How to make your business operations sustainable

Published by:
Netherlands Enterprise Agency RVO
Netherlands Enterprise Agency RVO

If you run a company in the Netherlands, you will have encountered the phrase ‘sustainable business operations’ before now. With sustainable operations, you can save money. For example, by using renewable energy instead of gas or oil. You will thus help reduce CO2 emissions. A sustainable image can also contribute to the success of your business.

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).

Determine where in your business you want apply sustainability

Think about which sustainable issues are important to you:

Sustainable transport helps you reduce your CO2 emissions. Think electric driving, a company bicycle or travelling by public transport. Or reduce your employees' commuting and business travel by encouraging working from home.

Traffic reporting for 100 or more employees

Does your business have 100 or more employees? Then from 1 July 2024 you have to report on your business traffic and commuting of your employees. This includes, for example, the number of kilometres travelled, broken down by type of vehicle and fuel. You do not have to report CO2 emissions. Read more about the reporting obligation work-related passenger mobility (WPM) and how to prepare for it.

Your are required to separate 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.

Free collection of your packaging waste

You can have your plastic packaging, drinking cartons and glass collected free of charge through Afval Goed Geregeld (waste well arranged, in Dutch). Do you want to participate? Fill in your details on the form on the Afval Goed Geregeld website.

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.

Do you supply to a large (listed) business? From 2024, large businesses will have to produce sustainability reports. That means examining their supply chain and asking you how you make your products.

For production, you need to comply with environmental regulations. In addition, you could find a smarter way to use raw materials through circular entrepreneurship. In a circular economy, waste does not exist and we use products and raw materials again and again. Waste is the new raw material. 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).

A sustainable personnel policy includes good working conditions and the prevention of absenteeism. Or a healthy workplace. For example, offer sports opportunities and fruit. Or you have ‘green’ working conditions and help your workmates by contributing to make their homes more sustainable.

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.
  • Have your employees take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • 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 to the Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO. This Obligation to report energy-saving measures is laid down in the energy agreement.

Choose sustainable energy

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:

These sources provide electricity, biogas and heat. Or a combination of one of these.The Netherlands also wants to further develop the production and use of sustainable hydrogen (in Dutch).

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:

  • MIA and Vamil (Environmental Investment Allowance and Random Depreciation of Environmental Investments). These schemes also apply to investing in electric cars.
  • ISDE (Sustainable energy investment subsidy scheme): If you want to produce your own sustainable energy in your business premises using a solar boiler or heat pump
  • SEBA (Subsidy scheme for zero emission commercial vehicles): You can apply for this subsidy when you use zero emission commercial vehicles.

Check the Subsidy and Financing Guide 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.

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.

External links

Questions relating to this article?

Please contact the Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO