At its annual Congress Forum, Etion, the network for ethical entrepreneurship, brought entrepreneurs around the table to debate the future of the circular economy. Our business manager and content strategist Katelijne Norga was one of them.
Katelijne was in the company of Patrick O of Viessmann Belgium (provider of heating-as-a-service), Didier Pierre of PMC Holding (circular office design) and Gert Linthout of Ray & Jules (coffee roasted with solar energy) and moderator Xavier Taveirne. As editor-in-chief of Susanova, she shared her insights on the importance of communicating and inspiring for the green transition. Themes such as the appeal of sustainable companies on the job market, a carbon tax and the European Green Deal were discussed.
8.5 out of 10 companies say that employees are open to a sustainable approach. And in 6 out of 10 cases, job applicants ask about the company's vision. This is evident from a survey conducted by Etion and Acerta, and it was also stated during the debate. Gert Linthout experienced this firsthand at his start-up Ray & Jules: “We started with three people and have now grown to six employees. Our starting point is very explicitly sustainability and that automatically attracts like-minded people. For each of our vacancies there were fifty to a hundred candidates: sustainable jobs are clearly on the rise.”
Katelijne Norga: “Job applicants, especially those in their twenties and the up-and-coming generation, are quite critical of their future employees. Through their job they want to give meaning, and make a contribution. As a company, it is therefore a good idea to communicate clearly about what you do and how you do it. Being transparent about your ecological and social risks: that is increasingly becoming the norm.”
Attracting young talent with the right skills and vision is also a way to give your company a sustainability injection. Gert Linthout: “Young talent is more demanding in terms of sustainability. All those individual challenges ultimately have an impact on the company project.”
For Didier Pierre, sustainable commitment is part of a broader personality trait that he values in his employees: “It's a question of good housekeeping. How caring is an applicant? We pay attention to that.”
Gert Linthout - Ray & Jules
Our starting point is very explicitly sustainability and that automatically attracts like-minded people. For each of our vacancies there were fifty to a hundred candidates
To make the circular economy reality, commitments are needed from all actors. Again according to the survey by Etion and Acerta, 9 out of 10 companies are in favour of a carbon tax and support the EU Green Deal. No fewer than 8.5 out of 10 companies are in favour of a European materials database. Are companies themselves doing the forcing where the government takes too little responsibility?
Katelijne Norga: “We do see that more and more companies such as Volkswagen, Unilever, Cargill, etc. are taking on a far-reaching commitment. They aim higher than what the government imposes, because today they are already anticipating the social and ecological risks that are coming their way. But it remains necessary for the government to act as a director or facilitator in the transition.”
Pierre: “A carbon tax would stimulate the local economy. We make a lifecycle analysis of all the processing we do on office furniture. If we rework a piece of furniture so that it can be reused, we save 80 to 90 per cent in CO2 emissions compared to new furniture. If you buy internationally, those emissions go up immediately. That was the impetus for us to do as much locally as possible.”
Linthout: “You are never going to convince everyone of the circular economy based on ethical considerations alone. A shift from labour costs to a carbon tax does seem logical to me. In this way, Europe as the world’s largest market can also stimulate the rest of the world, without creating barriers to globalisation. I am tired of waiting for the rest of the world to join in.”
At the conclusion of the panel discussion, the participants casted a glance at the future of their market and business.
Patrick O: “In order for our society to be climate-neutral by 2050, which is Europe’s goal, the renovation rate of our buildings must increase significantly. Currently, the rate is 1.3 per cent per year, which must more than double to 3 per cent. The Flemish government’s renovation bonus is a good start, but it has to go faster. The challenge is enormous, but it is possible.”
Linthout: “I consider it realistic to show the world by 2030 that carbon capturing coffee is possible and that the principle can also be applied to cocoa and granola, for example. Then I give us another 20 years to expand it to the rest of the sector.”
Pierre: “I will stop working when I have changed my sector. When all customers start using their own raw materials en masse, then our job will be done. We’ll see where we go from there.”
And how about us? How does Pantarein Publishing look to the future?
Norga: “I hope that we can bring a positive story with Susanova, one that goes beyond ambitions. That we can say that today’s commitments are also being fulfilled. We will continue to poke around where we can. In any case, communication will continue to be extremely important for our society and economy in transition. So we will know what to do for a long time to come.”