written by
Denise Jacobs

Companies along in the climate story: an approach that works

Consultancy 3 min read , August 27, 2019

Read this article in another language : Dutch

Many cities and municipalities are seeing their companies' CO2 emissions stagnate or even increase. Most local authorities know their companies, but are unable to involve them in the energy transition. That is why, based on our experience at Futureproofed, we propose an approach that does work.

Start from the challenges of companies

Today, many companies approach sustainability from the perspective of corporate social responsibility. Sustainability is not part of their core business. As a result, it remains something 'extra', not anchored in their daily core activities and its impact is limited.

So how do you incorporate sustainability into the core activities of companies? By speaking their 'language' and starting from the challenges of companies, which come down to making profit. Below you will discover 4 ways or levels in which companies work on their challenges. By using this approach when talking to companies, it becomes clear to companies that sustainability is not an 'extra' responsibility, but can strengthen the core of their company.

Strategische niveaus waarop bedrijven winst maken

1. Reduced costs (internal)

Most of the actions to make companies more sustainable today take place in this first quadrant: cost reduction. Think of all measures to save energy: energy scans, energy performance contracts, energy efficiency, renovations, energy management, thermographic maps... Energy savings almost always lead to direct cost savings, which is a win-win situation for companies.

2. Lower risks (internal)

What is also an internal matter, but rather a long-term one, is the reduction of risks. For example with regard to legislation, business climate, employment ... The questions that companies can ask themselves on this topic are:

  • How do we deal with employment/scarcity in our region?
  • How can municipalities and companies together remain an attractive region for employees and companies?
  • How can we remain easily accessible to our employees and customers?
  • Will we have sufficient cheap energy and raw materials in the future? How can we participate in this?
On my way to the photography museum in Rotterdam I took this fantastic picture of the Erasmus Brigde.

There are far fewer measures on this subject in Flanders: we're talking about are long-term projects with a systemic approach and cooperation on a larger scale. Examples in our neighbouring countries are: The metropolitan region of Rotterdam and Den Haag and the Nord Pas de Calais region (where VVSG got some inspiration). Get inspired!

What can you do as a municipality? Talk to intermunicipal companies, provinces, VOKA, the Flemish Government... and refer to it. Why can't Flanders become a region like this?

3. New business (external)

Companies are constantly looking for ways to create more business, by improving their products and services, but also through innovation: new and improved products. Here we see a great opportunity for cooperatives with which citizens can participate in projects related to energy supply, for example.

Read our recent article to know more about energy cooperatives! 💡

Non-cooperative companies (e.g. Colruyt) also see potential in this and have expanded their range (Eoly Cooperative - Dutch). Maybe it's a good idea to include a local company in setting up a cooperative?

Other examples of innovations (through cooperation) that accelerate the energy transition are: heating networks, the coupling of energy demand and supply (Restore), car sharing platforms, electric driving, ESCOs...

4. Better brand (external)

For companies, a brand name and image is extremely important, not only to attract customers but also for employees. International examples of companies that are very responsive to this are Patagonia, Interface, Nike. In Belgium, we see companies like Alpro, Ecover, Exki, Umicore, Colruyt and Torfs focusing on sustainability as a central value.

Cities and municipalities can also respond to this (with or without companies) and focus on their attractiveness. Copenhagen is a good example of this. Communication plays an important role in this. Instead of going on a city trip to Copenhagen, can't we make our own Copenhagen here? 😅

FutureproofedCities allows local authorities to collaborate on their climate plans and communicate their actions with their citizens. Discover our tool! 🌱

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