Our Story to Date
Circulate Capital Established
Circulate Capital Launch
Publication of Investor Handbook
Launch of CCOF
Circulate Capital established as an impact-focused investment management firm.
Circulate Capital officially launched at the Our Ocean Conference in Indonesia and committed to funding start-ups and SMEs developing waste management and recycling solutions that prevent ocean plastic and advance the circular economy in South and Southeast Asia.
Circulate Capital published its Investor Handbook to provide an assessment of the recycling and circular economy landscape, and outline how institutional investors can play a more significant role in ending ocean plastic pollution.
Circulate Capital announced the first close of the US$106M Circulate Capital Ocean Fund, the world's first investment fund dedicated to preventing ocean plastic in South and Southeast Asia.
We entered 2020 poised to deploy our US$106M in a region that we think is ripe for investment. South and Southeast Asia has a thriving landscape of start-ups and SMEs developing solutions to overcome the challenges in the formal and informal waste management and recycling sectors.
However, the region's rapid economic growth has seen existing infrastructure unable to keep pace with waste generation, exacerbating the need for scalable circular plastics value chain solutions. Catalytic capital can address the challenges faced, in a region where 90% of infrastructure is financed by public sources.
We made our inaugural investments while the global and local impacts of COVID-19 were starting to take shape. As several troubling trends emerged, the pandemic underscored the need to invest in local circular plastics value chains more than ever before to protect local communities’ health and livelihoods. Despite an increase in single-use plastics, an increase in the risk of disease exposure for front-line recycling workers, including those in the informal economy, and a drop in oil prices, our investments contribute to strengthening the resilience of local value chains to weather the impact of the pandemic and then grow to build a circular economy.
After months of pipeline development and deal sourcing to make our first investments, we took lessons from the process to shape our country-specific investment and portfolio management strategies. We believe that localization is key, and have built a strong, experienced team of investment managers across India, Indonesia and Singapore.
Understanding the Impacts of COVID-19
The challenges we saw emerge in April proved to be ongoing, with reduced waste management and recycling activity across the region destabilizing actors across the value chain.
In Safeguarding the Plastic Recycling Value Chain: Insights from COVID-19 Impact in South and Southeast Asia, a report commissioned by CCOF, we learned that:
80% of the recycling value chain was not operating at the height of the first wave of the pandemic;
40% of actors in the value chain were at risk of bankruptcy or permanent closure;
There was a 50% drop in demand for recycled plastics and a 21% drop in sales prices in response to falling prices for virgin plastics; and,
There was a 65% reduction in volume of plastics collected and sorted by the informal sector.
In markets such as India, the Philippines, and Indonesia, feedstock and workforce shortages, and cash flow issues were identified as major challenges to the plastic recycling value chain, with lack of government support to the sector compounding the fundamental challenges. Immediate intervention was recommended to avoid a weakened circular plastics value chain, with catalytic capital playing a vital role in supporting industry.
Rather than retreat in the face of uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and a global economic recession, CCOF’s corporate investors pushed for the acceleration of financing activities to prevent lasting damage to the recycling sector and see progress toward the long-term goals of the Ocean Fund in South and Southeast Asia.
Led by our country investment managers, due diligence and deal execution continued through the second half of 2020. The team continued to assess companies across South and Southeast Asia for readiness and fit for CCOF, including alignment with our environmental and social goals, financial profile, and potential for scale and replicability. We had more than 150 deals at the sourcing and review stage, and another 10 in the due diligence and execution phases. Due diligence activities reinforced our understanding of the need for pre-investment capacity building so that companies with the entrepreneurial energy to build promising products and business models also gain operational expertise required to meet the demands of global supply chains. This is a need that we identified from the very beginning and is why we created The Incubation Network, in partnership with Second Muse, and our nonprofit partner, The Circulate Initiative.
Recognizing that the industry needs more than financing to weather the COVID-19 crisis, CCOF supported its portfolio and pipeline companies and other regional actors to manage and mitigate the threats of the pandemic, and help ensure the near-term viability of the circular plastics value chain. CCOF and its partners provided one-on-one technical assistance and cohort-based coaching to CEOs and management teams of 13 companies, covering leadership, crisis management, and health and safety protocols. Reinforcing the need for different types of capital, the Ocean Fund also provided additional working capital to address cash flow issues resulting from suspended sales activity. Building stronger circular businesses with different types of capital is a lesson we bring into 2021 as we continue to deploy across the region.
Together with our existing investment in Lucro Plastecycle, we believe the India portfolio can materially improve circular plastics value chain by driving scale to address key systemic gaps, such as supply chain fragmentation, lack of traceability, and low-quality recycled material.
The companies exemplify what we think is possible in India, as well as the value we strive to add with our investment and partnership model. They are uniquely positioned to transform the country’s circular economy for plastic waste to build back stronger and more sustainably post COVID-19.
Through three key scaling strategies, the companies demonstrate the opportunities for upcycling plastics from waste to value, digitization, and collection in collaboration with cities. They are also primed to respond to opportunities created by government plans and policies, namely the national Swachh Bharat Mission for improved sanitation, and extended producer responsibility regulation.
Finally, we have helped seed relationships between portfolio companies and our investors to provide technical expertise and accelerate the development of value-added post-consumer uses, as well as share insights as buyers of plastic packaging products.
Climate Investing and Circular Plastics
Climate change is one of the highest priorities for investors today.
We believe that investing in the circular plastic value chain will transform it into a climate-resilient infrastructure asset class and also help meet climate-focused investing goals. To illustrate the interconnection between climate investing and circular plastics, Circulate Capital developed a first-of-its-kind prototype tool in collaboration with A*STAR, Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research, to quantify the environmental benefit of an investment through:
the prevention of plastic and other waste from leaking into the environment; and
the reduction/prevention of greenhouse gas emissions.
This analysis quantifies the relationship between waste management and greenhouse gas emissions in India and Indonesia. A*STAR found that preventing all plastic leakage in India and Indonesia could avoid 150 million tonnes of greenhouse gas by 2030.
Read more in our report: The intersection of climate investing and circular plastics in South and Southeast Asia
Our ability to advance the circular plastics value chain during the pandemic has been uneven. Some companies have been slower to restart, due to disruptions upstream and downstream. Those that are more resilient have been able to get capacity back up quickly and also to pivot to meet the needs of rapidly changing markets.
In 2021, Circulate Capital continues to build capacity and partnerships. We also see new opportunities on the horizon, such as deepening our footprint in India, integrating the most promising innovations into our infrastructure investments, and exploring scale and replication in other emerging markets.