Circular Economy roundtable
One of the roundtables focused on circular economy (CE) intended to give participants a platform to share challenges and success stories as well as identify opportunities for action. The first session was led by Dominique Debecker, Deputy Sustainability Officer at Solvay. His talk focused on incorporating sustainability concerns into corporate decision-making. Solvay carefully reviews any mergers and acquisitions, capital expenditures, research and innovation activities through a sustainable portfolio management system. The focus of this strategy is to make robust business decisions by finding new growth areas and to align business with sustainability concerns. The need for a quick and agile assessment method based on circular economy principles was identified. The outcome of the discussion determined the importance of internalizing and embedding circular economy in the mindset of all employees across all functions.
Jonathan Martens, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager at Sodexo focused in the second session on the unique challenges the company faces in the hospitality and food service management sector. The company faces concerns around guaranteeing food quality and safety, safe packaging as well as reducing food and packaging (i.e. plastic) waste. As a solution, the company engages in open collaboration forums with start-ups to find ways to reduce impacts.
The final session was led by Isabelle Gubelmann-Bonneau, Senior VP Circular Economy Head at Solvay. She focused on value creation in CE and introduced ongoing projects around CE in the company. She formulated four specific challenges to the transition to CE: enabling changes in material flows, developing reverse supply chains, re-designing materials and ensuring that materials can be properly separated. In this session, the participants explored the potential of circular business models and how they could be leveraged to overcome the challenges. In addition, they highlighted the challenge of consumer behaviour and cultural norms especially around product ownership.
Key findings suggest that focal companies need to not only adapt their internal processes, but also integrate customers and suppliers into the transition to CE. The session stressed the importance of engaging policy-makers as well as finding opportunities for cross-sector collaboration to develop salient solutions. The session showed that ABIS provides a forum that can foster new sources of collaboration for actors from various sectors to help spur the transition to more circular and sustainable society.
Sustainable finance roundtable
Kaitlin Crouch, Senior Consultant, Global Sustainability Programmes and Michel van den Berg, Terra Team Lead, ING presented ING’s pioneering Terra Model on measuring the environmental impact of ING’s €500bn loan book and how they intend to use the model to steer the loan book towards achieving the 2-degree goal of the Paris Agreement. There have already been collaborations with the academic community in developing the Terra Model and ING team wanted to expand the collaboration on by shifting focus on the real estate loans. Although the direct impact of the real estate sector on carbon emissions is much smaller than the industrial sectors like cement, steel and shipping the share of real estate loans in total loans is very large. ING’s further work demonstrated that the household sector, the borrowers, is a significant consumer of fossil fuels to run their houses. The discussions on this topic raised issues regarding the role of regulation especially Basel risk weighted assets approach and consideration of the consumption of fossil fuels in energy use for domestic purposes.
Anthony Carey, Partner at Mazars raised the issue of middle market companies missing from the discussions on sustainability and led a discussion on how to introduce sustainability at middle market companies. The conversation shifted towards embedding sustainability in governance structure. This would primarily involve formal reporting mechanism and board level agenda on sustainability. Another suggestion was that a key role could be played by stakeholder pressure exercised by enlightened consumers, communities and employers of mid-market companies. Since mid-market companies tend to be cost conscious there was a proposition that the big companies to whom SMEs and mid-market companies link through supply chains can share their capabilities and experiences with mid-market companies.
In the final session Isabelle Cabie, Global Head of Responsible Development at Candriam, led a discussion on how the asset management sector could introduce a common methodology to measure ESG impact within the SDGs framework. Although ESG investment now has become mainstream in the industry, individual asset managers use different methods to measure impact. Additional problem is the non-standardized nature of reporting by companies of their contribution to SDGs. The outcome of the discussion introduced audit of SDG reporting and allocation of resources for research into developing models to assess SDG.
Finance has always played a role in corporate governance, competition and in creation of innovative firms. Now in this new world of common risks that humanity faces and the UN’s SDGs so pertinently, finance can play a substantial role through steering loan portfolios, improving reporting and governance at the firm level and acting on behalf of ultimate shareholders.
Laetitia Gonin-Brun, Sustainable Development & Energy, Human Resources Director, Solvay
"Sustainability is not an expertise. It has to be fully embedded in the different fields of activities. Starting from the business schools or engineer curriculum to prepare our future leaders who will create higher economic value, engage their teams, and contribute to local and global development."