Impact Report

Metabolic is an ecosystem of organizations striving for systems change. Our mission is to transition the global economy to a fundamentally sustainable state – a broad and urgent goal that no entity can achieve alone. Together with a growing network of partners, we are working to equip organizations all over the world with tools and insights to catalyze this change.

See how we did in 2020

Eva Gladek

"COVID has the potential to ignite a revolution in the way that we relate to one another and the biological world. We need to take the time – especially now – to look at our world anew using the lens of systems thinking. Only by understanding the deep interconnections between institutions, people, and the environment will we be able to craft pathways toward a genuinely sustainable and resilient economy; one that works for all people and supports the flourishing of all living beings." — To truly ‘build back better,’ a systems approach is key

Eva Gladek, Founder and CEO, Metabolic

2020 at a glance

Completed 81 Consulting projects

Worked on 9 ongoing Institute projects

37,065 Publication views

Our work reached cities across the globe in 2020.

Map showing overview of what continents Metabolic worked in. Sorted by most projects to least: Europe, Asia, North America, South America and Africa.Map showing overview of what continents Metabolic worked in. Sorted by most projects to least: Europe, Asia, North America, South America and Africa.

six transitions

To accelerate global systems change, Metabolic focuses on six key transitions:

Cities and regions

Food and land use

Products and services




In this report, we will look at the three transitions where we made the most tangible impact over the past year.

Piechart showing projects in 2020
33 ongoing projects.
81 completed projects in the following categories:
Cities and regions 38
Products and services 19
Food and land use 9
Governance 4
Finance 3
Other 8

in this report

About Metabolic

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Cities and regions

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Nico Shouten

"What really attracts me to the built environment is that it's very much a part of society, very much a combination of culture and challenges."

Nico Schouten, Green Building Consultant

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At a glance:

Our work on 36 consulting projects focused on the following areas:



City-wide circularity strategies

17 projects

The built environment and green building

8 projects

Organizational strategy

5 projects

Area development

4 projects

Raw materials and recycling

2 projects
City-wide circularity strategies: 17 projects.
The built environment and green building: 8 projects.
Organizational strategy: 5 projects.
Area development: 4 projects.
Raw materials and recycling: 2 projects.

Here are a few highlighted projects from 2020:

metabolic consulting

Urban mining scans on two continents

Assessing all materials used in the construction sector in the Netherlands and the United States

The construction sector is the biggest consumer of material, so it is ripe with opportunities to improve circularity.



The construction industry is responsible for 60% of worldwide material consumption and 40% of waste in the Netherlands

First material flow analysis done at the country level in the Netherlands


17 million tonnes of material used annually, mostly concrete

Only 13% comes from secondary or renewable sources

5 areas with opportunities for improving circularity in the construction sector

50% or more of materials could be reused in 10 years, with our recommendations

Philadelphia pilot tool

We partnered with SmartCityPHL to pilot an urban mining tool in Philadelphia that predicts the supply of used materials that can be repurposed in new construction. This ultimately shortens supply chains, increases a city’s resiliency, and reduces environmental impacts.

“Metabolic’s analysis has already identified new opportunities for entrepreneurship and innovation in Philadelphia in building design, construction, deconstruction, and material management.”


A publication supporting public sector IT, featured our work in the article “Can urban mining help cities improve resiliency?

metabolic institute + software


Designing circular resource flows in European cities

This ongoing EU Horizon 2020 project, by the Institute and supported by the Software team,  explores key material flows through urban landscapes. Circular innovations and strategies will be developed based on the flows to strengthen the cities’ regenerative capabilities.

REFLOW resource flow graphic


3 years, 6 cities







our progress

Metabolic Institute first developed a material flow analysis for the cities, assessing critical urban resource flows including plastic, textile, organic waste, timber, and energy. We then developed interventions to reduce negative impacts of the major environmental hotspots.

our ongoing work

The pilot cities are currently exploring how to embed circular practices in key local industries. 

metabolic consulting

A sustainability strategy for Amvest

We developed a sustainability vision with measurable indicators and a concrete strategy for Amvest, a Netherlands-based investment manager and residential home developer. 

Amvest building


Amvest Investment Management manages:

Nearly 20,000 homes for 50,000 tenants

Three portfolios

10,000 homes in the pipeline from Amvest Development


Data-driven analysis of the ecological footprint of the portfolio and operational strategies

A sustainability vision with concrete objectives and measurable indicators

Design of a decision-making tool and monitoring dashboard to support the realization of the sustainability vision

metabolic consulting

Monitoring tool for Rotterdam

We continued to work with Rotterdam, which has bold ambitions to become a waste-free city by 2050.

A new monitoring tool and dashboard helped Rotterdam examine how different sectors are performing and where there are opportunities to continue improving circularity. 

Rotterdam tool showing bar graph


Sectors the tool can monitor:

Waste streams (public, commercial)

Personal consumption (food, cosmetics)

Energy use (household, public, commercial)

In an effort to:

Halve raw material usage by 2030 (from 2018)

our continued relationship with the city

Previously, we helped the city develop:

A 2019-2030 circularity action plan

A systemic food policy focused on a healthy, sustainable, and accessible diet for all

An urban mining hub framework

metabolic consulting

Dutch water boards transition to circularity

We have worked with more than half of the water boards in the Netherlands to kick off their transition to circularity by 2050.

Water way


Potential to better use wastewater, which is full of valuable resources, including nutrients and thermal energy

Potential for closing resource cycles


Baseline assessments for 13 of 21 Dutch water boards, to understand flows and leverage points

Developed a full circular strategy for 7 water boards

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A circular Denmark

We worked with three of the five regions in Denmark to improve circular systems.

Waste analysis

3-year public-private partnership between the waste sector and business community

We found 5 waste hotspots and 4 circular hotspots in our material flow analysis

Raw material management

In our first-of-its-kind project looking at the entire value chain of raw materials, we found:

6.4 million cubic meters of raw materials extracted annually

80% used for roads and infrastructure, 20% for buildings

30x more greenhouse gases in processing than in extraction and transportation phases

Textiles system

90% of textiles are consumed by households

50 new pieces purchased on average each year 

3 new pieces of clothing per year recommended to stay within a carbon budget

3x times more textiles produced since 1975

Spectral's smart energy

Spectral tackles the obstacles in transitioning the global energy sector towards a 100% sustainable energy supply.

Spectral, one of the spin-off companies in our ecosystem, believes that one of the most urgent issues is solving how to provide for our energy needs in a sustainable way. Spectral tackles the obstacles in transitioning the global energy sector towards a 100% sustainable energy supply, with a focus on markets, buildings, transportation, and energy generation and distribution (battery storage and smart grids).

Water way

Total direct impact

2,071 tonnes of CO2 emissions saved 

The equivalent of:

207 people living in the Netherlands

714 round trip flights to Bogotá, Colombia

778 times the electricity consumption of the Spectral office

Additional indirect impact due to other projects is not quantified here.

Spectral’s projects

248 tonnes of CO2 saved with the Smart Building Platform, which optimizes energy efficiency in 5 office buildings 

1,803 tonnes of CO2 saved at Hartel and Hellegatsplein, two battery charging hubs powered by wind farms using our software.

20 tonnes of CO2 saved by the Schoonschip community smart grid, which Spectral is developing from the ground up.

Gerard Roemers

Gerard Roemers

Cities Team lead

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Food and land use

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Louisa Durkin

“Really pushing the boundaries in terms of what transformational change can look like is what’s especially interesting to me, and pressuring people a little bit, because we have such a limited time.”

Louisa Durkin, Sustainability Consultant

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Our food and land use work focuses on five key outcomes: 

Net-positive biodiversity road mapping

Science-based targets for carbon and nature

Integrated capital assessment: natural, social, human, and produced capital

Circular and regenerative agriculture strategies

Packaging and plastics strategies

At a glance:

In 2020, we worked with pioneering organizations on:

Decarbonization roadmaps

Regional nutrient assessments

Holistic impact assessments

Policy formulation

Sustainable development and strategies

In 2020, we completed 9 projects with NGOs, companies, and governmental organizations to:



Reduce and change land use

17 projects

Reduce CO2 eq emissions

5 projects

Reduce waste

5 projects

Save freshwater

5 projects

Reduce energy use

4 projects

Reuse or recycle waste streams

4 projects

Reduce environmental toxicity

4 projects
Reduce and change land use: 8 projects.
Save freshwater: 5 projects.
Reduce waste: 5 projects.
Reduce CO2 eq emissions: 5 projects.
Reduce environmental toxicity: 4 projects.
Reuse or recycle waste streams: 4 projects.
Reduce energy usage: 4 projects.

Here are a few highlighted projects from 2020:

metabolic institute

FOODE: Sustainable food systems for European Cities

An ongoing EU Commission-funded project across Europe exploring citizen-driven and sustainable urban food initiatives for innovative business models.

Man cutting flowers


European cities are overwhelmingly net importers of food.

Citizens are increasingly disconnected from their food sources.


4-year project in 15 European pilots

Rigorous sustainability assessment framework

Scalable solutions will foster the dissemination of innovative best practices.

Educate and engage current and next generations in their city-region food systems. 

our process

Metabolic Institute is developing an open-source aquaponics farm that aims to be an educational center for urban food production. In addition to producing marketable fish and vegetables, the greenhouse will serve as a space for training and dissemination of aquaponics techniques to allow others to design, build, and manage their own small-scale aquaponics units.

urban farming hackathons

50 participants

2 areas: nutrients and accessibility

Teams explored how to advance our aquaponics farm, focusing on closing the nutrient loop via automation of our struvite reactor and developing a conceptual user interface design for our open-source aquaponics management software.

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Towards a circular agri-food system in the Baltic

An analysis of the effects of production and consumption of food in the Baltic Sea basin.

Metabolic developed a nutrient flow analysis for the WWF to identify opportunities to close the loop on nitrogen and phosphorus flows.

Cow lounging in a field next to the water.


279 kilotons of nutrients flow into the Baltic Sea

Agricultural run-off harms the health of the sea and causes ecological dead zones

our continued relationship with the city

10-18% of nutrients in pigs’ diets in the catchment area could be replaced by food waste. 

10-30% of nutrients in imported mineral fertilizers could be replaced by improved manure handling.

Crop residues are an under-utilized source of nitrogen and phosphorus.


Partnerships and coalitions help us to expand our reach and heighten our impact. There is no way, even with a huge amount of resources, that our ecosystem alone could tackle the challenges we are facing. A multitude of perspectives and a broad range of expertise and specialization allow us to make real progress. This year, we grew our partnerships, particularly in our work in Agrifood and Biodiversity.

Global Commons Alliance
Global Commons Alliance

We are part of a network of more than 50 of the world’s forward-looking organizations working to transform economic systems for the benefit of society and to sustain the natural systems of Earth. 

Science based targets
Science Based Targets Network (SBTN)

We deepened our relationship with the Science Based Targets Network (SBTN), a global initiative to guide companies and cities to set science-based targets for Earth’s systems and to ultimately reduce their impact and dependencies on nature. We also developed standardized practices and target frameworks for the most effective impact reduction.


Brian Shaw

Agrifood and Biodiversity Team Lead

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Products and services

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James Souder

“I want to be part of the integrated system that works across solutions rather than just putting a bandaid over a systemic problem that we're seeing.”

James Souder, Industries Consultant, Metabolic

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Our team focuses on five key outcomes:

Mindset shift toward systems-oriented product design

Circular collaboration across supply chains

Best practice circular product design and material selection

Planetary boundaries guide material use and sourcing

Impact reduction across a holistic set of indicators

At a glance:

In 2020, we worked with pioneering organizations on:

Circular supply chain design

Circular economy strategies

Impact assessments

Tool development

Sustainable procurement

Across 19 projects, which aimed to:



Reduce CO2 eq emissions

17 projects

Reduce waste

15 projects

Replace virgin material

14 projects

Reuse or recycle waste streams

13 projects

Keep materials circulating

13 projects

Reduce energy usage

10 projects

Save freshwater

6 projects

Reduce and change land use

5 projects

Reduce environmental toxicity

4 projects
Reduce CO2 eq emissions: 17 projects.
Reduce waste: 15 projects.
Replace virgin material: 14 projects.
Reuse or recycle waste streams: 13 projects.
Keep materials circulating at their highest use: 13 projects.
Reduce energy usage: 10 projects.
Save freshwater: 6 projects.
Reduce and change land use: 5 projects.
Reduce environmental toxicity: 4 projects.

Here are a few highlighted projects from 2020:

metabolic consulting

Recycling Unpacked

An assessment of the circular potential of beverage containers in the U.S.

Metabolic and the Can Manufacturers Institute explored the potential for a fully circular beverage packaging sector in the United States, focusing on aluminum cans, glass bottles, and plastic bottles.

Recycling unpacked cover image


The majority of the 200+ billion disposable beverage containers used annually in the U.S. end up in landfills, resulting in significant economic and environmental losses. 

Recycling 100% of aluminum cans could save 6 million metric tons of CO2e each year.


Actionable recommendations to increase the circularity of each packaging type, particularly through bottle deposit collection systems and localized reuse systems.

metabolic consulting + software

Alternative Materials Tool

This science-based tool guides businesses towards packaging materials with a lower environmental footprint.

Plastic is a major contributor to many environmental issues. The Alternative Materials Tool, developed for WWF Singapore, measures the environmental impacts of packaging types and offers sustainable alternatives. 


Expand impacts of WWF’s No Plastic in Nature initiative. 

Provide clear guidance for companies on best packaging materials specific to use and context.

our continued relationship with the city

Potential for our Software team to customize the tool for other regions, industries, and products.

The Singapore region views the tool as critical to achieve its zero waste master plan for plastics.

metabolic consulting

Improving purchasing procedures for circular IT

Minimizing the impacts of the IT production system

We evaluated different purchasing criteria for IT equipment for the Dutch department of waterways, Rijkswaterstaat, aiming to reduce environmental impacts across the equipment’s life cycle.

Circular IT


Every person in the Netherlands is responsible for an average of 24kg of e-waste, contributing to the 50 million tons produced worldwide annually.  

With Rijkswaterstaat’s aim to become fully circular by 2030, we looked at how to minimize the impact of IT through informed purchasing decisions


A clear handbook with rules and criteria to make more informed, sustainable decisions. 

Greater systemic impact could result if national or international collaboration results.

metabolic consulting

Environmental impact assessment for the Dutch Custodial Agency

A full assessment of the direct and indirect environmental impact of the Dutch Custodial Agency.

Metabolic conducted a materiality assessment for the organization, calculated its carbon footprint and other environmental impacts, and developed a roadmap with interventions to reduce the overall footprint.

City buildings


120,000 tonnes of CO2 linked to the organization

The proposed interventions add up to a reduction of:

90,000 tonnes CO2

2,500 tonnes of resources

2,800 tonnes of waste


A comprehensive current state assessment of the organization’s environmental footprint.

A set of feasible recommendations that can reduce the carbon footprint of the organization by 73%.

metabolic foundation

Metabolic Foundation

A participatory action organization based in Aruba, our Foundation shifted much of its focus in response to COVID-19. Recycling temporarily stopped and maker spaces shut down — but the Foundation made progress towards its mission of a more equitable and sustainable world.

by the numbers

600 makers engaged

1,000 projects through Mo-B Lab, a mobile makerspace, that worked with 3 schools and 500 children

8,000 pieces of PPE were made for Aruba’s residents

1,700 kg of plastic recycled through Plastic Beach Party


Empower people and improve cities

Guide community-driven development

Build open source solutions

Stimulate social entrepreneurship

Manifest sustainable urbanism

Pieter van Exter

Pieter van Exter

Lead Circular Industries

interested in learning more?

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Impact report 2019 our projects contact us
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