Article

12.03.2018

Company car-sharing: a sustainable and cost-effective solution

When you have a significant number of cars "idling" for too long in company car parks, car-sharing can seem an attractive solution, especially due to the advantages in economic terms (for companies), environmental terms (for the planet) and mobility (for traffic in towns and cities). So what's the challenge? Companies need to bring an end to the "car-ownership culture", and start to promote one based primarily on usage...

Whether you call it car-sharing or car-pooling, the approach behind these concepts is the same: that of a product as a service, or a means of economising on the use of company cars. Is it complicated? Not really! The idea is to let company employees enjoy the benefits of a car (i.e. the ability to travel), rather than provide them with something that they own per se. Having become hugely popular among individuals, thanks to platforms such as Cambio, ZenCar and Blablacar, car-pooling now has a place within companies too.

Advantages for everyone

At a time when mobility is a major social challenge and the company car issue is increasingly being discussed, car-sharing is a relevant solution for the times in which we live. Indeed, this smarter mobility option is better suited to our current needs and allows companies to make substantial savings. When viewed in relation to the planet and the "sustainability" of travel, this approach clearly improves the situation. With regard to mobility, reducing the number of cars on the road means there will also be less traffic. For companies, streamlining their fleet of cars, and making their car parks smaller as a consequence, would result in considerable financial savings. All the more so, given that company cars are parked up most of the time (particularly between 9 am and 5 pm). However, employees still need to be convinced of the benefits of car-sharing.

Methods supporting car-sharing

There is still a deeply entrenched "car culture" among many workers, especially in Belgium, where the company car is king. Apparently, there are three essential elements to bring about a necessary change in mentality: financial incentives, ease of use and the availability of alternatives. First of all, companies should, in one way or another, try to make up for the "loss" in salaries resulting from company cars, through financial rewards, for example. When it comes to making car-sharing flexible, companies should look to simple and effective technological solutions (which already exist today).

These include online mobile apps, user-friendly management, immediate availability and others. Furthermore, employees should be able to reserve vehicles for private use for evenings and weekends, potentially paying to do so. Finally, the third element is undeniably to roll out a wider range of mobility options, in order to enable workers to travel in different ways. These could include public transport, bikes, electric scooters and others.

A comprehensive strategy

In any case, companies have a strong incentive to develop a comprehensive vision for "their mobility" (travel, remote working and others). For example, Brussels-based companies with more than 100 workers (on the same site) are now required to put together a company travel plan and implement several compulsory measures. In the same way, several SMEs (or VSEs) can discuss collective car-pooling, in order to share their fleet of cars. This could be an effective measure, in terms of zoning companies, for example. 

The young Belgian Cohabs renovates town houses and turns them into well-equipped, comfortable and stylish cohousing projects. The social and environmental aspects are also important in their story.

"The real estate market has been very tight for a few years. Finding a house or flat in the city is not easy. The economic situation is not ideal for new housing projects, but demand for housing remains high”, explains Youri Dauber, CEO of Cohabs. “The challenge? To curb parcellation and concreting by densifying cities. We also need to make buildings more energy efficient and, last but not least, find solutions to loneliness, which many people suffer from across generations.”

Cohabs has 2.500 rooms, spread adcross 150 buildings in Brussels, Paris, New York, Madrid and Luxembourg. The rent includes all costs such as internet and a Netflix subscription, as well as a cleaning service and the use of the gym, a cinema room, the garden and a coworking space. To make living together easier and avoid any frustrations, Cohabs supplies a number of basic products in all houses, such as toilet paper, washing-up liquid, olive oil and salt and pepper. The Cohabs residents of a city keep in touch through an app and can meet each other at a party held every month.

Not just young professionals

"When we started out in 2016, we had a target group of 25-35-year-olds in mind. But we immediately received a lot of applications from people over 50,” says Dauber. "My own parents, who are 75, pushed me to open up the concept to their generation too. We realised that cohousing is not just for young professionals. There are also people in very different stages of life who are going through a kind of transitional period. This is often accompanied by loneliness, as in the case of a divorce or someone who has lost their partner. We also think about what we can offer families. They need larger communal spaces and well-defined conditions. Like any young and innovative company, we’re evolving as we go along. We learn by trial and error.”

Solidarity and social coexistence

The young managing director is regularly amazed by the social adventure that coliving can be. "We had a 45-year-old Syrian refugee who saw something in cohousing. We thought living with a group of twenty-somethings would never work out. But we were wrong. The relationships built there proved so rich that we’re now working with the French NGO Singa. In the meantime, we offer solidarity rooms in some forty of our houses.”

Design, upcycling and an app

The young company is firmly committed to design. To that end, it works with Lionel Jadot, the Belgian pioneer in upcycling. His approach fits perfectly with Cohabs’ environmental philosophy, which itself also uses recycled materials for renovations. Solar panels and rainwater recovery are also part of this story. "Achieving an EPC score of B or C is our goal. This is exceptionally good for old buildings,” Dauber adds. "We are carbon neutral and a member of 1% for the Planet.”

Ready to push boundaries together

Cohabs was able to count on the support of BNP Paribas Fortis for investments and the purchase of new buildings. “They’ve been part of our story since our third property. Back then, we were just a small company, but we were asking for significant sums of several tens of millions of euros. But they supported us and granted us loans, which allowed us to grow abroad as well. It’s really a collaboration. They put their trust in us and believe in the potential of our concept."

Cohabs is ready to change the world. Discover even more inspiring entrepreneurial stories.

Quotes

“In forty of our cohousing houses, we offer solidarity rooms for people who want to reintegrate into society.”

“My 75-year-old parents pushed me to open up the concept to their generation as well.”

The Brussels-based scale-up Optimy brings together corporate volunteering, donations, patronage and sponsorship activities all on one platform. On it, their impact on society is concretely measurable.

"Originally, I didn't think of myself as a social entrepreneur, even though I was involved in sponsorship. At the request of our customers, my partners and I have developed an entire provision of services that has become the most comprehensive platform on the market," says Kenneth Bérard, CEO of Optimy.

One of these customers was the BNP Paribas Fortis Foundation, which wanted to make a greater social difference and also give these actions more visibility. "It's a must for companies to contribute to society. This generates added value for the company and fuels a positive spiral. But that social impact has to be measurable. How many children have been helped? How many trees have been planted? What effect does this have on employee satisfaction, image and turnover? Our model offers all of this. This means that companies don't have to purchase new modules every time they want to add additional activities. I think that’s our great success factor. We are the market leader in Europe in our sector and the only company operating in both Europe and North America."

Personal support

"Many companies are full of good intentions. They want to have a positive impact on society, but they often lack a good method to do this efficiently," the entrepreneur notes. "They tend to see all their efforts in isolation. The Optimy platform offers a solution for this. It's easy to put together and it's service-oriented. We adapt to the processes of each business unit and company. It doesn't work the other way around," assures Bérard. "Our customers are not looking for technology; they're looking for guidance. We invest in personalisation, and it's paying off, as a customer satisfaction survey shows."

Structuring actions

The first piece of advice that Optimy always gives companies is: don't shred your efforts, they should form a whole. "We recommend that companies structure their actions using our tool. The corporate social responsibility policy must be in line with the company’s values, DNA and broader strategy. And of course, the actions must be transparent and well executed."

The right partner

From the beginning, the connection Optimy had with BNP Paribas Fortis was decisive for the company’s growth. "The fact that the bank follows us has increased our credibility with our partners, investors, customers and also internally. Now it's setting up a factoring service for us to further support our growth."

Optimy's growth was initially supported by cash flow, which is unusual for a technology company. Financing came into play beginning in 2019. That's when a Canadian fund specialising in software as a service (SaaS) companies and affiliated with the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) became a shareholder.

Multicultural enrichment

As with increasingly more companies, one of Optimy’s biggest challenges is recruiting new talent. “We've been able to convert that challenge into an asset,” concludes Bérard. "We attract talent from abroad. Sixty people from twenty nationalities work in our Brussels branch. This multiculturalism is a huge enrichment and has helped us break through internationally."

“The corporate social responsibility policy must be in line with your company’s values, DNA and broader strategy”.

Article

08.03.2024

Businesses stand to benefit from switching to electric and multimodal mobility

BNP Paribas Fortis is ready for the mobility of tomorrow. And Laurent Loncke, General Manager Retail Banking and member of the bank’s management committee confirms this when he says “We do much more than lease electric vehicles”.

How can companies leverage mobility as part of their transition?

"If we look at vehicle usage alone, switching from fossil fuels to electric energy can reduce CO2 emissions by a factor of four. This transition is being encouraged in our country more than ever by tax incentives and tax breaks. From 2035, the European Union will also ban the sale of cars with combustion engines. Whether it’s for the company fleet or company cars for employees, electric driving is the way forward, alongside other forms of mobility."

Are all businesses aware of this?

"These days, two out of every three new vehicles are company cars. And 80% of those orders are electric vehicles, a trend that is also apparent at our partner Arval."

So companies are playing a pioneering role in this transition?

"Certainly. First and foremost because former company cars find their way to the second-hand market at some point, making electric driving more accessible for everyone. Secondly, by choosing an electric car, you can encourage your friends and family to follow your example. Our recent Profacts survey (only in Dutch and French) showed that 85% of electric vehicle owners are satisfied to very satisfied that they switched to an electric vehicle. However, 42% of Belgians are still reluctant. Half of them are worried their battery will run out before they can get to a charging point."

Is their fear justified?

"Not really. Most drivers only feel comfortable with a range of 500 kilometres, even if they only drive a few dozen kilometres a day. It’s true the charging network does need to be developed further. Many people, especially those living in cities, cannot install a charging point at home. BNP Paribas Fortis is contributing to the expansion of the charging network through its participation in Optimile. This Ghent scale-up offers software solutions for charging electric cars and is developing strategic partnerships for the installation and maintenance of charging points."

Can an electric car be part of each employee’s remuneration package?

"Today, there are already less expensive vehicles on the market, making electric driving an option for middle and lower-management. The Total Cost of Ownership of an electric car is the most important factor, however. And this is still much lower than that of a vehicle with a combustion engine. Leasing is often the best solution. We have a comprehensive, tailor-made offering for all companies, regardless of their size and needs."

What exactly do you mean by a 'comprehensive offering'?

“In addition to leasing, we are able to offer charging solutions at home or at work, a charging card for public networks, the automatic reimbursement of electricity consumption at home, an app to find charging stations, and electric driving training through our many partners.”

So a complete ecosystem?

"We want to contribute to the mobility of tomorrow. By financing it, through credits or leasing, and with insurance, but also by working with partners outside our traditional activities. Like Optimile, and Touring, an organisation that is synonymous with reliability."

But mobility isn't just about cars, is it?

"We believe we need to rethink our relationship with the car. Given the climate targets and the increasing scarcity of resources, it is simply not possible to replace every internal combustion engine with an electric car at the moment. Arval offers its extensive expertise to companies considering a different approach to mobility. We help them analyse their needs, propose alternatives to the car, establish a mobility budget or draw up a mobility policy. We offer bicycle leasing, sometimes in combination with car leasing. We strongly believe in multimodality and mobility-as-a-service solutions: the option to combine different transport modes and pay for them without too much hassle. This is also one of the specialities of our partner Optimile."

Are companies and their employees open to this idea?

"The idea of employees no longer saying 'I have this amount for my car in my salary package', but rather 'I have this amount for my mobility'  is gaining traction. People are already paying for use rather than ownership in gyms or for streaming services. Mobility is going down the same route, with car-sharing and flat-rate subscriptions, making costs more predictable for businesses and private individuals. But the pace of change will also depend on the success of the federal mobility budget. For now, uptake is slow."

 

BNP Paribas Fortis SA/NV – Montagne du Parc/Warandeberg 3 – 1000 Brussels – VAT BE 0403.199.702 – RPM/RPR Brussels

Optimile SA/NV – Sassevaartstraat 46 bus 204, 9000 Ghent – RPM/RPR Ghent – VAT BE 0648.837.849 – www.optimile.eu – BNP Paribas Fortis SA/NV holds a greater than 10% stake in Optimile SA/NV.

Arval Belgium NV, Ikaroslaan 99, 1930 Zaventem – Brussels Register of Companies – VAT BE 0436.781.102.

Touring SA/NV, Koning Albert II-laan/Avenue Roi Albert II 4 B12, 1000 Brussels – Brussels Register of Companies – VAT BE 0403.471.401, is registered under this number with the FSMA, Rue du Congrès/Congresstraat 12-14, B-1000 Brussels, and acts as an associated agent on commission for AG Insurance SA/NV. AG Insurance SA/NV owns a greater than 10% stake in Touring SA/NV.
Article

06.09.2023

New mobility: driven by technology

Can technology drive the transition towards more sustainable mobility for businesses? See what Philippe Kahn, Mobility Solutions Expert, has to say on the matter.

Now more than ever, businesses need to rethink mobility so that it forms part of the sustainable transition that needs to take place in our societies. Since 1 July 2023, the regulation meaning that company vehicles with combustion engines will no longer be longer tax-deductible by 2026 has started to have an impact. At the same time, Belgium’s Federal Mobility Budget and its recent developments are making this (r)evolution much more concrete and practical. And one thing is for sure: technology – and especially apps – have a key role to play. Philippe Kahn, Mobility Solutions Expert at Arval BNP Paribas Group, explains why.

1 July 2023: a key date

“In the few weeks that have passed since the pivotal date of 1 July 2023, we have already seen a change in the needs expressed by our corporate customers,” says Kahn. "Some of them had already taken practical steps towards sustainable transition. But nowadays, more and more of them also have to address the specific questions and concerns of their employees. How will I be able to use an electric car when I live in a city and have no charging stations available? Do I want to search for a reliable place to charge every day? And am I ready to fundamentally rethink how I get around? Providing a satisfactory answer to these questions is inevitably a priority for employers. As well as the end-to-end management of company electric vehicles – including the question of charging them – more and more companies are starting to rethink their overall mobility policy, analysing all existing alternatives, particularly multimodal solutions. And that’s great news, because it’s essential for their future. So I think the demand for such solutions is only going to grow. Technology, and apps in particular, are key tools for a smooth transition".

Anticipating change to serve companies better

Whereas this issue is only just emerging for many companies, it has been a priority for Arval BNP Paribas Fortis and Philippe Kahn for years. "For more than five years now, we have been anticipating the changes that are now taking place, ensuring that our vision of mobility and expertise go far beyond leasing. We now have an entire department that deals with these matters exclusively. This enables us to meet and even anticipate the needs of companies that have no experience of these issues, and who sometimes feel a little lost when it comes to this revolution in travel.”

A simpler, smoother experience thanks to technology

But why and how is technology playing an important role in this transition to more sustainable business travel? "It’s making the experience of new mobility easier and smoother for its users. And that's where the latest developments in the market are heading," says Kahn. "In fact, that's also what our new Mobility Arval App now offers our corporate customers. It makes it easier for employers to manage the mobility budget established by the federal authorities. This budget, its three pillars and recent developments are crucial factors when a company is rethinking its mobility. But at the same time, it involves some regulatory complexity. That’s why, five years ago, we started developing a whole range of technological tools to help companies deal with these matters. For example, we  make it simple for our customers to manage the combination of an electric car and bicycle within this mobility budget. In this spirit of innovation, and aiming to improve the user experience, our app integrates all facets of new business mobility, which are all accessible from a smartphone. Use of public transport, shared mobility, taxis, and even parking – even though this is not one of the pillars of the mobility budget – everything is in one place. The app also makes it easier to manage transactions: low-value mobility transactions, such as buying a bus ticket, are automatically captured and validated, so manual checks are no longer needed. Similarly, there is no longer any need to advance money to employees or reimburse them for anything, and no need for them to keep and present tickets or any other proof of purchase. In short, our app translates the entire mobility budget, which can be pretty complex, into a user-friendly tool where all the important components are taken into account: car, bicycle, scooter, multimodal solutions, public transport, shared mobility, etc."

Technology as a strategy accelerator

Arval Belgium’s innovations perfectly illustrate why technology is an important accelerator when implementing new mobility strategies. And it goes without saying that what exists today will evolve very quickly, leading to an ever-richer user experience. As Philippe Kahn says, "there are a lot of innovative tools out there already. But one of the challenges, linked to the complexity of the situation in Belgium, is to bring together all the players involved under the same umbrella, so that the result of this collaborative work can be found in a single 'magic' app. The solutions that exist today in Belgium are often local in scope. This is a limitation that doesn’t exist in the Netherlands, for example, thanks to their OV card.  Belgium’s urban planning realities are also a challenge:  outside the major urban centres, it’s less easy to set up mobility hubs in which all modes of travel are accessible."

One thing is certain: for companies, the transition to new forms of mobility is well underway. And the new Arval Belgium app is a valuable tool for those companies. “This technological innovation now makes it possible to mitigate the regulatory complexity for employers, and to make multimodal transport a very fluid experience for employees,” concludes Kahn.

Arval Belgium SA, Ikaroslaan 99, 1930 Zaventem – Registered with the Brussels trade register – Belgian VAT number 0436.781.102.  Company with an ancillary insurance brokage business, registered with the Belgian Financial Services and Markets Authority (FSMA) under number 047238 A. Subject to acceptance of your request.

Arval Belgium SA is a subsidiary of BNP Paribas Fortis S.A.

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