Article

01.12.2023

Investment grants for your business

Belgium’s three regions provide a range of grants for companies and self-employed people making investments. Our experts can help you make sense of the situation and submit your application.

The terms and amounts of investment grants vary greatly from one region to another. The applicable rules depend on the location of the operational entity making the investments. The company’s registered office is not relevant and can be located in any country. You should also bear in mind that applying for a grant is still a fairly cumbersome administrative process. That’s why our experts take care of all the steps, from submitting the grant application to collecting the grant money.

Flanders: a range of grants

Various types of grants are available in Flanders, the most important of which are support for strategic transformations, the ecology bonus, strategic ecological support, the SME e-wallet and the SME growth subsidy.

Each type of support targets different types of investment and different companies. Subsidy levels also vary widely, from 8% for a strategic investment by a large company to 50% for consultancy fees paid by an SME.

Our experts can help you identify subsidy opportunities and then arrange for you to meet a specialist from VLAIO, the Flemish Agency for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, who will then help you with the rest of your application.

Wallonia: traditional and ecological aid

In Wallonia, investment grants are reserved for companies operating in a limited number of eligible sectors. Excluded activities include retail, transport and the liberal professions.

The terms and conditions also differ according to the size of the company. Small businesses must invest a minimum of €25,000. Large companies need to reach higher thresholds and invest in a development zone.

Examples of eligible business investments include buying/building a property, buying land and buying new business equipment.

The basic grant varies from 4% to 6%, but can be higher if the applicant creates jobs, takes an innovative approach or diversifies abroad, for example. A larger grant, up to 20%, may be obtained for projects that promote the sustainable use of energy and environmental protection.

Please note that it is essential to submit the request before any firm investment commitment is made: investments for which you have already accepted a quote can no longer be subsidised.

Our experts can guide your company through the entire process.

Brussels: the most generous

The Brussels subsidy for investments in goods, property or works is open to most sectors. In total, around 80% of the capital's economic activities are eligible for grants. The two main exceptions are education and real estate.

To qualify for a grant, the investment project must be worth at least €10,000 for a start-up business and at least €15,000 in other cases, depending on the size of the business. In addition, it must aim to develop or improve an existing activity: simple replacement expenditure does not qualify.

The aid can amount to up to 30% of the investment, although the average is 12.5%. The level of subsidy depends on a number of criteria, such as whether the company is a start-up and whether the investment will increase the number of people employed by more than 30%.

Over the course of 2024, reforms to the aid system will increase incentives for sustainable and circular economy projects.

Please note that it is essential to submit the request before any firm investment commitment is made: investments for which you have already accepted a quote can no longer be subsidised.

Our experts can guide your company through the entire process.

Article

12.06.2024

We need to move forward together

Since 2019, the bank has reduced its CO2 emissions per full-time equivalent by 55%. And according to Sandra Wilikens, Chief Human Resources Officer, everyone must play their part.

Between 2019 and 2022, the bank succeeded in reducing its CO2 emissions by 55%. So how did you do this?

"Mainly by focusing on the energy efficiency of our buildings, which account for approximately 80% of our immediate emissions. We also optimised our real estate and significantly reduced business travel. We settled on a structured approach involving all departments. Since 2012, our Green Bank Platform has gathered the contact persons of each department every quarter, allowing them to present an action plan with their initiatives. They then develop a series of KPIs on energy and paper consumption, business travel, the electrification of the vehicle fleet, waste management, etc. Because measuring is knowing."

The target was to achieve a 42.5% reduction in emissions compared to 2012 by the end of 2025. A goal we have since achieved. What else is in the pipeline?

"We have no intention of resting on our laurels until 2025. Because there is no time to waste if we want to be carbon neutral by 2050. Our new headquarters at Montagne du Parc in Brussels is a good example of energy efficiency, but there is still a room for improvement in the rest of our real estate. We will improve the energy efficiency of the various regional offices, install solar panels in more than 80 branches, and LED lighting will become standard in all our buildings. These efforts must allow us to reduce our CO2 emissions by another 7%."

How much progress have you made in terms of the electrification of your fleet?

"We are making a sustained effort to electrify our fleet, and I think we are on the right track. At the end of 2022, just under 30% of our fleet of leased company cars was electric – 100% electric and plug-in hybrids. In the third quarter of 2023, these cars accounted for 95% of new orders. This was largely due to the new car taxation. But for employers, it doesn't stop there. They must deal with a complex tax framework, including the reimbursement of electricity costs. Some of our staff members also face obstacles, for example, because they have difficulty accessing a charging station. I intend to organise a mobility roundtable this year. The aim is to bring governments, operators, start-ups and companies together. Because we have to move forward and are all in this together."

How do you ensure sufficient employee engagement?

"With a lot of communication. You need to explain what you are doing and why. That is the only way to get people to cooperate. We have a network of more than 200 EcoCoaches within the bank. The sustainability compartment of CBA 90 also inspires. We set six specific objectives each year. If we achieve at least three, all staff members receive a bonus at the end of the year. To date, this has been a success. We also have other incentives. With our “Green Fuel Consumer Plan”, we reward staff members who have a company car but use it sparingly. We are also launching many campaigns to promote soft mobility, such as walking, cycling and public transport. The decision to base our offices in cities is also positive. At the end of 2022, 79% of the employees working in Brussels used public transport to get to work. Outside cities, 60% of employees do this."

Finally, can you think of any issues that need to be addressed urgently?

"Digital pollution is often underestimated. To give you an idea: sending 100 mails emits just as much CO2 as driving twenty kilometres. That’s why we organise an internal campaign every year to raise awareness among our staff members and give them tips on how to reduce their digital footprint. Regularly cleaning up your mailbox, sending links instead of files, deleting outdated files: all little things. But if our 11,000 colleagues do this daily, we can make a big impact. Every effort counts!"

Article

10.06.2024

Electronic invoicing between companies to become mandatory

The bill to introduce this obligation in Belgium has been submitted to the Federal Parliament. If the draft bill is approved, B2B e-invoicing will become mandatory from 1 January 2026. Our experts explain why Belgium wants to introduce these new rules, what the implications are for your company and how we can better support you.

“The bill is consistent with international developments and initiatives at the European level,” says Nicolas De Vijlder, Head of Beyond Banking at BNP Paribas Fortis. "Europe's ambition is a harmonised digital standard. Structured e-invoicing between companies will also reduce the administrative burden of invoicing, enabling companies to work more efficiently and increase their competitiveness. The automation of VAT declarations will also help governments prevent tax fraud and adjust economic policies based on more qualitative data.”

Evolution rather than a revolution

“The new legislation is an evolution rather than a revolution,” adds Erik Breugelmans, Deputy Managing Director at BNP Paribas Factoring Northern Europe. "Digitalisation is becoming pervasive at all levels of society, as we have seen with the increase in electronic payments, as well as the additional obligations in recent years regarding electronic invoicing to the government. In this sense, the bill for mandatory electronic invoicing between companies is a logical next step. Our bank is happy to contribute to this process, although we do not intend to offer the same services as accounting software or fintechs. However, we are happy to help our customers with payments and financing."

The impact on businesses

“Customers need to be aware that the new regulations will have an impact on their internal and external processes,” continues Erik Breugelmans. "The majority of Belgian companies mainly serve an international market, which means that the introduction of electronic invoicing will be more complex for them than for companies operating in the domestic market. As the legislation will be introduced in one go, they need to start preparing now."

“The new rules will affect a company’s accounting department as well as its IT department,” emphasises Nicolas De Vijlder. "The procedural requirements are key, otherwise the automated process will not work. However, one of the main benefits of advanced automation is that everything can be done faster and more efficiently. The time between sending an invoice and paying it will be shorter and cash flows more predictable. In addition, it will also reduce the risk of error and fraud, as all transactions will pass through a secure channel."

Ready to offer you even more and better support

“Thanks to the far-reaching digitisation resulting from the new regulations, we will be able to further optimise payments,” concludes Erik Breugelmans. "As a bank, we need to finance our customers’ receivables as quickly and efficiently as possible, so that they have easier access to their working capital. In addition, because we have already gone through an entire process in terms of large-scale automation, we will be able to adapt quickly to the new rules. We can also draw on the expertise of the BNP Paribas Group, which is currently developing an e-invoicing solution for large companies."

Want to know more?

Listen to the episode on B2B e-invoicing :

A subscription to build customer loyalty, reinvent yourself in times of crisis and buy better: Emna Everard saw that as exactly the right way to launch and maintain her Brussels-based start-up.

Born into a family of dietitians, Emna Everard knows what it means to eat healthily. "At the age of 12, I was already deciphering packaging labels. My dream was to open a supermarket one day where you could shop with your eyes closed", she recalls.

And because Everard has entrepreneurship in her bones, that’s exactly what she did. In 2016, just before the end of her university studies, she launched the “healthiest online supermarket on the market”: Kazidomi. Her standards are high, both in terms of composition and taste. Kazidomi selects products carefully, enabling its customers to buy healthy, mainly organic, plant-based products with complete confidence.

The loyalty programme

Six months after its launch, Kazidomi’s growth is accelerating thanks to the launch of its loyalty programme. A 59 euro subscription offering 20–50% discounts on all food, cosmetics or care products available online. Profitability and savings guaranteed.

This was followed by a first fundraising of €50,000 in 2017. Kazidomi is growing, expanding the size of its stock and developing its marketing. Everard hired her first two employees. Sales grew rapidly and literally exploded during the COVID-19 pandemic. "Consumers suddenly had time to think about their health and well-being and were doing most of their shopping online," she adds.

How did you reinvent yourself?

The post-crisis period was a turning point. "Kazidomi had to reinvent itself. We wanted to have financial stability and avoid any dependence on external resources," continues Everard. Together with her teams, she looked at their cost structure, operational efficiency and marketing. After these reflections, the aim was no longer growth at any price, but the company's long-term viability and financial health, thanks to an intelligent reorganisation.

Two acquisitions would subsequently enable Kazidomi to boost its growth, creating significant synergies: "Smart Fooding" in August 2022 and "Bébé au Naturel" a few months later, a business specialising in healthy products for babies and their parents. "With Bébé au Naturel, we doubled the volume of orders sent out," adds Everard. "This has allowed us to get a better rate from our carriers and reduce costs."

A responsive and attentive bank

As the Brussels start-up’s bank, BNP Paribas Fortis granted it three loans for its launch, between 2016 and 2019. This support came naturally, with Kazidomi’s commitments in terms of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) objectives perfectly aligned with the bank’s strategy. "We joined the BNP Paribas Fortis Innovation Hub programme and our relationship manager – who knew the start-up environment extremely well – was immediately enthusiastic and very attentive. He believed in our project, followed it closely, advised us to participate in a series of events to meet other players whose background and profile would be of interest for us," explains the Entrepreneur of the Year 2019.

But the support didn't stop there. "In December 2022, it was thanks to BNP Paribas Fortis, among other things, that we were able to acquire “Bébé au Naturel”. Start-ups like Kazidomi need a high level of responsiveness from their bank. When there is a company to buy, or another opportunity, things have to move fast. Analysis of the file, provision of funds: BNP Paribas Fortis has always been responsive and enthusiastic and has supported us in 99% of our requests," says the CEO enthusiastically.

Eight years since launching, Kazidomi today has 4,000 products that it delivers across Europe. The Belgian start-up makes 90% of its sales on its website and 10% via external resellers, such as Delhaize.

Kazidomi has also launched its own brand “Kazidomi”, which has 200 products on offer. By working directly with producers, we can offer the best possible quality products at the best price.

https://www.kazidomi.com/en

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

Cosucra is investing in the decarbonisation of its production processes. Their focus is on using fibre and plant-based protein from chicory and peas for a healthy and less polluting diet.

Belgium’s Hainaut-based Cosucra has been operating since 1852. The company is quite small with 365 employees, but its activities have evolved over time. From the 1980s onwards, sugar beet processing gave way to chicory and yellow peas. Also, sugar was replaced by inulin and pea protein.

"Many families lack the time to put a fresh meal on the table every day. With our products, the industry can offer them easy, quick and nutritious meals," says Eric Bosly, CEO of Cosucra. "Nutritionists stress the importance of fibre and plant proteins for health, and such a diet has a positive impact on our carbon footprint."

New investors

To take their decarbonisation a step further, in 2023, the company launched a seven-year investment plan worth EUR 150 million. “We are keenly aware of the climate crisis, so we wanted to make this transition fast,” says Bosly. “That's why we brought three investors on board who share our values and are willing to commit in the longer term.”

Long-term relationship

Cosucra and BNP Paribas Fortis have a long-standing partnership. "The bank has supported us in expanding to Denmark and the United States. It's of great value to have the same contact person for setting up the financial structure of subsidiaries, opening accounts abroad, etc. We also meet regularly, which means we can count on the expertise of teams specialised in the food industry. Their macro vision complements that of our local account managers who know our business well."

Same market conditions

Cosucra’s efforts will result in a 55% reduction in CO2 emissions within three years. Yet, decarbonisation is just one of Bosly’s bold ambitions. "We are pushing for the same market conditions as animal proteins. Why, for example, is 20 per cent VAT levied on pea-based milk while for cow’s milk, this figure is under 6 per cent? Plant-based products are also more expensive because you can't achieve economies of scale due to the lower quantities required. If you consider all the “negative external effects” of animal products on human health and the environment, our sector deserves support until we reach a certain scale."

Change of mindset

The entrepreneur also laments how the retail sector uses meat as a decoy product, lowering its margins to offer consumers an attractive price. "In times of inflation, that price difference is all the more detrimental to us. This is why a change of mindset is essential. Nutritionists say that a weekly serving of just 200 to 250 grammes of meat is enough to get the nutritional benefits with no negative impact. But at the moment, most Belgians consume 200 grammes of meat per day."

Bosly also cites competition from imported agricultural products as an obstacle.

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

"The European Green Deal aims to reduce inputs by half, leading to the ban of many herbicides, among other things. Farmers should be supported in this transition. And a company like Cosucra, which buys chicory and peas within a 200-kilometre radius, is not on an equal footing with strong Chinese competition."

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