VDE Plant: Just do it and don't make it too complicated

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Edwin van der Eijk, co-owner VDE Plant, shares approach

Five years ago, VDE co-owner Karin van der Eijk saw a message on social media about footprinting. VDE was then one of the first companies to request a footprint at (back then) the Benefits of Nature Foundation. Karin and Edwin, together with their partner Hein Visser, are the third generation of the family business VDE Plant, which will exist for 75 years in 2023. They employ 80 fte and grow a total of 13 hectares of tropical green houseplants and a line of different hydroponic concepts.

Sustainability is trending

Karin and Edwin convinced themselves to have their footprint calculated five years ago, because they wanted to become aware of the impact of their business ánd how to improve their impact. In addition, five years ago sustainability started to play an increasing role in the industry. So next to the intrinsic interest, the commercial aspect also started to play a role. These two interests together formed the motivator to keep going.

Edwin van der Eijk, co-owner VDE Plant:

“Op alle fronten moet gewoon in je kop zitten wat je aan het doen bent”

Start taking steps

Many see sustainability as a lot of hassle, but Edwin van der Eijk disagrees. And he should know, because he is working on it. ”It has to be different or smarter. Just start with it”, says Edwin. For example, company procurement can play a big role in the journey to becoming a CO2-positive company. Recently, Edwin had to order 250,000 new labels and two types of materials were presented to him. You can guess, one was sustainable and the other was standard. The sustainable variant is from TerraBoard and is FSC certified. This variant was 5% more expensive than the standard variant. Edwin didn’t have to think twice about that and went for the TerraBoard labels.

footprint as a frame of reference

By engaging in footprinting, a company becomes more aware of its impact on the environment. This stimulates VDE to make sustainable choices, for example with purchasing. By regularly calculating a footprint you also build up a frame of reference. It may turn out, for example, that the production of one plant causes x CO2emissions and another plant causes y COmore, but what does that mean? What do those numbers say? The more you measure, the more you know.

Making money with sustainability

In addition to VDE’s intrinsic motivation to become more sustainable for the next generation, there is also a commercial aspect to it. How nice is that? That you can make a profit with becoming more sustainable. Edwin notices that the market is becoming more and more attuned to this subject. More and more customers are saying that they want to be CO2-positive by 2030. These customers then also want to know, for example, what the emissions are of the sleeve of a plant, the cultivation pot, the label, and how much recycled material the product consists of. To keep up, you have to go along with this transition as a business owner. It is a great development for companies that results in a healthy drive.

Being prepared for the carbon tax

“Als die CO2 belasting eraan komt, waar hebben we het dan eigenlijk over?”, vraagt Edwin zich af. Mede daardoor wilde hij weten wat momenteel de stand van zaken is omtrent VDE’s CO2-uitstoot. Onlangs heeft VDE intern hun footprint van 2020 besproken. Het jaar 2022 gaan ze gebruiken om te kijken hoe ze verder de verduurzaming gaan aanvliegen, aan de hand van het opstellen van een verduurzamingsplan. Ná eerst te kijken waar gereduceerd kan worden, wordt ook gekeken hoe de overgebleven uitstoot kan worden gecompenseerd via Bamboo Village. Maar door dat te doen, keurt de overheid die manier goed of wordt de CO2 belasting dan alsnog opgelegd? Edwin laat zich hierover maar al te graag adviseren door Henri Potze, eigenaar van Greenhouse Sustainability.

Edwin van der Eijk:

"Open the gate to ideas and initiatives"

Employee engagement

The management of VDE Plant as well as the market are busy with sustainability and carbon tax. Are the company’s employees also well aware of this? First of all, Edwin indicates that VDE tries to keep their homework in order on as many fronts as possible. There is an information evening four times a year where all employees are welcome. Subjects like sales, finances, the health of the company and more are being discussed. Edwin tries to challenge the employees to come up with ideas or certain input. In addition to these four evenings a year, there is always room for input from employees. It is, after all, their workplace.

The new normal

Edwin has put sustainability at the top. In many areas he is working on this topic. The advice Edwin wants to give his colleagues in the floriculture sector is: “Just do it and don’t make it too complicated.” Sustainable production will become the new normal. VDE has been working towards this for some time. It is no longer something you can just do on the side, it is tomorrow’s norm.

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