How to make your business operations sustainable

This information is provided by

Netherlands Enterprise Agency RVO

If you run a company in the Netherlands, you will have encountered the phrase ‘sustainable business operations’ before now. What does it mean? What do you have to do? And how can you save costs by going green? Find out in this article.

What is sustainable entrepreneurship?

Sustainable entrepreneurship is about the balance between the three P’s: people, planet, profit. This means that you take into account the effects on your employees, the environment and society of the way you run your business. It is part of corporate social responsibility (CSR).
Sustainable business operations can save your company money. For example, if you take energy-saving measures and use sustainable energy. You will also contribute to reducing CO2 emissions. And a sustainable or green image can contribute to the success of your company.

This article will highlight some of the aspects of business operations that you could make (more) sustainable: logistics, purchasing, production, office operations, and energy.

Transport

Sustainable transport helps you reduce your CO2 emissions. Here are some examples of how you can make transport in your company more sustainable:

  • In the Netherlands, the bicycle and e-bike are much-used forms of transportation. Companies can implement a Company Bicycle (Fiets van de Zaak, in Dutch). There are 4 tax schemes that enable you to buy or lease bicycles or e-bikes for your employees.
  • You can also use electric cars, for instance for your salespeople who travel the country visiting clients. You will not need to pay road tax, and you can apply for the MIA and Vamil subsidies. Another possibility is to encourage sharing a car or carpooling.
  • You can encourage your employees to use public transport by providing them with a public transport card (OV jaarkaart) or by letting your employees claim these expenses.
  • And when you enable your employees to work from home, not only does their work-life balance improve, but they will no longer need to commute. Enable telecommuting and conference calls.

Waste separation

Your are required to your company waste. Use the Company waste separation tool to find out to what waste this applies. Then decide whether you want to separate additional waste. For example, to save costs or because you want to contribute to a better environment.

Purchasing

When you practice sustainable purchasing, you pay attention to social and environmental aspects in addition to price and quality. You know where products you buy come from, under what circumstances they were produced, and what the environmental impact of the production process is.
If you are part of a supply chain with foreign suppliers, it is not always easy to find out if they also are committed to corporate social responsibility. If you want to do business with companies that act in accordance with ICSR guidelines, it is up to you to find out if they do. Due diligence is your task; you have to find out what impact your business activities have on the environment, corruption, and working conditions, even if the impact is caused by a supplier and not by your company.

Production

For production, you need to comply with environmental regulations. In addition, you could find a smarter way to use raw materials through circular entrepreneurship. For example, do you have ideas for reducing or reusing waste? Then you can get help from Versnellingshuis Nederland circulair! (Acceleration House Netherlands circular!, in Dutch).

Business premises

Making your business premises more sustainable is not limited to energy savings and ecological building materials. There are quite a lot of simple things you can do that will go a long way. Some examples:
  • Adding plants to your reception area or offices will clean the air and bring a bit of green to the workplace.
  • Set up recycling bins in the kitchen area, so that glass, paper, plastic and food can be collected and disposed of separately. If your kitchen is used to prepare food, you could set up a composting station.
  • Use biodegradable, nontoxic, and petroleum-free cleaning products and reusable rags instead of paper towels.
  • Only use the dishwasher when it is full and opt for reusable cups and mugs instead of plastic ones.
  • Use LED lighting and instruct your employees, including the cleaning staff, to turn off the lights when they are the last to leave the office.
  • Use less paper; implement a digital by default policy. If you must print, use recycled, chlorine-free paper and eco-conscious ink cartridges. And print double-sided.
  • Have your employees set their computers to sleep mode when they are away from their desk. Make sure all computers are shut down properly when the office is closed.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.

Please note: Do you use over 50,000 kWh electricity or 25,000 m³ natural gas per year? Then you are obliged to take energy-saving measures and you must report on those. This Obligation to report energy-saving measures is laid down in the energy agreement.

Mandatory Energy Label C from 2023

As of 1 January 2023, every office larger than 100 m2 must have at least an energy label C. This means an Energy Index of 1.3 or better. If the building does not meet the requirements, you may no longer use it as an office from 1 January 2023. Check your Energy Label (in Dutch), so that you can take measures in time. The Energy Saving Explorer Offices and the step-by-step plan (in Dutch) can help you take your building to energy label C.

Choose sustainable energy

Take measures to save energy by reducing your energy demand, by applying sustainable technologies and by using renewable energy sources. With sustainable (renewable) energy, you are less dependent on oil, natural gas and coal. That can make a big difference in your energy costs. Renewable energy is the collective name for energy from natural sources. Think of biomass, sun, wind, water and (deep) soil heat or soil cold (in Dutch). These sources provide electricity, biogas and heat. Or a combination of one of these.

Climate Agreement and medium-sized enterprises

There is a Climate Agreement between companies, civil society organisations and governments. The goal is to jointly halve CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions in the Netherlands by 2030 compared to 1990. Learn more about the climate agreement and about its impact on medium-sized enterprises (both in Dutch). You can find advice about the company building, Energie & CO2, innovation and mobility. There are also legal obligations that may apply to your company.
For agricultural enterprises there is information available about circular agriculture (in Dutch).

Make use of financial arrangements

The government stimulates sustainable entrepreneurship. There are various financial and tax schemes for environmental investments. Examples are the MIA and Vamil (Environmental Investment Allowance and Random Depreciation of Environmental Investments). These schemes also apply to investing in electric cars.

In addition, on 1 October 2021, the Subsidy scheme Improving Sustainability of SMEs has started. You can apply for this subsidy if you want to make your business premises or operations more sustainable. Check the Subsidy and Financing Guide (in Dutch) for more subsidies and schemes.

Use the Green Projects Scheme

You can save or invest sustainably with the Green Projects Scheme (Regeling Groenprojecten). For example, you can borrow money at a low interest rate for projects relating to sustainable building, energy saving, and sustainable mobility.

Tool for reducing CO2 emissions for SMEs

With the tool regelhulp MKB Klimaatwerk (in Dutch) you can check which measures from the Climate Agreement you can take to comply with the Dutch Climate Agreement. You will also receive advice on financial support from the government.

Check how far you are with your business operations

Structural sustainable business requires changes in your business operations. With the MVO start scan (in Dutch) you can check how far you are with your business operations. And which other steps will help you on your way to become a sustainable company.

Join networks

Take a look at Social Enterprise NL. This network brings social entrepreneurs together, helps with knowledge, support programmes and finding the right form of financing.
Be inspired on Klimaatplein (Climate Square, in Dutch) to do business in a climate neutral way. There are various online tools and useful tips.

Questions relating to this article?

Please contact the Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO

This information is provided by

Netherlands Enterprise Agency RVO