Step into the Circle: Exploring a New Economy

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Innovation comes in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes, it’s an exponential technology that changes the way we think, and sometimes it’s a financial product that serves customers better. Now, we’re exploring a new, circular economy model. It will change the way we build, manufacture and trade. We’re discovering the potential of this new economy, and in particular, what it means for the financial sector.

We are gathering and testing ideas related to opening a Circular Design Studio in which we can co create with clients and partners to design new, circular business models. Arjan van Os Head of Innovation Centre

Commit to change

Recently, the Dutch government announced its commitment to ensuring that, by 2050, the Dutch economy will run completely on reusable raw materials. The environmental impact is obvious. We’re running low on fossil fuels. Our landfills are only getting bigger. And global warming can no longer be ignored. Minister Dijksma: ‘We will need an additional planet if we continue to extract scarce raw materials from the earth at this rate. We need to rid ourselves of this throw-away mentality.’

Take the steps

Today, we use words like ‘end-user’ and ‘supply chain’ – which indicate a linear way of thinking. In the circular economy, we’ll need to find ways to reuse what we produce. The buildings in which we live and work, the clothes we wear, the packaging we use. By 2050, everything that can be produced in the Netherlands will be produced with a circular mentality. Although we will decouple processes from resource consumption, we can still realise growth and sustain businesses in the long term. In fact, studies show that the circular economy is likely to create more than 50,000 jobs a year in the Netherlands.

A plain example of a circular model is the ‘refurbished iPhone’ market. Apple takes back used iPhones. They are given a new screen, battery and case, are repacked and sold as refurbished iPhones. These refurbished iPhones are possibly ideal for huge markets, like India or China. We will undoubtedly see more and more business models like these. Business models built around re-use, refurbishment, renewability.

Search for solutions

Of course, this new way of thinking will have an impact on our financial products and services. We’re starting to explore new Circular Economy models now, so we can grow and evolve along with it. When more and more business models become circular, how can we enable technology and redesign financial products and services to support them? We don’t know the answer yet. But, with collaboration and experimenting, we’ll find it.

Create the platform

You may have read about ABN AMRO’s production of the Circular Pavilion. This building is more than just an open workspace for creation and collaboration. It’s also our first steps into the world of the circular economy. Someday all of the Pavilion’s wood, glass, furniture, etc. will be repurposed.

We’ve carved out a space in the Pavilion specifically to address innovation that supports the circular, sharing economy. In a ‘Circular Design Studio’, we’ll bring together the innovative thinkers and creative experts who can lead us to the answers. From there, we’ll explore the products and services that are unique to this business model and find ways to fit them into our offering.

Make the move

We are gathering and testing ideas related to opening a Circular Design Studio in which we can co-create with clients and partners to design new, circular business models, including new forms of circular finance. I welcome your thoughts, ideas and possible use cases. If you’d like to discuss the possibilities, please use the comment section below, or connect with me on Twitter, to get started.


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