It’s fair to say that for most businesses, 2023 has been a year of evaluation and re-evaluation. The global operating environment continues to change at pace, with energy prices, supply chain disruption, and inflation keeping organisations on their toes.


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On the whole, this has made the business community stronger, more adaptable, and more efficient. We’re all better at determining what delivers value and leaving behind anything that doesn’t.

Both consumers and businesses will approach 2024 with caution, but I hope the new year can bring some cautious optimism. Sometimes it’s the greatest challenges that produce the most important change. That’s certainly the case with the progress being made towards the low carbon, circular transition, which thankfully is also intensifying, both because of and despite economic stressors.

That alone should give us cause for hope. So, how do we keep up the momentum and what opportunities might lie ahead over the next 12 months?

Geopolitical uncertainties fuel a shift to clean energy

Conflict in Russia and the Middle East has caused devastation for millions of people who live the daily realities of war. It’s heart breaking to see the ongoing impact on human lives.

These conflicts have also had a significant influence on global fuel prices and placed more emphasis and urgency on the transition to alternative energy sources. Energy resilience and autonomy is now a top priority for governments, including the EU, which has ramped up efforts to secure supply.

Today, the energy transition is not only an ecological imperative but also an economic one, which despite the circumstances, can only be good for progress.The demand for clean energy infrastructure is increasing, with financed volumes for energy-generating equipment reaching €1 billion last year, according to recent data from Leaseurope.

The leasing sector will have an important and growing role in enabling the adoption of clean energy tech and infrastructure by ensuring it is an accessible and sustainable alternative to the status quo. This will require flexibility and innovation from lessors who will need to find solutions to finance new asset classes and offer customers value-add services as part of these deals, aiding the shift away from traditional cash ownership towards a service-based, circular approach to asset management.

As producer responsibility solidifies, the secondary market will flourish

Producer responsibility is another ever-present theme in EU regulation, with manufacturers being asked to “take care” of their products long after they leave the factory. This regulatory burden may put new pressure on manufacturers to be responsible for the end-of-life of their products, but it also has a whole host of benefits. Not least of these is that it has promoted a shift towards product-as-a-service (PaaS) models, which inherently draw on the principles of the circular economy, a key component of the sustainable transition.

When a manufacturer retains ownership of its product throughout the entire lifecycle, it can gain a much deeper understanding of its component parts, likely wear and tear, and the residual value of used goods. Shifting to a service-based approach also allows producers to develop new revenue streams, by offering customers valuable services at different stages of the lifecycle – from digital asset management to data insights to sustainable and secure asset disposal.

As a result, we’re seeing a growing interest from vendors seeking to secure assets at the end of their first useful life and aiming to build a strong stock base of used products. This allows manufacturers to respond to the increased client demand for used or refurbished assets to form a mandatory percentage of bids as part of ESG-aligned procurement processes, regulatory compliance, and budget considerations.

Leasing companies can play a significant role in the development of PaaS models by creatively collaborating with vendor partners to ensure asset responsibility is retained throughout the lifecycle, related services that promote reuse are integrated into the product offer, and customers are supported to adopt the principles of the circular economy across their operations.

A digital transition is also underway as organisations manage costs

Technology has been another key theme in 2023, and despite the ongoing global uncertainty, this year has seen a resilient demand for business equipment, particularly for investments that are core to business operations.

Rightly, businesses are making strategic decisions based on how critical investments are to growth, with technology a clear driver of both efficiency and competitiveness.

In 2024, progress with artificial intelligence (AI) will undoubtedly continue. For the leasing sector, it has exciting potential to improve customer experience by speeding up transactions like credit approvals and making services like fraud detection more reliable and consistent.

Leasing can also support customers to accelerate digitalisation, reducing upfront costs and allowing them to take advantage of the application of the technology. These days transitions come in many guises, but the digital transition will be crucial in supporting organisation to grow sustainably.

Time and time again, we see the leasing industry playing a key role as an enabler, supporting businesses to future-proof their operations and contribute to a better tomorrow.

We have a huge opportunity ahead of us to do more and I think that calls for a healthy dose of cautious optimism.

Isabelle LOC

Isabelle Loc, Chief Executive Officer, BNP Paribas Leasing Solutions

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When the European Commission launched the landmark EU Green Deal in December 2019 it set out a bold plan for the continent to transition to a sustainable economic future. Described as “Europe’s man on the moon moment”, in broad brush strokes it outlined its ambition to be the world’s first carbon neutral continent by 2050.

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Four years on and the road map outlined in the Green Deal has delivered significant change, and today, Europe undoubtedly leads the world in the transition to a low carbon, circular economy.

But as climate change accelerates and we inch ever closer to the 2050 deadline, one thing is clear – unlike the moon landing, Europe’s final destination is still unknown and if the Green Deal is to be an equally historic success, the devil will be in the detail.

What is the EU Taxonomy? How does it link to the transition to a circular economy?

The EU Taxonomy, Europe’s sustainable finance framework, is the place to dig into that detail. It underpins the Green Deal by setting a standard for economic activities that can be classified as environmentally and socially sustainable. It includes the transition to the circular economy as one of its key objectives and could help to unlock the trillions in finance needed to make circularity mainstream.

A recent taxonomy policy development has circular economy enthusiasts talking, with new guidelines that set out criteria to determine whether certain economic activity makes a “substantial contribution to the transition to a circular economy” – a transition that could be worth €1.8 trillion to the EU economy by 2030.

From a side note to a key theme

What caught my attention is that product-as-a-service (PaaS) has re-emerged as a key theme for the EU and an important lever for achieving the circular transition.

In 2020, PaaS was given just a passing mention as part of the 35 actions set out in the Circular Economy Action Plan (a major building block of the EU Green Deal), but through this taxonomy update the EU has signalled that it will prioritise PaaS as a mechanism to achieve the circular economy and, crucially, give organisations the criteria they need to implement it successfully.

The new technical guidance defines product-as-a-service models as “providing customers with access to products through service models, which are either use-oriented services, where ownership remains with the provider and the product is leased, shared, rented or pooled; or result-oriented, where the payment is pre-defined and the agreed result is delivered (i.e. pay per service unit)” (pg. 67).

It goes on to list a range of manufactured product groups that fit the bill, including textiles, electronics, furniture, and more (pg.67). This alone is a welcome step towards acknowledging the breadth of possibility that PaaS models can deliver.

However, the list is far from exhaustive, with medical tech, agricultural machinery, construction equipment, and automotives all notable omissions. Most, if not all, manufacturing sectors are being transformed by digitalisation at a rapid and increasing rate, meaning products become obsolete overnight and extracting the maximum value from resources, via circular models like PaaS, is paramount. The guidance will surely be broadened in future updates to capture the endless opportunities that as-a-service models can offer a multitude of industries.

The guidelines also set out criteria PaaS models must meet to be considered to be making a substantial contribution to the circular economy. First and foremost, the activity must “provide the customer with access to, and use of product(s), while ensuring that the ownership remains with the company providing this service, such as a manufacturer, specialist or retailer” (pg. 67).

The leasing industry’s role in circular transition

This is a call to arms for the leasing industry, which has an important role to play in helping organisations to implement systems that aid the circular transition. There is an opportunity here for lessors to build on our expertise in offering customers residual value pricing on assets (which inherently fosters the preservation of assets and their value) to offer a broad range of services covering the full lifecycle of an asset from asset management tools to data analysis to in-life maintenance support and sustainable end-of-life disposal.

Interestingly, the guidance also states that both a longer useful economic life through, for example, repair/refurbishment, and greater usage intensity (i.e. ride share services) are positive outcomes to be derived from PaaS models that will promote the transition to the circular economy (pg. 68). Clearly, the results for each of these approaches is very different because the more intensely a product is used, usually the shorter its life will be.

This is a powerful motivation for organisations to move away from traditional ownership models and work with lessors, who advocate for an optimum life of an asset rather than sweating an asset beyond its useful life, resulting in low value components with little opportunity for reuse. When managed properly, assets can deliver maximum value for organisations in their first lifecycle, be sustainably and securely refurbished and go on to fuel the second-hand market with high-quality products. These are the hallmarks of a truly circular economy.

Only three years after PaaS was just a side note in the EU Green Deal, it is now explicitly included in EU taxonomy, which is a hugely positive step forward. There’s still lots to do to create a framework that supports a truly circular economy and give investors and businesses the tools they need to implement circular solutions.

Setting these parameters will help the EU scale up sustainable investment, prevent greenwashing, and support organisations to transition to a more sustainable, future-proof way of doing business. Get this detail right and the sky really is the limit.

Andrey Maramzine, Chief Sustainability Officer, BNP Paribas Leasing Solutions

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Often perceived in a reductive way as a scavenger business, the Circular Economy is on the contrary the economic model of the future. The crisis we face today is an opportunity that must be seized to deconstruct the eternal triptych of produce-use-dispose and replace it with a more sustainable model of reuse, repair, refurbishment and recycling, that would not only make way for responsible growth, but also open up new avenues of employment.

Of all the signs that I see for potential boom boost of the Circular Economy in the coming months, two are particularly noteworthy. First, studies show that most consumers are ready for this paradigm shift: last year, more than 50% of them said they preferred to repair and resell products instead of discarding them. Another 31% said they preferred buying second-hand products.

Secondly, companies are increasingly inclining towards this trend as well. During lockdowns, many of them turned to refurbished equipment to transition quickly to widespread homeworking because it was hard to find new equipment on the market.

I am convinced that there is a huge wave building up in favour of the Circular Economy. And it is only expected to grow as consumers, both individuals and professionals, become more aware of the environmental impact of the linear model that has dominated for decades.

In such a context, I am proud to contribute to this collective dynamic within BNP Paribas leasing Solutions. The leasing business, which has existed for more 70 years now within the BNP Paribas Group, is now at the forefront of the Circular Economy. When it was created, in the middle of the 30 glorious years that followed the Second World War, the goal was to facilitate access to equipment needed for rebuilding the economy and the society. At the time, the scarcity of natural resources didn’t seem to be a concern, but things have changed since then, and we have made it our duty and our priority to take this into account.

That is why, when I took over this business, I sought every opportunity available to integrate the Circular Economy model into our business with the aim to make it more sustainable. This is the whole purpose of the partnership I set up with Carmen Ene, CEO of 3stepIT. When customers subscribe to a lease offer for their smartphones, tablets or computers, 3stepIT maintains them and then recovers them at the end of the lease before refurbishing them and putting them back on the market. In other words, they are experts in the equipment life cycle.

We soon realised that we could establish a solid partnership by combining the breadth and depth of BNP Paribas’ geographical footprint with the specialised refurbishment expertise of 3stepIT. We thus formed a joint venture, BNP Paribas 3 Step IT, which manages fleets of technological equipment across 11 countries. Our economic model is simple: nothing is lost, everything is transformed!

At the end of the process, 97% of the devices are refurbished and resold, and only 3% of the assets are recycled in a sustainable way to extract useful materials. Our clients include both SMEs and multinationals and we process almost 500,000 devices each year. And to answer the question that must be on your mind: yes, it is profitable! For our company, but also for our clients. Because we reflect the resale price of the equipment in the cost of the lease. Leasing also allows them to easily renew their equipment in order to always have the latest equipment at their disposal.
So it is a win-win solution for everyone: our company, our clients, and even the planet!

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Our equipment lifecycle approach helps you address many IT challenges conveniently and focus on what really matters: your business.

IT

Helsinki, Finland & Nanterre, France

November 4, 2019

BNP Paribas Leasing Solutions and 3StepIT announce that their joint venture, BNP Paribas 3 Step IT, started trading in October.

BNP Paribas Leasing Solutions’ existing branches in France and Italy now operate under the new joint venture name, with nine more countries will follow by mid-20201.

This new entity offers a complete and more sustainable way to manage technology lifecycles. It delivers a service based on circular economy principles; a service that anticipates the needs of companies looking for more flexible and sustainable “product as a service”2 financing solutions.

BNP Paribas 3 Step IT combines the strengths, expertise and geographical cover of the European leasing leader, BNP Paribas Leasing Solutions, and the Finnish specialist in IT life cycle management (management, refurbishment in own logistics centres and re-marketing), 3stepIT, to take the latter’s successful approach out of its Nordic stronghold and deliver it across Europe.

BNP Paribas 3 Step IT provides a complete service to companies to help them manage technology investments (mainly smartphones, tablets, PCs and laptops). The service adds value at all points in the lifecycle. It helps:

  • Analyse their needs to develop a lifecycle plan
  • Provide the funding to select and acquire the planned equipment
  • Monitor and manage equipment in use: where it is, who pays, how much it costs, when to replace it, as well as automating many routine IT administration tasks.
  • Return equipment at the end of the contract, for secure data destruction followed by refurbishing for resale, when the value recovered helps reduce rental costs.

In practice, this approach helps clients improve their IT service level, with up to date equipment; and provide IT devices at a lower overall cost. It also helps run IT in a more sustainable way, because the devices are refurbished, rather than dumped.

We refurbish 97% of returned devices for re-use, with less than 3% being recycled. Our focus on sustainability also confers sustainability on our clients’ own use of IT. Extending the life of equipment displaces the manufacture of new product and spreads the manufacturing carbon footprint across two users. Including manufacture, transport and power costs in the calculation, this reduces the carbon footprint by 36%.

Electronic waste is the fastest growing waste stream on the planet, and the source of 70% of landfill toxic waste. Re-use reduces clients’ e-waste contribution by around 48%.

Sustainability is a growing factor in IT planning. While 15% of organisations say it is a consideration today, a further 67% say they intend to integrate sustainability into their IT plans within the next two years3. A circular economy lifecycle approach, that delivers product life extension for over 97% of returned devices, will interest these organisations.

Since we announced this joint venture, many international companies have wanted to learn more.  The lifecycle management service meets their business needs, and aligns with their values in terms of responsibility. Becoming more sustainable is increasingly a competitive differentiator, and a consideration for clients, partners and investors. As well as serving clients’ broader needs, this alliance is in perfect sync with the BNP Paribas Group strategy to support circular economy initiatives,” said Charlotte Dennery, CEO of BNP Paribas Leasing Solutions.

We are delighted to take our solution across Europe. BNP Paribas 3 Step IT will offer a more sustainable approach to using technology, on a large international scale – a breakthrough for a circular economy business model, and a response to our customers’ demands for a global service”, says Carmen Ene, CEO of 3stepIT.

  1. European countries covered by the alliance:

Joint venture: Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

Commercial partnership: Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Sweden.

  1. Product as a service: selling the use of the equipment rather than the equipment itself.
  2. 3stepIT international market survey of 1000 organisations, carried out in February 2019

About BNP Paribas 3 Step IT:

The joint venture company, BNP Paribas 3 Step IT, makes IT more sustainable. It offers device-as-a-service solutions and refurbishes the used technology to find a new user.

The alliance brings BNP Paribas Leasing Solutions, European leader in asset finance, and 3stepIT, seasoned experts in the IT asset management business, together, to take the most sustainable technology lifecycle solutions across Europe.

The partners’ existing branches in France and Italy operate under the name BNP Paribas 3 Step IT, with expansion following to serve most of Europe by the end of 2020.

Find more information at bnpparibas-3stept.uk.

Press contacts

Elodie ANTOINE : +33 (0)6 71 53 45 32 – elodie.antoine@bnpparibas.com

Jérôme GOAER : +33 (0)6 61 61 79 34 – j.goaer@verbatee.com

Aline BESSELIEVRE : +33 (0)6 61 85 10 05 – a.besselievre@verbatee.com

Watch the interview of Pascal Layan, our Deputy CEO, in Green Reflex, a French TV programme dedicated to energy transition, broadcasted on BFM Business on July 04, 2019.

He explains how our business operations and finance solutions promote the circular economy by not only prolonging the life of professional equipment, but also by giving them a second or even a third life. It is through the associated services offered with these solutions – such as predictive maintenance, insurance, fleet management, etc. – and our numerous international partnerships that we’re able to support both the commercial growth of businesses and transition to cleaner forms of energy.

We are committed to your business growth

Our competitive finance solutions can help you capitalise on new opportunities. Contact us today to discuss your needs with a member of our team.