A plea to use responsible and regenerative economic models to break the cycle of infinite growth and the misuse of resources deemed "free".
Today, two billion people are members of the global middle class and we are consuming the resources of 1.7 planets. At this rate of consumption, how can we possibly meet the needs of the extra three billion consumers who will join the middle class by 2020? The biosphere will surely not withstand this increase in such a short space of time. According to Matthieu Leroy, until recently IKEA's Sustainability Manager, we have reached the peak of the curve not only for the consumption of oil, but also for sugar, red meat, consumer goods – and furniture. Our carbon emissions are increasing at an exponential rate, but the same applies to toxic emissions jeopardising the water and air and to the earth's deteriorating biosphere. And although the supply of resources is dwindling, only 7% of waste is recycled and injected back into the economy.
Why is this? Because we remain faithful to the linear economic system based on infinite growth, at the expense of the resources of the earth's surface. The consequence of this is that very soon, we will be faced with a considerable risk of shortages of raw materials as well as volatility and increasing prices, for example.
So "extract, produce and discard" should be consigned to history as soon as possible. Scientists say that if we do not drastically alter the factors behind our carbon emissions and use of resources in the next three to five years, climatic phenomena and mass extinctions of species will spiral out of control. To hasten progress towards the new economy, a new EU law is under discussion that would aim to oblige companies to retain ownership of the materials they use to produce their products, selling only the service linked to their use. But our pragmatic neighbours in the Netherlands have pushed ahead: there, 50% of purchases made by state services must be circular by 2030.
Let's switch as soon as we can
Innovation is certainly gaining ground on our old habits: examples include "light as a service" for retailers, whereby you only pay for the light you use and not the actual lights, contracts for the use of tyres on demand, and office photocopiers that are easily disassembled and only available under leasing agreements. Initial experiences of circularity show that the concept produces greater benefits in the medium term than simple sales. But at this stage of designing environmental strategies in the majority of companies, the focus mainly falls on a marginal reduction of negative impacts.
"This won't be enough", declares Matthieu Leroy. "We cannot continue to increase well-being and to grow if we do not firstly consume better, but also consume less." Though Leroy's former employer IKEA is active in recycling, his passion for the circular model led him to go further and establish STRATA.
His company provides furniture for hire rather than sale, catering for the niche market of landlords who offer accommodation to students or expatriates. "When a table has served its purpose or has gone out of fashion, it is typically discarded as a whole. The same applies to an item of child's furniture that in under two years is no longer useful", continues Leroy. He advocates an entirely new approach that involves a fundamental review of the way we create value, and no longer regards customers as consumers of products but as users of services.
Frentlife is another young Belgian firm illustrating the same furniture hire concept. When the furniture is no longer useful it is either collected and replaced or given to charity.
Several years ago, Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport signed a contract with its provider to receive light "as a service": the provider retains ownership of everything up to the bulbs which it is responsible for installing and replacing, so that the airport always has sufficient light. Costs are lower for the airport, and Philips considerably increases its profit margin while also establishing a long-term customer relationship and drastically reducing the effect on the environment. What could be better than that?
The message is circular
The circular economy aspires to be a model that repairs and regenerates, that abolishes the very idea of the lifespan and replaces it with the goal of reusing for the longest possible period, repairing and recycling. It allows action in various domains, some of which are preferred by companies. One example is the use of non-toxic biological materials (such as biomass and wood) that harmlessly re-enter the biosphere, eliminating any type of waste. Technical components could, once optimised, be reintegrated into a new manufacturing process.
It will also be necessary to design and shape our products for the future in order to extend the lifespan of everything we make. Product-service systems, assisted by technology and market places that connect supply and demand, are another phenomenon increasingly breaking the link between the financial growth of companies and the use of resources. The owners of the Uber and Airbnb platforms have no resources of their own since they rely on what their members have to offer. Alas, a philosophy that remains strongly capitalistic means they have not entirely left behind the linear world, and their wider social effects remain significant.
Other forerunners have taken up the idea of turning waste produced by another firm into resources for use. So some of the 9,500 products appearing in the IKEA catalogue are made from cardboard and plastic waste produced by its own stores. For more examples and details of the five circular economy business models, read the article Progress towards the circular economy. In addition to these, Matthieu Leroy's advice is to explore a variety of areas for action.
Gone too: capturing value and keeping it for yourself
This approach is undoubtedly more disruptive and still rarely used. However, companies are beginning to link up to create value jointly, doing so more quickly than they would if working alone. Solar Impulse is among the first incarnations of this quest for common value and its capacity to speed up the transition. Sharing developments in this way promotes faster learning by the engineers of the parties involved. The Solar Impulse Foundation brings together Solvay, the Lausanne Ecole Polytechnique, Google and others, who are creating the solar aeroplane and will then share the benefits – both tangible and intangible. Value can sometimes be purely intangible, for example media exposure given to the project partners. This makes it no less advantageous to the parties involved.
Models which are 100% responsible
For Matthieu Leroy, a genuine transformation requires innovative models, including a complete mapping of the positive and negative effects of the activity in order to take into account all "externalities".
"Externalities – such as the generation of large quantities of waste or the carbon impact of extraction, production, use or premature shortening of product lifespans – are not on the whole considered when a conventional business model is established. They just need to be taken into account when businesses are designed. It's not that difficult to do but it's key", he explains. Since he continues to own his furniture, Leroy has every interest in designing modular pieces that last as long as possible and can be assembled or disassembled quickly and easily.
And this is the only way to reduce costs in a circular system. Operating in this way means the manufacturer optimises their model: revenue is more predictable thanks to regular income throughout the lifespans of their products, which are lengthened considerably for the benefit of everyone. Rental also proves cheaper for users, since the object is reintegrated into the circuit in a way that saves energy, materials and labour and produces positive social and environmental externalities.
As a bonus, users becomes less reliant on commodities and their cost. "For example, by renting a piece of furniture to 10 different customers rather than selling it to just one, you can double your growth more easily while also divorcing it from your resource needs. In this way, you can seriously limit your negative impact. The CEO of Philips says this is very profitable in the medium term and I take his word for it!" Leroy adds.
How can the blue economy make a difference?
What if the future of sustainable business is at the bottom of the ocean for once? Marine biodiversity contains resources that can meet the environmental challenges of many sectors. Perhaps yours, too. Find out more during an online event about the promising blue economy on 11 March 2021.
Blue is the new green
71% of our planet consists of water. Seas and oceans play a crucial role in our climate, and coastal areas can capture up to five times more CO2 than tropical forests. The blue economy wants to benefit from all these advantages to improve both the environment and our well-being,
With local being the keyword. And that's where the difference lies with the green economy, which also focuses on the environment and health, but not always in such a sustainable and smart way. Eating organically grown quinoa from Ecuador, for example, is healthy and eco-friendly, but transporting it here is expensive and creates high amounts of pollution.
What does the underwater world have to offer that can be reused, recycled or converted into new sustainable products? A lot, it turns out, as the unique properties of organisms such as algae, starfish, jellyfish or sea cucumbers can be transformed into sustainable products with high added value. This is a process that requires creativity and innovation, and is already with us today.
For your sector, too
The blue economy is expanding rapidly and could bring about a revolution in a wide range of sectors such as healthcare, food, the plastics industry, cosmetics, energy and even aerospace. It is fully capable of helping companies transform their traditional activities into a sustainable model. And in Belgium's ports, the country already has a huge advantage and excellent access to coastal and offshore areas.
Another scoop of microalgae?
Microalgae, for example, offer a lot of promise, as they can renew themselves and thrive both in the desert and in the ocean. They contain many healthy components, such as proteins, that can be used to develop food products.
When discussing the oceans, the plastic problem is never far away. Human beings are producing more and more plastic as the world's population grows, yet the problem with the existing plastic is that it's nigh on impossible to recycle as its components are hard to separate. By making a completely different type of plastic from biomass, its recycling is already considered at the design stage. A large amount of biomass remains unused in the oceans, and using smart, natural polymers could revolutionise plastic production, for example. These polymers are capable of self-renewal and can adapt to their environment.
Who will pay for it?
Great ideas, you think, but who will pay for them? The financial sector certainly wants to play a role in this revolution and is prepared to take risks and invest in new technologies, production systems and R&D.
This commitment was formalised in various ways during the climate week in New York at the end of September 2020. BNP Paribas signed the Principles for Responsible Banking (PRB) and joined the UNEP FI's Collective Commitment to Climate Action, a partnership between the United Nations Environment Programme and the financial sector. In terms of the maritime sector, the Bank committed to working with customers to preserve and sustain the oceans. Read more about this commitment here (only available in French).
Would you like to find out whether the blue economy could make a difference to your sector?
Sign up here for a free online event on this subject on 11 March 2021 (in English only), organised by BNP Paribas Fortis Transport, Logistics and Ports Chair.
What is the future for mobility post-coronavirus?
The health and economic crisis has affected all aspects of every sector. Among them, mobility, for both private individuals and for companies.
Mobility is evolving every day. And it has been driven further as a result of the coronavirus crisis. Many people have been locked down and working from home has been widespread in many parts of the world.
The coronavirus crisis has changed concerns about transport
We are no longer moving around in the same way. And concerns are no longer the same. According to a BCG Consulting report, social distancing and vehicle cleanliness are the most important aspects for 41% and 39% of respondents, respectively, when choosing a mode of transport. There is also pre- and post-Covid mobility, with respondents being more likely to choose walking, their own bicycle or scooter, or their car than before the crisis.
Sustainable and alternative mobility in the years to come
Mobility has not necessarily waited for the coronavirus crisis in order to evolve. And, according to the same report, the share of more environmentally-friendly vehicles will continue to increase. By 2035, more than 35% of new vehicles will be electric cars, becoming the predominant form of motorised transport worldwide. Autonomous cars will also become more common, with 10% of vehicles being level 4 vehicles (able to travel without a driver, for example), and 65% level 2 or higher.
Customised mobility for employees, right now
The future of mobility is also relevant now, especially for businesses and the self-employed. The need for alternative modes of transport does not only concern private individuals, but also employees. There is no longer a single mode of transport for all situations, but a range of means depending on the need at a given moment. Electric cars, hybrid vehicles, electric bicycles, a public transport season ticket, car sharing, leasing, etc. These modes can take different forms and be combined in a mobility card, for example. There are benefits for the employees and managers of a company but also for the company itself through cost reduction, optimisation and fleet management.
Find out more about our tailor-made mobility solutions
The road to alternative mobility
Nowadays, responsible fleet management is built around sustainability. We're here to help you identify and realise your Corporate Social Responsibility ambitions.
Together we can cut your company's carbon footprint, improve employee mobility, and make sure these steps become a central pillar of your company's added value. In short, our aim is to have an alternative mobility policy.
We can help you make the switch to alternative mobility and new technologies to reduce your carbon footprint. Our SMaRT approach ensures your fleet has the best energy mix to match your strategy and driver profiles.
Alternative mobility needs new technologies to go hand in hand with new infrastructure. That's why we offer not only electric cars, but also the right charging solutions, too. As part of our integrated service provision we can determine how many charging points you need, install them, and manage how they are used both at the workplace and at the driver's home.
Modern mobility management is about more than just cars or vans. You need a 360-degree approach. We'll work with you to determine your mobility strategy and needs. Greener cars are just one of the options available. We have a number of mobility management solutions (such as the Mobility Card) and alternative mobility solutions (such as bicycle leasing) to inspire your organisation to offer a more flexible range.
Focus on employees
When you put your employees at the heart of your organisation, you're in a better position to find skilled employees, satisfy them, and retain them. Go a step further than just an alternative mobility solution: focus on their safety and let them play an active role in achieving your sustainability goals. Trust us to improve their safety and integrate new technologies.
Operational leasing is offered by Arval Belgium SA/NV, with the intervention of BNP Paribas Fortis SA/NV – Montagne du Parc/Warandeberg 3, B-1000 Brussels, Brussels Register of Companies VAT BE0403.199.702.
Promotion only available from Thursday 21 January up to and including Wednesday 31 March 2021 and is only available to professional clients (self-employed, liberal professionals and SMEs) of BNP Paribas Fortis and Fintro.
The information provided here does not constitute an offer. An offer is made only after your file has been accepted and is always subject to Arval Belgium SA/NV's General Terms and Conditions.
Mobility, more than just four wheels
BNP Paribas Fortis offers complete mobility solutions. Sometimes a four-wheeled fleet is not enough for your mobility needs.
As a reliable partner, we can help you with every step – or pedal – of your mobility trajectory.
Mobility analysis and advice
Our mobility managers can work together with your relationship manager to develop a future-focused mobility strategy.
We start by listening to you: we want to understand your needs and concerns when it comes to mobility. This is our starting point for creating the best mobility solution for you and your company. We will build on this foundation with our expertise, while also taking Belgium's specific legal and fiscal ecosystem into account.
New mobility solutions
As well asfull-service leasing,we also offer our core product giving you access to our full mobility range, a wide range of basic services and added-value services such ascar parts,carpool management,bicycle leasingandmobility cards. All of our mobility services and their associated services such as parking, electric charging, fuel, tolls and car washing are within reach.
Managing your mobility budget
We'll help you and offer advice about implementing the federal mobility budget[VBK1] in your company. If that's too limited to meet your specific needs and aims, we can develop a personalised mobility budget solution to manage your mobility costs in line with the legal framework, just as we've done for a number of clients previously.
We've already implemented some tailored cost-neutral solutions, allowing our clients to combine lease cars with lease bicycles or other mobility solutions. This means the company can meet its goals while also making good on its promises and obligations.
Those ambitions might range from an ambitious CO2 agenda to a competitive offer to attract talent or a solution to solve your lack of car parking spaces.