• Sustainable finance

“Product-as-a-service can really be seen as a driver for circular economy”

By focusing on product valuation and repackaging, circular economy is crucial to achieving a carbon neutral economy. During her speech on 9 December at the closing of the Sustainable Development Meetings (“Rencontres du Développement Durable”), we met with Isabelle Loc, Director and Chief Executive Officer of BNP Paribas Leasing Solutions, the European leader in financing professional equipment that is spearheading development of the circular economy.

On 9 December, you took part in the closing of the 2022 Sustainable Development Meetings, on the theme of a decarbonised Europe. Could you give us some background?

In 2019, the European Union launched its Green Deal, consisting of a set of principles and measures to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Among the regulatory initiatives of this “green deal”, we find an action plan for the implementation of a circular economy and commercial concepts of “product-as a-service”.  Concretely, this means paying for the use of a good rather than buying it. This operation is at the heart of BNP Paribas Leasing Solutions’ offering! It makes it possible to move away from the single use and linear cycle of a product – extracting its raw materials, manufacturing it, consuming it and then throwing it out – unfortunately still deeply entrenched in so many sectors today. At Group level, our definition of circular economy includes investing in projects that extend the life of a product, using recycled materials, strengthening recycling capabilities and advancing a sharing economy. All this maximises resource use and reduces waste while limiting greenhouse gas emissions.

In concrete terms, how does BNP Paribas Leasing Solutions use this key concept of the user economy in its offer?

We help manufacturers, distributors and resellers of professional equipment to design and launch offers oriented towards use – and not ownership – to allow the same asset to be used successively by several users. This means that once the first user of the asset no longer needs it, our partner recovers it to refurbish it and lease it or sell it to another user. Take the example of a smartphone: not everyone needs to have the latest model – depending on our habits and our expectations, a second-hand model can be just the thing! In the tech sector, our joint venture with 3 Step IT allows corporate customers to return their IT equipment when they stop using it or when it no longer fits their needs, so that it can be rehabilitated and then leased to another customer. We also help our partners improve customer satisfaction and loyalty by offering them, together with our subscription billing specialist partner Zuora, the possibility to simplify the invoicing of value-added services such as maintenance, repair, recycling and damage covering – all of which help to extend the product's useful life. Not all sectors are yet equal in this field, but we want to contribute to the popularisation of the concept of “product-as-a-service” and, through it, to that of the circular economy in general.

Which circular initiatives are you most proud of?

I am very proud of our Joint Venture with 3 Step IT, which last November received the “Best Circular Economy Model” award from Leasing Life, Europe’s leading asset financing journal. I would also like to mention our partnerships with leading agricultural and construction equipment manufacturers to build reconditioned equipment financing programs, including manufacturer warranty and equipment maintenance, to offer a complete financing solution. In addition, in Belgium, we have contributed to the development of a new Valley'UP sorting center with advanced repackaging and recycling capabilities: 50,000 tons of plastic and metal can be processed each year! We supported this project in its financing, from the purchase of the land to the construction, as well as for the leasing solutions of the main equipment and to provide green energy solutions. In addition, the BNP Paribas Group as a whole has undertaken numerous circular economy projects, such as the creation of Sustainability Linked Bonds or Loans for companies such as L'Oréal, Carrefour or Marks & Spencer. And in 2021, BNP Paribas Cardif teamed up with Back Market – the leading dedicated marketplace – and insurtech bolttech to launch an insurance offer for refurbished smartphones, tablets and laptops.

Your thoughts on the next step in the circular economy for BNP Paribas Leasing Solutions, for its development and for its strategy? 

Product-as-a-service can really be seen as a driver for circular economy, in a context of strong investments made to achieve the EU’s ambition to become carbon neutral by 2050 – a goal that some studies estimate at 28 trillion euros in investments! The integration of the circular economy is of great importance, given its role in reducing carbon emissions. For BNP Paribas Leasing Solutions to lead this green revolution, there are two areas on which we need to move forward at a rapid pace. First, we need to provide our support and expertise to our existing partners to help them develop products, services and a refurbishing ecosystem aligned with the carbon neutral goal; secondly, we will continue to expand our offer of financing more environmentally “neutral” equipment. On this point, we have identified four categories in which we want to develop our expertise and our partnerships: energy transition, energy efficiency, waste management and water management. The net-zero journey involves financing new equipment and green innovations – from electric vehicle chargers to zero tailpipe trucks, to energy efficient lighting – and I am convinced that the leasing sector, thanks to its product expertise and excellent return on investment, will play a strong role in this environmental transition.

The 2022 Sustainable Development Meetings

Under the patronage of the President of the National Assembly, Yaël Braun Pivet, the “Rencontres du Développement Durable 2022” proposed an eight date cycle this autumn on the theme “Let’s entrepreneur the France of 2030!”. Several experts and experts from the Group, a patron of the events, took part in the talks: Antoine Sire, Director of Corporate Engagement, spoke on the theme of sustainable cities and communities during the opening session; Rim Tehraoui, Chief Data Officer of BNP Paribas, spoke on the subject of energy sobriety; Robert-Alexandre Poujade, Head of Biodiversity at BNP Paribas Asset Management, on biodiversity; and Isabelle Loc, Chief Executive Officer of BNP Paribas Leasing Solutions, participated in a round-table around circular economy during the closing day in Berlin on 9 December.

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