Working works. Based on that motto, UW from Utrecht helps people with a distance to the labor market to find suitable work. In the past year, UW offered approximately one thousand people a suitable workplace. To this end, it works closely with a large number of companies, institutions, the municipality of Utrecht and other government agencies in the Utrecht region. Because of this broad social interdependence, UW is in a unique position to play a pioneering role in the field of sustainability and the environment: an opportunity that UW did not miss. In order to convert the green ambitions into feasible environmental policy and to be able to actually lead the way, UW called in the expertise of Empact more than a year ago. For this article, we spoke with UW managing director Gertjan Stoker and Quality & Environmental advisor Tineke Lissenburg about their ambitions, challenges and experiences with Empact.
CO2 neutral in 2030
UW would like to make a positive impact on the environment, and in particular reduce the CO2 footprint in order to be CO2 neutral by 2030. Tineke: “We really want to make a positive contribution to the environment, also because we are closely connected to the municipality of Utrecht. The municipality also wants to lead the way in the field of sustainability and expects us to embrace the climate ambitions of the municipality. A policy therefore had to be set up for this, including in the field of purchasing and attitude towards customers and suppliers. However, we did not have the necessary expertise for this in-house, so we quickly realized that we needed an external agency that has done this before.”
When choosing Empact, the good integration between theory and practice was of decisive importance, adds Gertjan: “There are plenty of companies that claim knowledge in this domain, but making it practically applicable in the specific context of UW is something that Empact does well.”
“There are plenty of companies claiming knowledge in this domain, but making it practically applicable in the specific context of UW is something that Empact does well.”
From ambition to approach
In order to convert the green ambitions into effective environmental policy, it was initially important to determine the direction. That is why the project was started with a brainstorming session, explains Tineke: “What have we already done in the past? How do we see ourselves as a green company and what is actually involved in becoming CO2 neutral in 2030? What can we all come up with to emit less CO2? Empact fulfilled a facilitating function in this and introduced structure.”
Then came the challenge of embedding environmental policy throughout the organization. According to Gertjan, it is very important that everyone participates: “We want to exert the greatest possible influence on our environment. If we can mobilize the movement from our own organization, we will see that our chain partners will join in. Through this approach, we are achieving significant and lasting change.”
Tineke: “We started with a steering group, but that didn’t really work. UW is anything but a standard organization. Everyone is always very busy. On the one hand, we always have to ensure that our people can work, but also that our production of, for example, candy packaging and the assembly of bicycles runs smoothly. Many employees were therefore not waiting for extra work and participation in an extra meeting every fortnight. That is why Gertjan as CEO is also involved; to get everyone moving and to get everyone on the same page. The board was also asked about do we want this? Because support throughout the entire organization is of course very important.” Thanks to a commitment from the board and an adjustment of the working method proposed by Empact, the embedding is now properly arranged and the policy can be implemented and further shaped step by step.
Knowledge, enthusiasm and structure
In the coming year, Empact will also support UW in achieving the sustainable goals. Tineke indicates that she experiences the collaboration with Empact as very pleasant: “They have brought knowledge and enthusiasm to us. In addition, they have brought structure to everything we were doing and they are very proactive. It is also very important that they really think along and understand what we need. Empact acts as a driver and initiator for us. For example, they e-mail us for an appointment to check whether the homework we agreed on is going well and help us make contacts. And even if something doesn’t go quite as planned, a sleeve is always adjusted. That is very pleasant.”
A solid foundation for the future
A solid foundation has now been laid at UW to significantly reduce the ecological footprint in the coming years and to play a pioneering role in the region. Gertjan: “In 2030, UW will be one of the leading companies in the field of the environment. We will be climate neutral by 2030. We are and do this because we have experienced that the change in thinking offers benefits for residents, employees, the UW organization and the environment.”
As a basis for working towards this goal, all transport movements and waste flows were mapped, and UW now knows what the CO2 footprint was in 2021. In addition, there is a clear environmental policy that has been approved by the board. Tineke: “With a road map with a time schedule that indicates what we all want to do and when.”
A result of last year’s efforts is that UW knows exactly where it stands and where real gains can be made in areas such as energy consumption, electrification of the vehicle fleet and machines and the reduction of waste flows. A lot has also been achieved in the field of communication, Tineke indicates: “It is also very nice that we can now show others what we are doing and that we can also enthuse customers, clients and other stakeholders. Empact is now helping us communicate and set up a partnership with customers and suppliers who also want to become greener. This is how we get a little further together step by step.”