IWNG Sustainable Businesses in Rotterdam series continues with an interview on The Stimular Foundation. During my search for sustainable businesses in Rotterdam, I came across Stimular, which shares more than 600 sustainability measures for free on their website! It is a non-profit organization with people dedicated to the mission to increase sustainability in their environment.
Anouk Schrauwen, one of the advisors at Stimular, kindly agreed to talk about her story, what feels special about being in a non-profit organization and the impact of Stimular on the environment. I truly enjoyed this conversation we had at Stimular’s office in Rotterdam and looking forward to sharing it with you all.
About Anouk and The Stimular Foundation’s Mission
IWNG : What is your role at Stimular and what made you start working here?
Anouk :I have been with Stimular for 7 years now as a consultant (adviseur). My study was in environmental sciences at Wageningen University. I chose to study in this area because I wanted to make a difference. Maybe just for a little part considering all the world problems but I still wanted to make a difference.
During my masters I had to do an internship. I googled sustainability, Rotterdam and consultancy and I came up with Stimular. After the email I sent I got invited. I had to work on my own research here, and at the end of the internship, the director asked whether I wanted to have a year contract. That was a happy moment.
Since my internship I really liked being here. It is a foundation, not a corporate company so we do not have a profit target. We put the money the company earns to develop our own instruments and our knowledge center to spread the knowledge. On our website we have 600 sustainability measures written out which we use for our own scans and also it is open to all of the companies. The knowledge is available to everyone. We do that on purpose because not everyone has the possibility to hire us. Via this website we can reach a bigger group.
Services Provided by The Stimular
IWNG : What kind of advisory services does Stimular provide?
Anouk : Most of our work is in the care and the cure sectors. That is hospitals and elderly homes (verpleeghuizen). We also help other companies to get a sustainability certificate (ISO40001) and CO2 performance (prestatie) label. Additional to that we conduct energy audits for companies to get their EED label. That is a label required due to the European legislation on bigger companies.
As a foundation, when a company wants help with legislation, we ask them to go a step further. We give them a vision about what they need to do to get climate neutral. It is important to state that we only work with companies who are willing to take that extra step. As part of our mission we want them to do more than what they are obliged to do.
IWNG : Are there any other organizations like Stimular in Rotterdam or in The Netherlands? Who do you collaborate with?
Anouk : All companies including some of the consultancy companies are also benefiting from the database on our website. We collaborate with these consultant companies that are also idealistic and want to spread this knowledge. When we updated our database we also asked for their inputs.
Usually together with our interns we update these measures on our website. We include the new technologies and stay up to date. That’s also what I like about my job.
We also have another product called Envirometer (Milieubarometer). Most of my work is with the Envirometer. Companies can calculate their carbon footprint, set targets and see their environmental impact. You will see some indicators and you need to fill in the information about your travel costs, your energy/electricity, water. After the calculation is completed, the company can see the areas to focus on to improve on their carbon footprint.
What has the biggest environmental impact comes out with this tool. It is interesting because the legislation is mostly focused on the building, so electricity, gas, and isolation can all look good. However, most of the time people are shocked that half of their impact comes from the traffic created. That’s an eye opener.
Working at a Non-Profit Organization
IWNG : Do you find it special to work at a nonprofit organization like Stimular ?
On our Envirometer we have about 2500 subscriptions and we offer it at a cost price. A yearly subscription is 75€ for one location of your company. That’s really cheap and we do that on purpose to make it available for everyone. One other good thing is that some municipalities offer the Envirometer for free to organizations and companies (also ZZPers) in the first year of subscription. Please look at this link for the application process.
Anouk : Yes, because with everything we do we consider the impact on the environment. For a project we think if it is good for the environment and for our company, or if it is only good for one of the people in our organization. It is really in our bones.
Internally also we look for how sustainable we can be in our choices, like purchases for the company. For example we collected the coffee pulps so that from time to time someone can take it and use it in their garden. Another example is this meeting room table is second hand, and instead of throwing out the chairs we renewed the fabric on it. These are not about our core business, so we cannot make time for the best decision all the time but we try.
Motivation of Companies to Become More Sustainable
IWNG : How do companies come up with the idea to become more sustainable besides the formal legislation?
Anouk : Mostly their customers want it. No matter where the motivation comes from, it is good to do something with sustainability. When you start with one action it goes further and further. When you have the right people at the right place, any change can happen in a large or small company. What we also do is scans and coaching via the municipalities. So municipalities offer our services to the companies. In Rotterdam, it is a quick scan and we go to the location. We check the place according to our checklist. Nowadays the checklist is in my mind.
My experience is that a quick scan can already help people to wake up. I had a recent project in The Hague at a community house (buurthuis). I walked in the building and I saw a huge boiler for 300 liters. There was a very small kitchen and the boiler was too big so I adviced them to replace it.
Sometimes people do not see it and cannot think of the impact. It is the same with refrigerators at sports clubs. They get fridges for free and run it without anything in it. Especially with the pandemic, the fridge is empty for a long time. Cost of operating the fridge is €150/year so we advise to unplug the fridge and plug it in when there is a party or big group that will need it. Also in a normal week and during the summer holidays you don’t need it. Just leave a note for others not to forget to plug it in when there is a need for it.
During our quick scans we also find other things to improve with the lighting and with the isolation.
IWNG : Could you tell a bit more about the collaboration with small/medium sized consultancy companies?
Anouk : That is for the Envirometer. Many companies want to see their carbon footprint and they ask for advice on that. This tool is the best to make that possible. Every year there is a discussion on the numbers. Some consultancy companies like using our tool so we have a list of these companies on our website. If a company calls us from a far away location, we ask them to contact one of the consultancy companies listed on our website.
We ask these consultancy companies to attend our workshops so they can learn the tool and continue to update their services. They can also have a discount benefit from us for using our tool in their services.
IWNG : How do you maintain the The Envirometer as a tool?
Anouk : We collaborate with another party to do that. We know what we want, and the actual software building is with another company. It is quite complicated software. We started with this in 1998 when it was in a disk, and now it really developed over the years. Just a couple of months ago we had version 3.0 rolled out. It was quite some work for the developers and for us to check and monitor everything and to think about how we wanted to look. But I am really proud of how it is now.
Call to Action
If you are a business owner or working at a company that would like to become more sustainable and acquire the required certificates, then head over to Stimular’s website for open source sustainability measures and the advisory services provided.