DRIVING THE SUSTAINABILITY TRANSITION
Yvette Watson is co-founder and CEO of The 2B Collective and co-founder of PHI Factory and works with organisations to accelerate their transition to the circular economy. She is passionately dedicated to raising awareness about the impact the workplace environment has on organizations’ sustainability performance. Yvette helps them achieve their energy-neutral and circular ambitions for their buildings and operations and develops innovative concepts for a range of market players.
Sustainability means a lot to you. Where did this passion come from?
“From the age of eight, I felt an impetus to get people to think about the environment, sustainability and animal welfare. Even at that young age, I realized we’re destroying the world. It literally made me sick to my stomach. I joined activist organizations like the World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace and regularly dragged my parents along on campaigns, and plastered my bedroom walls with Rainbow Warrior posters. I told my friends about animal welfare and the importance of taking care of nature. I was pretty pedantic about it and that die-hard attitude didn’t make me very popular.”
Is that still your attitude?
“My preoccupation with sustainability faded to the background when I got to secondary school, but the drive to make the world a better place returned at university. Eventually, I graduated with a degree in with a focus on sustainability. As the physical domain where raw materials come in, and so a linchpin in organizations, I figured this was where I could genuinely help industry reduce its impact and waste flows. To bring about progress through innovation and smart solutions. Over the years, my activism mellowed and my focus shifted more towards inspiring and activating others. I found that approaching people with a positive message worked better. So, I decided to stop fighting the status quo and instead look for ways to engage the ‘collective’ in transitioning to a sustainable world.”
How are you doing that at the moment?
“Through 2B Collective, which grew out of that last idea and in which my team and I support companies and organizations on the road to sustainability. 2B Collective is a gamified learning platform with programmes addressing various sustainable development goals – from workplace vitality, inclusion and diversity to creating a circular economy. I believe change starts with our own mindset and behaviours. Based on that idea, we encourage companies to rely on the intellectual resources of their own people. They’re the ones who will ultimately power the sustainability transition. I think many companies don’t realize how much creativity, brainpower and adaptability they have in-house. They already possess the expertise to achieve sustainability targets. They just need to tap into it.”
Are you working with any companies in or around Zuidas?
“Allen & Overy is a great example. I worked with them to create a roadmap towards circular operations. It covered a whole set of elements, from mobility to purchasing and catering. After a joint kick-off we appointed a disciplinary core team and planned activities they could tackle on their own over the next ten years. With the Green Business Clubs we developped a gamified circular procurement training with The 2B Collective. So all the companies of Zuidas are very welcome to join our next run. Through 2B Collective’s gamified learning platform, employees learn not only about sustainable change, but also what concrete actions they can take to put it into practice. We also worked with EDGE, in several project and also in strategy sessions.”
At the end of last year, you had the honour of presenting the 2023 Zuidas Sustainability Award to six inspiring sustainable projects. What stood out for you? “I was pleasantly surprised by the number of submissions. It’s amazing to see all the efforts underway in Zuidas on issues like circularity, the energy transition and greening the built environment. One of the companies to receive the Zuidas Sustainability Award was Vebego. They are committed to making Zuidas more inclusive and diverse and are showing other companies that talent can be found across every segment of the population. I presented the sustainability award to Vermaat and Deloitte for their initiative ‘Zero food waste in 100 days’, through which Vermaat is working to reduce food waste. What started at one location is now being rolled out to all Deloitte locations in the Netherlands. That also means they’ll be partnering with competitors, which is really cool. Once an initiative takes off, it’s crucial to think about how to advance it further.”
Do you think enough people are open to sustainability?
“Most people are quite open, yes. That’s why I think it’s not so much a matter of fines and subsidies, but rather of focusing much more on facilitating and supporting companies to become more sustainable. Collaboration and sharing knowledge and positive experiences are key. It’s not a change you can make on your own. We need each other. Although sustainability is becoming a bigger issue for many companies, thanks to stricter international regulations, it’s still a contentious political issue, which it shouldn’t be. Opinions may differ on how best to approach the transition, but it’s clear that something needs to be done. And, I have to say, flying 70,000 people to a climate summit in Dubai is not something I can get behind at all. But this transition needs to happen. Not tomorrow, or in three years. But right now. If we have the will and take action, we can achieve a great deal.”