin are actively redesigning the production and use of their lighting and tyres, for example.
But there is still a long way to go. Today’s world is far from circular and the trend is negative to neutral at best. The negative environmental effects of market activities remain unpriced, transaction and operational costs are higher for circular businesses, the demand and supply for secondary goods and materials is still too low and innovation within circular solutions carries higher risks. We need government policies to help support circular innovations and level the playing field with the linear economy.
We see circular economy as an important solution towards limiting global warming as close as possible to 1.5°C. We as a bank have to value differently, treat risk differently, and finance differently when it comes to the circular economy. Our role is important, as we can help unlock finance for new business models and engage on new value propositions with our clients.
What is ING doing?
We build our knowledge and network
In 2016, ING joined the Ellen MacArthur foundation, a global thought leader on the circular economy, to collaborate with partners and promote the circular economy.
We published several research reports on circular economy and financing the circular economy. Our recent publication: ‘Rethinking the road to the circular economy’ answers important questions: Why do we need to move to a circular economy? What are the hurdles for circular economy growth? How can we get the circular economy going?
The key seems to be to work together across the value chain, across industries and also between public and private parties. That’s why we regularly host roundtables with clients and other stakeholders to discuss the hurdles and challenges, for instance on plastics.
We finance circular deals and investments
With ING Sustainable Investments, we’ve invested in for instance Milgro, a leading cleantech company. Milgro has developed an interface platform that helps companies to control their waste streams, optimise recycling, reduce and prevent the waste of raw materials. We’ve also invested in Black Bear Carbon. They convert used car and truck tyres into raw materials for new products like pen ink, smartphone covers and new tyres.
ING has also provided several loans to recyclers and companies that produce goods using recycled resources. Some of these deals have been with ground-breaking circular businesses, like the La Trappe brewery with a closed loop water system and the world’s first energy neutral and circular hotel, Breeze.
We have also supported several green and sustainability bonds in support of the circular economy.
We explore and develop beyond banking solutions
ING regularly hosts Circular Economy Business Simulation games, as a start of our journey with clients, but also with employees and cities. Circular propositions are often a collaboration between different partners. We can help creating valid business cases for circular propositions, focusing on a proper risk reward distribution among all parties involved.
Together with Accenture and Circle Economy ING has set up a ‘Circular Supply Chain Accelerator’ (CiSCA) to help large multinationals and their small and medium-sized suppliers shift to circular business models. CiSCA aims to accelerate the transition to a circular economy by addressing a primary challenge for companies with circular ambitions: development of circular business models and business cases for supply chains and clients. Read the latest report here (PDF 1.97 MB).
In 2018, ING published the Circular Economy Finance Guidelines together with ABN AMRO and Rabobank. The guidelines established a uniform framework for identifying, selecting, financing and enabling investors for initiatives based on new circular business models.