Triodos Bank calls for urgent shift to restorative and circular economy

Triodos Bank published its vision paper on the resource transition, in which it calls for more ambition to shift the economy from wasteful and linear, to restorative and circular. The current ecological crises require not only better financing, new risk and business models, but a system change. One in which companies and individuals see the value in the waste currently being discarded in landfills, and understand the ecological and social damages this causes.

Triodos Bank argues that this change in norms will shift economies away from the ‘take, make, dispose’ way of working to one where resources are truly valued, used and re-used along the entire value chain. To achieve this, the actions taken must not only be about encouraging circular entrepreneurs, but also about dismantling the linear economy and restoring nature.  

Exhausting the planet’s reserves

Our economies’ growing demand for natural resources is exhausting the planet’s reserves, leading to both resource depletion and deterioration of natural environments and ecosystems. Currently, more than 100 billion tonnes of resources enter the economy every year, yet only 7.2% get recycled and used again. The resources entering the economy are not used to simply cover our basic needs but are instead fed into a system of over-consumption and over-production fuelled by an expectation of cheap, short-lived, non-reusable products, quickly available at our doorstep. 

The problem is compounded by our poor approach to pollution and waste management. Most products and materials come to an early end-of-life, usually in a landfill without previous recycling or recovery of materials or energy. This is a waste of the resources and has damaging effects on the surrounding environment and biodiversity.  

Furthermore, our failure to use resources efficiently is hampering the achievement of other environmental goals such as climate targets, since natural resource extraction and processing make up approximately 50% of our total greenhouse gas emissions. 

How should the financial sector contribute? 

Financial institutions can finance new clients and engage with existing ones to facilitate and encourage greater circularity and nature conservation. This entails rethinking business models to shift the focus from linear to circular use of products.  

They could also make impactful change by lending and investing in more companies that have redesigned products in alignment with nature and circularity, as well as by targeting financing at companies in the manufacturing stage of product lifecycles. 

True pricing is potentially the quickest way to circularity and we believe the financial sector should support this. True pricing ensures that costs stemming from unsustainable production and consumption are taken into account, making unsustainable products more expensive compared to sustainable ones. Resource sustainability and restoration cannot be achieved if raw materials remain cheaper than secondary materials and if there is a lack of transparency around resource use and sourcing across supply chains. 

Triodos Bank’s approach

Triodos Bank has identified priority sectors that will have the greatest and most immediate impact on resources and the environment. These are construction, nature-based solutions, ICT and renewable energy, as well as manufacturing. In these sectors, Triodos Bank will focus on relieving the pressure on natural resources and ecosystems, extending the life of products and preventing waste and downcycling. 

Transition themes 

Resources is one of the five transition themes Triodos Bank has identified to create a world where all people have the necessary resources to live fulfilling lives, while the economy operates in harmony with nature rather than against it, within planetary boundaries. Triodos Bank focusses its business operations on these five interlinked transitions: energy, food, resources, societal and wellbeing. Our mission as a financial institution is to enable and accelerate these vital transitions. 

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