Sustainability at Veenhuizen: "It must also be profitable".

September 2021

Tuesday 7 September 2021: Sustainable Tuesday! A good moment to ponder the following question: What is the Veenhuizen Group doing in the field of sustainability?

According to Nico van den Dikkenberg (Manager Procurement & Member CSR Group), the sustainability strategy within Veenhuizen can be summarised with the words practical idealism: "Of course we want to do our bit, but it must also deliver. This way you create more support.

Green energy

It all started when Patrick took over the company in 2008 and built a whole new building. He decided to get rid of the gas and to use heat pumps for cooling and heating instead. Nico: "This meant that we had a relatively high electricity consumption and therefore had to comply with the legal obligation to draw up an EML list."

"Together with an external consultant, we scanned the entire company and drew up a list of energy-saving measures. At the top of the list was the replacement of the lighting with LED lights. This immediately led to considerable savings in energy consumption. We then went to work on solar panels."

The result: 350 solar panels that together can generate around 115,000 Watt peak. With this clean energy, Veenhuizen can further reduce its CO2 emissions. The company has become a little more sustainable and it also generates money. "Last month, for the first time, we received a refund from the energy company.

Add to that the upgrades to the heat pumps, which bring consumption down even further. With all these measures taken together, Veenhuizen is well on its way to achieving the goal of making the company building completely climate-neutral in 2025.

Circular solutions

But sustainability is not only about energy consumption. In the field of circularity, too, there is much to be gained in business. How can we reuse our raw materials as much as possible and thus reduce waste flows?

At the company premises in Voorthuizen, first of all, an environmental street was set up to better separate the waste streams. Cooling installations have copper pipes. Nico: "it's obviously a shame to throw away this raw material, not only for environmental reasons but also because it's worth money." The various metals - but also wood, circuit boards, cords and oils - are collected separately to be given a new purpose.

A good concrete example are the water filters that are installed at MIWE ovens to filter minerals and chlorides from the water. These have to be replaced once in a while and then go into the recycling bin. The content is cleaned and upgraded so that it can be used again in new filters. The plastic casing is ground up and given a second life as a garden chair or playground equipment.

Creating awareness

According to Nico, it is especially important to create awareness, among our own employees as well as among clients and suppliers. "We are 'only' the Veenhuizen company and not a government agency that can impose certain things. Nevertheless, I believe that everyone should take responsibility. It is too easy to shrug it off because it is a drop in the ocean. If you do nothing, you also lose the right to speak."

And awareness, of course, begins with yourself. "The subject of sustainability is already widely supported in the MT. The trick is to get the rest of the company on board too." For this purpose, the CSR team is, among other things, setting up a challenge in the field of consumption.

Nico explains: "We currently have about 70 buses on the road, which travel an average of 40,000 kilometres per year to provide our customers with maintenance, to solve malfunctions, etc. With the system we use for kilometre registration, you can also see if someone has an overweight right foot or brakes too much. The plan is to make our mechanics aware of this in a pleasant way." Reports are generated automatically and on a scoreboard the most economical drivers get a podium.

In addition, sustainability is included in the discussion with the customer. For example, there is currently a transition from synthetic (HFC refrigerants) to natural refrigerants for cooling installations. By 2030, the synthetic variant - which damages the ozone layer - may hardly be used any more. In the interest of the environment and legislation, Veenhuizen actively brings this to the attention of clients. But this is also linked to a commercial opportunity, because many installations will need to be replaced or converted in the years to come. "And of course we are happy to help with that."