Rabobank and the Circular Economy: Future-Proofing (Y)our Business
Rabobank’s ambition is to support the global food and agricultural (F&A) sector with adopting future-proof business strategies, as the sector’s preferred financial partner. We aim to finance with impact, an ambition that is mirrored in Kickstart Food, Rabobank’s three-year action-program to accelerate the transition to a more sustainable F&A sector, which seeks to address the key theme of Waste via the circular economy; in addition to Earth, Nutrition, and Stability. In our efforts to build a better world together with our clients, the circular economy provides us an innovative and inspiring proposition to help our clients unite business value creation with smart, sustainable business models. Rabobank is committed to the circularity premise, and we have actively incorporated circular economy principles and thinking into our knowledge, network, and financial solutions.
Key to implementing the circular economy at scale is demonstrating and communicating the business case. Rabobank has published multiple white papers and articles on the impact of circular economy principles on finance. Our Rabo Research Supply Chains team has published and spoken extensively on circular and bio-based economy-related topics, including packaging and logistics, and was part of the collaboration between Rabobank and Deloitte for the 2017 Agri Meets Chemicals “From Waste to Taste” event, which focused on the future of smart packaging.
The Circular Economy Challenge, which Rabobank launched in 2014 to give innovative small-to-medium enterprises access to Rabobank’s sustainability network, has been highly successful. Over 100 companies have been part of the program since its inception. Oriënza, a producer and distributor of cleaning and maintenance products, was one of those participants. The company sought Rabobank’s help in looking for ways to extend their sustainability and circularity vision to the packaging of their products. During the six-month program, Rabobank connected Oriënza with a German supplier of recycled plastics that could be used for their packaging. The introduction proved to be a mutually beneficial one, as the German company was in turn looking for a supplier of sustainable cleaning products. It is this strong network that has also driven Rabobank to launch other successful initiatives, such as FoodBytes! FoodBytes! is a pitch-competition-meets-networking event organized by Rabobank that brings together game-changing startups that are pioneering the way toward a more sustainable food and agriculture sector with investors and industry leaders. FoodBytes! alumni include Regrained, BioFiltro, and Impact Vision.
Of course, circular economy principles do not apply only to the F&A sector, they apply to the financial system as well. Rabobank’s membership in the FinanCE working group, which brought together financial organizations wanting to do more with the circular economy and was supported by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, led to the launch of the Circular Economy Finance Guidelines by Rabobank, ING, and ABN AMRO in July 2018. The guidelines, which were presented to the Dutch government and at the United Nations High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, aim to create a common understanding of circular economy finance with the aim of accelerating financing and investing in circular business models.
It is this same goal that has pushed DLL, Rabobank’s leasing and vendor finance arm, to also take a lead in the circular economy conversation. DLL has published targeted case studies and white papers demonstrating how it can enable its customers to shift toward the circular economy through leasing and servitization financial products. In 2016, DLL won the Circular Economy Investor Award at the World Economic Forum for its contributions to driving circular economy principles. By further collaborating with academics and DLL customers, DLL and Rabobank published an article in the Harvard Business Review using real customer examples showcasing how modular design, refurbishment capabilities, and leasing together can create the scale needed to make circular business models profitable.
As Rabobank works toward our goal of creating a better world together with our clients, we will remain committed to implementing circular economy principles within both our own way of working and that of our clients, and embrace the opportunity it holds for businesses and people alike.