Special future: sustainability

These days, sustainability plays a major part in our everyday lives. We’re all becoming increasingly aware of it and see the urgency to preserve a good balance between people, the environment and the economy. That’s important now and will be even more so for generations to come. Fortunately, more and more companies are making a serious commitment to corporate social responsibility and sustainability. This issue’s special feature on Sustainability spotlights companies that are making a conscious choice to be sustainable and are excited to tell our readers about what they’re doing. 

We’re kicking off with an interview with Eline Kik, director of Green Business Club Zuidas. GBC Zuidas is a foundation that works to achieve concrete results by spearheading sustainable projects. 

What’s the overall aim of Green Business Club Netherlands? 

‘’Green Business Clubs (GBC) are local networks made up of industry, government and knowledge sector players in a given geographic area. We work together on concrete projects to make those areas more sustainable. It’s all about taking action. Right now, there are 13 local GBCs nationwide as well as a broad central platform – GBC Netherlands – that supports the local GBCs. The idea was conceived in 2011 by ABN AMRO’s sustainable banking unit in cooperation with the City of Amsterdam and ORAM network. They were quickly joined by founding partners Loyens & Loeff, Vesteda, VU Amsterdam, RAI Amsterdam and Accenture.’’

Your activities at GBC centre around Zuidas. What’s the focus here and what’s your role?

‘’I’m the programme director for GBC Zuidas. We’ve got an enthusiastic team and 55 member organizations with which I work to realize this incredible club’s ambitions. One project we’re working on now is Zero Waste Zuidas. Our goals are 0% residual waste by 2030, eliminating Zuidas’ dependence on natural gas, improving urban logistics by provisioning offices from a hub using electric delivery vehicles, and installing 25,000 m2 of water-retaining green rooftops. We’re already more than halfway to achieving that last goal.’’

Is Zuidas sustainable enough, in your view?

‘’Zuidas is by no means sufficiently sustainable. We’re up against some tremendous challenges. As the country’s premier office location, Zuidas wants to be a frontrunner in sustainability. We’re succeeding more and more when it comes to ultra-innovative and sustainable office and residential building, but there’s still so much to do. Particularly in terms of our use of existing office properties and our behaviours, Zuidas needs to take a more critical look at itself. There are still a lot of lights on outside working hours, lots of needless business flights and commuting by car, instead of using public transport and bikes. Much remains to be done on waste reduction, reuse and better processing. But, on the plus side, we’re tackling these things together in concrete projects. And, increasingly, we’re seeing people in Zuidas take responsibility for their own role, committing to the cause and taking real steps to make Zuidas sustainable.’’ 

How can companies make a start on greening their operations? ‘’

One best practice adopted by GBC member Houthoff and others is to go broad and create a ‘green team’ with representatives from across all of your organization’s various divisions. Then, start with a measurement: What’s your company’s carbon footprint? That brings into focus promising areas where you can have a big impact. Tackle projects where you can exert a direct influence. That might be eco-friendly or circular purchasing, or maybe setting up a more sustainable employee mobility policy – ithat varies with every company. And there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Find the knowledge that’s out there and join forces with other organizations in platforms like Green Business Club.’’

Could you describe your partnership with Hello Zuidas in relation to the sustainability report and award? 

‘’Green Business Club Zuidas works closely with Hello Zuidas. Since 2013, GBC Zuidas, Hello Zuidas and the Zuidas Amsterdam Development Office have issued the annual Zuidas Sustainability Report, containing an overview of sustainable developments in the district. That report is being replaced in 2021 by the Zuidas Sustainability Award, to be presented for the first time ever to the most innovative, impactful or inspiring initiative in Zuidas. An expert panel of judges will assess all submissions, which will be published on www.zuidasduurzaam.nl.’’

How do you envision the future of Zuidas?

‘’As a flourishing, dynamic district with impressive offices, residential towers where everyone may find a home and a place where knowledge and innovation count as central values. With VU as the country’s most sustainable university right here in Zuidas, that’s something we can achieve. These days, Zuidas is seen not just as the financial heart of the Netherlands, but as a model for how profit can go hand in hand with fostering a better world.’’

Is there anything else you’d like to share? 

‘’GBC Zuidas will be celebrating her 10-year anniversary in 2021 and we want to celebrate with our 55 loyal members and all the wonderful organizations we work with. We’re putting together some anniversary festivities, but are also open to more ideas. Got an idea or want to get involved in Green Business Club Zuidas? We’d love to hear from you: zuidas@greenbusinessclub.nl.’’