Mabel Wong
Mabel Wong
Director, ELEVATE
Rob Kaplan
Founder & CEO, Circulate Capital

Published: 11 September 2019

Published: 11 September 2019

Mabel Wong - Director, ELEVATE
Rob Kaplan - Founder & CEO, Circulate Capital

Investing in plastic-free oceans: Q&A with CSR Asia Summit 2019 keynote speaker Rob Kaplan, CE0 and Founder of Circulate Capital.

11 September 2019 – Mabel Wong, Director of ELEVATE, hosted a short Q&A with Rob Kaplan, Founder and CEO of Circulate Capital, an investment management firm based in Singapore. Rob will deliver a keynote address at next week’s CSR Asia Summit 2019 in Bangkok. Circulate Capital is dedicated to incubating and financing companies that prevent the flow of ocean plastic waste to the world’s oceans, and to advance the circular economy in South and Southeast Asia. Rob has two decades of experience in corporate sustainability and impact investing with industry leaders ranging from Walmart to Closed Loop Partners.

ELEVATE: Welcome Rob – we’re so excited for you to share a sneak peek of next week’s keynote. The room will be full of 400+ sustainability professionals from the region. What would you like all of us to take away? Why ocean plastics and why now?

Rob Kaplan:  In recent years, South and Southeast Asian countries have experienced rapid economic development which has also led to this region becoming the epicenter for ocean plastic. Studies indicate that more than the equivalent of a garbage truck worth of plastic flows into the ocean every minute. Yet this waste crisis is also a business opportunity that can generate economic value in Southeast Asia, improve people’s livelihoods, and rapidly reduce the amount of plastic entering our oceans.

Research has shown that if we improve waste and recycling infrastructure, we can cut the amount of plastic flowing into the ocean by half. So, we must be mindful of the fundamentals in terms of collection, waste management, the recycling companies and the circular economy companies who are creating new materials and new business models to prevent plastic pollution. We can solve the problem, but the time to act is now. This is the time to invest.

ELEVATE: What is Circulate Capital’s vision for investing for impact?

Rob Kaplan: We’d like to see a near-term future where plastic pollution is cut in half.  To accomplish this, we need investors and corporates to invest significantly in these new markets and circular models. Collective action is required, though, and corporates have a unique role to play in generating demand and buying new materials. Strong partnerships and collaboration are key.

ELEVATE: What are the challenges that stand in your way?

Rob Kaplan: There is a global spotlight on plastic waste and so on the positive side, everybody wants to solve this. No one wants to add more plastic to our oceans. However, with the rise of engagement we’re also seeing a type of competition that leads to inefficient turf skirmishes where “my solution is better than your solution”. And as the issue becomes more politicized and urgent, we may see more splintering in our collective action. It’s important to keep everyone on the same page as we identify and develop new solutions and models that can be applied specifically to South and Southeast Asia. We also need government policies that enable investments and not hinder them.

ELEVATE: Circulate Capital’s success depends on collaboration. What do you need from the sustainability community to achieve Circulate Capital’s vision to reduce ocean plastics?

Rob Kaplan: Companies have the most to lose and the most to gain by solving the plastic pollution problem. How a company is perceived in terms of their ability to respond and manage when it comes to the waste discussion can impact their license to operate – whether you’re a global multinational or a regional player in Asia. It’s time for companies to shift from being part of the problem to being part of the solution. We need to focus on fostering partnerships that deploy capital more rapidly and effectively into new materials and new circular models.

It’s not just the capital that will make it successful; it’s the networks and the supply chains of industry that will scale new solutions. Multinational companies appear to be getting the majority of the attention, but local companies are also eager to address these regional problems. It’s more important now than ever for all to have a voice in the conversation and solutions.

It’s our mission to make the business case for this sector so that investing in waste and the circular economy becomes as straightforward as investing in roads, bridges and ports. Over the next 5 – 10 years, Circulate Capital intends to make this sector investable and bankable to solve this global crisis through exponential positive impact.

ELEVATE: Thank you Rob for sharing this quick preview. We’re all excited to listen to your insights at CSR Asia Summit and understand the unique role we all have to play to collectively solve the problem of ocean plastic waste. Together we can create economic value and sustain circular economy companies and new business models.


There’s still time to register for CSR Asia Summit 2019 – Learn more about Rob and Circulate Capital, all of our speakers, view our two-day program, and sign up today.


CSR Asia Summit 2019: Learn more

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