This article was published in 'Analyse' (distributed by the Financieel Dagblad on 1 October 2019).
Royal Van Wijhe Verf - producer of Ralston Colour & Coatings - tables an ambitious, sustainable plan. The company aims to be carbon neutral by 2025. "Biodiversity and climate change are really not doing well", says CEO Marlies van Wijhe. "Action must be taken now."
Sustainability in product development and business operations is embedded in the fabric of Royal Van Wijhe. Managing Director Marlies van Wijhe is the fourth generation within the family business. Her father convinced her to commit herself to sustainability. "As a family business, we think in terms of generations." In recent years, the paint manufacturer (annual turnover 45 million euros, 230 employees) has taken several steps to reduce CO2 emissions and to make more use of renewable raw materials. Van Wijhe was the first to come up with a bio-based (paint made from natural, renewable raw materials) wall paint and now produces a range of bio-based paints.
The 'Green Team', consisting of three young employees, helps to increase the visibility of sustainability within the organisation. "Every six weeks, twelve employees are invited to discuss the sustainability goals of the UN, the SDGs. It creates awareness and personal involvement at all levels of the organisation. And it helps us to make our products and operations even more sustainable."
This did not go unnoticed. Three years ago, the paint manufacturer was the first chemical company in the world to be awarded the B Corp certificate. The paint supplier thereby complies with the highest standards for the environment, transparency, legal liability and a balance between profit and impact. This year, for the third year in a row, B Lab awarded Royal Van Wijhe Verf the title of 'Best For The World 2019' in the 'Environment' category. The Zwolle paint manufacturer is now taking the lead in the paint industry in the field of sustainability. Research by the consultancy and engineering group Arcadis, commissioned by Van Wijhe Verf, shows that the Dutch paint sector emits as much CO2 annually as a city the size of Zwolle, or 500,000 tonnes. Van Wijhe believes there is no need for that. The Managing Director believes that the government's aim to ban CO2 emissions from Dutch society by 2050 is a noble one. "But far too late. It is absolutely essential that action is taken now. The changing climate and the decline in biodiversity show that we must take concrete steps.
"And that is exactly what she wants; action now. "Sustainable enterprise is not a trend, but an absolute necessity. We are actively seeking new partners and working with suppliers to make progress." More sustainable and better paint that lasts longer can easily save 10 percent of CO2. And when painters switch to electric transport another 36 percent, she cites as examples.
Yes, sustainability costs money. "The climate and quality of life transcend business interests. Our country is really lagging behind. In other European countries, the painters are much more interested in the theme of sustainability. This has an effect on the demand for sustainable paint products. Abroad, we are already very successful with our sustainable approach. Fortunately, we are seeing a positive trend in the Netherlands among the major painting and property maintenance companies."