Owning is a thing of the past

At the World Circular Economy Forum in June 2017, ING's head of Wholesale Banking Isabel Fernandez spoke about ING’s role in creating a circular economy.

"An average car is parked 95% of the time. There’s a reason why car-buying isn’t as popular anymore. Investing in one just to take that Tuesday morning conference call while stuck in traffic doesn’t cut it. Why commit to owning products, when you can shift to simply using them?"

This is a big part of the circular economy movement, which focuses on recycling and reusing resources.

At the first World Circular Economy Forum, held in Helsinki, Finland on 5-7 June, researchers, innovators and business leaders shared how businesses can create value and reduce waste through a circular economy.

Isabel Fernandez, ING’s head of Wholesale Banking and responsible for ING's circular economy programme, was invited to share ING’s perspective. She argued that asset ownership will be replaced by pay-per-use models, which in turn will require a new type of owner and infrastructure. “We will need to create new companies and new entities that own, manage and finance these assets. The circular economy will need a new infrastructure.”

 

 

A circular economy, Fernandez said, requires a reliable, standardised infrastructure. Accounting rules would have to adapt from sales to pay-per-use transactions and legal frameworks would need to support shared ownership. Systems, processes and databases will be needed to track assets and product history.

“Banks will play a role in building this new infrastructure,” Fernandez said. Blockchain is a good example of technology that allows for transparent transaction recording, which will help build the circular economy.

Speaking on ING’s role in shifting to a circular economy, Fernandez said that banks can make a difference in society by including sustainability in all financial decisions. Even better – make it part of the bank’s business strategy, like ING has done.

Data – the currency of tomorrow

Companies’ operations are increasingly relying on data analysis, something that banks will be able to facilitate in the future.

“In the same way that we, as a bank, are trusted with money, confidential information, and distributing and allocating risk, we can play a role in collecting, protecting, and analysing data safely and securely,” said Fernandez.

Fernandez talked about an economy where you own nothing and everything you use is fully serviced, smart and connected, closing her presentation with her provocative vision for 2030: “I own nothing, I have no privacy, but I’ve never been happier.” Research shows that people, especially the new generation, would be willing to give up some of their privacy in return for convenience and services that anticipate needs - things like your refrigerator speaking to your supermarket when you’re out of groceries, said Fernandez.