Article

05.06.2018

Reforestation and biodiversity in practice

Some causes are more important than the pursuit of EBITDA. Without trees there can be no biodiversity, and flora, fauna, soil, water and air are all affected. That is why WeForest is mobilising companies to plant forests.

Reforestation is neither a luxury nor a question for hippies. It is indispensable for the climate and biodiversity, the quality of our soil and water, as well as for food; it is thus vital for the future of all species. 

The solutions, which remain under-recognised, are simply waiting to emerge. They are not technical, do not adhere to the logic of extraction and do not call on limited natural resources. They are tremendously effective, draw their inspiration from natural ecosystems and entail integrating trees into fields.

We have pinpointed two relevant non-governmental initiatives: Ecosia, a search engine launched by a start-up in Berlin, has attracted 7 billion users and plants one tree for every 45 searches made – the equivalent of some 27 million trees planted to this day; secondly, the non-profit organisation WeForest is utilising its expertise in this area, its basis in science and its business network to engage in sustainable reforestation. We went to meet Marie-Noëlle Keijzer, the founder of WeForest, to hear her story.

From carbon offsetting to corporate 'water footprints'

In the early days, WeForest was not convinced by carbon offsetting, which it regarded as too reductive. Yet it was a means to connect with its target audience: companies anxious to measure, reduce and then offset the carbon emissions that they are not able to avoid. Today, the objective of 'net positive emissions' has been set, which also aims to offset past emissions.

It is obvious that environmental concerns now extend beyond carbon alone. Many are beginning to examine their water footprint. A new vision is taking hold, which entails development aid via the promotion of reforestation. "Moving countries out of poverty and doing more than simply planting trees and leaving: this is how companies now wish to act in a socially responsible way", explains Marie-Noëlle Keijzer, CEO of WeForest.

Intervening on vegetation, carbon, water, air and employment

With the 270 corporate clients that have joined it since 2011, WeForest planted almost 17 million new trees and restored 13,000 hectares of land by the end of 2017, and aims to double these figures by 2020. It offers high-impact marketing materials to customer companies with messages such as 'one sale = one tree planted'. 

In 2014, Brabantia decided to 'do something different'. It wanted to sell products, of course, but also give thought to global issues. Working alongside WeForest, the company entered into a joint financing project supporting reforestation. "Since Brabantia began to state on its website, on YouTube and on its packaging that one tree would be planted for every rotary dryer sold, it has seen a 25% increase in sales every year", explains the head of WeForest, citing well-substantiated case studies with certified benchmarks: "We go beyond the theoretical", she continues. "There is total transparency, with every customer receiving a GPS map of the hectares they have funded. We then ensure the forest is protected, approve our customers' projects and help develop the socio-economic activity of the entire region by initiating alternative revenue sources which create employment."

A tree is more valuable in the ground than on it

WeForest is not engaged in helping Zambia in order to maintain its reliance on international aid, but to educate the hundreds of farmers who chopped down all of their trees in order to sell them for firewood. By bringing them together, the association demonstrates that they do not have to clear trees to sell forestry chips, and that by selectively collecting biomass, they can provide heat without cutting a tree down. WeForest trains women to work as nursery growers, giving them a job, an income and an identity. It also supplies beehives to farmers who have begun to produce honey as a new source of income. Bees have other positive effects too, since they pollinate flowers, plants and fruit crops, for example. "It's really simple", affirms Marie-Noëlle Keijzer. "If we kill bees and birds by using pesticides and insecticides, we are preventing nature from doing its work."

Trees provide a habitat for animals and natural fertiliser for plants

In regions of Brazil where tree coverage is 3%, leopards have completely died out. Agriculture has supplanted forests wherever the ground is level. WeForest cannot operate across the entirety of the country, which is much too large. But they have created green corridors, and life has begun again. Trees and plants have been restored, attracting birds and animals that use them to move around, eat and reproduce. 

Trees are also a natural source of fertiliser: corn grows more quickly when it is close to trees. They provide shade and retain water in the soil.

There are trees and trees 

Not all reforestation projects are equal. Some trees boost the food supply or increase soil nitrogen levels (such as the lucerne), whereas others are detrimental to diversity. For example, no animals will live in palm tree plantations where the soil is also full of chemicals. "We won't solve the problem if we do nothing to change the causes of deforestation: intensive agriculture for the purposes of producing meat, for example", says Marie-Noëlle Keijzer, firmly convinced. Solutions exist, but everyone needs to accept their share of responsibility.

Sources: BNP Paribas Fortis, WeForest
Article

26.10.2022

Sustainable Future Forum: Belgium as a hub for green hydrogen and the role of the EU

Belgium has strong assets as an industrial and logistics hub for green hydrogen in Western Europe. Entrepreneurs, bankers and the European Union discuss the challenges and opportunities.

At the global BNP Paribas Sustainable Future Forum on 18 October 2022, held at the auditorium of BNP Paribas Fortis' new Brussels headquarters, 5 experts discussed the European Union's contribution to the full roll-out of green hydrogen. Belgium’s strategic role as an industrial hydrogen hub for Western Europe also emerged in the debate.

Hydrogen, a link in the decarbonisation of the economy

Green hydrogen is produced by electrolysis of water with renewable energy. The EU considers green hydrogen as a key lever to providing clean, affordable and safe energy in the transition to a lower CO2-emitting economy. Harnessing the potential of sustainable H2 is both promising and complex. Nevertheless, with the situation in Ukraine, high inflation and the energy crisis, we have a momentum we can use to accelerate that transition.

The role of the EU: co-regulating and co-financing

Europe supports the roll-out of green hydrogen mainly in two areas. First of all, the European Union is working on clear market and industry regulation. For example, sustainability quotas for transport and industry can boost the market. In addition, legal certainty is very important to attracting private investors to urgently build out many high-tech infrastructures.

The EU taking the lead with concrete actions and project financing. This does not detract from the fact that around 40% of private investment is required. These funds should be relatively easy to access, as they are actually small amounts compared to the current investments in conventional fuels. Companies such as Engie and DEME are already financing large projects and are prepared to do even more if a long-term perspective is available. Sufficient incentive is required so that demand also increases on the user side, too. Achieving all goals requires cooperation between all stakeholders, both inside and outside the Union.

Belgium's assets as a hub for sustainable molecules

In Europe, we remain dependent on countries that can produce sustainable hydrogen cheaply. It is therefore of strategic importance to diversify the supply of hydrogen and other sustainable molecules. Belgium has many assets for import and export, storage and processing of green hydrogen as a hub for Western Europe.

Belgium is centrally located in a stable region and has large ports serving the hinterland. In addition, our country already has a strong CO2 and H2 network and benefits from offshore capacity with its location in the North Sea.

Hydrogen infrastructure financing

For the financing of hydrogen, we can draw a strong parallel with the early years of offshore wind power. At that time, we also had a lot of questions, but today the framework for wind power is clear. Hydrogen will go through the same evolution. As soon as there is a level playing field, investments will follow. To this end, BNP Paribas Fortis can offer well-known financial products.

Speakers

The five speakers represent the European Commission, science, an H2 producer from the maritime sector, the energy industry and finance.

Carla Benauges
Hydrogen and Innovation Policy Officer at the EU Commission (DG CLIMA: Directorate-General for Climate Action)

Christa Sys
Professor at University of Antwerp & holder BNP Paribas Fortis Chair Transport, Logistics and Ports

Herbert Jost
General Manager Hydrogen at DEME (dredging, land reclamation, offshore energy)

Eric Gosseye
Solutions and Partnerships Manager at ENGIE

Hendrik Deboutte
Energy, Resources and Infrastructure at BNP Paribas Fortis

Article

20.10.2022

CO2 Value fully commits to a carbon-free economy

From sustainable footpaths to fashionable dress to sophisticated e-fuel. At their annual meeting, CO2 Value, a partner organisation of BNP Paribas Fortis, illustrated very concretely how carbon capture and utilisation can help defossilise the economy.

It’s simple, in fact. Forests and oceans can absorb CO2 that is released. But fossil fuel combustion, industry and land use create so much CO2 that nature can no longer handle that absorption. The result is global warming. So we need to reduce CO2 emissions and use more renewable energy. That solution is unfortunately less straightforward in practice, although there are already many promising technologies to accelerate decarbonisation. And that is exactly what CO2 Value Europe is working towards.

Circular carbon economy

CO2 Value Europe, a partner organisation of BNP Paribas Fortis, is an inter-professional organisation representing the Carbon Capture & Utilisation (CCU) community in Europe. It strives for a circular carbon economy. It seeks alternative ways and technologies to capture CO2 and then recycle it into usable sustainable raw materials for fuels, chemicals and building materials, among others.

Crash course in CCU

The audience at this year's sixth edition of CO2 Value's annual meeting was just a little more diverse than usual. Besides members, interested companies and clients of BNP Paribas Fortis were also able to attend the meeting. And they did so in large numbers. Carbon capture and utilisation is a hot topic. A lot of companies are facing a sustainable transition and want to decarbonise. Attendees were given a crash course in 'What is CCU?', but it was mainly the concrete applications that really appealed.

Sustainable footpath

VITO, a Flemish independent research organisation in the field of cleantech and sustainable development, gave an example of how CO2 mineralisation can make the construction sector more sustainable. This technology not only leads to lower CO2 emissions, but permanently stores carbon dioxide in valuable products such as bricks and many other building materials. In Ghent, for example, there is already a footpath made of sustainable bricks.

Dress to impress

CCU can also make a difference in the fashion sector, LanzaTech proves. They convert carbon waste into sustainable fuels, fabrics, packaging and other products that people use in their daily lives. One of these is a synthetic fibre to make clothes that are sustainable without sacrificing anything in terms of comfort or style.

E-methane

Fossil fuels remain a major source of CO2. With the Colombus project, Engie, Carmeuse and John Cockerill are joining forces. They are developing an alternative fuel that will help decarbonise industry and the transport sector. CO2 released during lime production is captured by Carmeuse and then combined with green hydrogen from Engie. Based on this, John Cockerill produces carbon-neutral synthetic methane or e-methane via electrolysis as an alternative to fossil fuels. This is a great example of a circular carbon economy.

Sustainable partnership

As a partner from the very beginning, BNP Paribas Fortis is 100% behind CO2 Value's mission. Sustainability is in the bank's DNA, so we certainly encourage a new circular and industrial value chain. As a banker, we take our responsibility seriously and are happy to help develop innovative solutions that make our economy more resilient and sustainable.

Want to know more? Visit the CO2 Value Europe website.

Article

16.09.2022

Mobility Solutions of the Future

Your employees’ mobility needs are not standing still, and legislation is also changing at lightning speed. As a company, it is therefore crucial to work today on the mobility of tomorrow.

A changing world

Today you drive to visit customers, tomorrow you work from home and on Friday you take the train and the shared scooter from the station to the office... Your employees’ mobility needs are not standing still and the demand for sustainable, integrated and flexible solutions is increasing.

Legislation and economic conditions are also changing at an unprecedented pace. As part of its initiative to make the automobile sector more sustainable, the government has set a number of ambitious targets, such as greenhouse gas-free company cars by 2026 and betting on smart mobility for commuting. For this reason, many companies are currently considering a transition from a car policy to a mobility policy, in which employees are also given access to other alternative means of transport. In practice, however, there is a lot of extra administration involved when your employees opt for combined mobility to get around. A forward-thinking digital mobility solution tailored to your company will give you a big head start.

Employees want to choose for themselves

Multimodal mobility is an important asset for attracting and retaining talent. Not everyone benefits from a company car alone as a means of transport. Your employees want to be able to choose how they travel to and from work. One day the car is the best option, the next day, the bike or public transport. By moving towards a flexible mobility policy, employees will be able to choose the mobility solutions that suit them best in the future, so that they can go to work in complete freedom and with a good feeling.

Reducing CO² emissions

We are facing a real challenge in the coming years. Mobility and logistics account for as much as 22% of CO2 emissions in our country. If we are to achieve the European target – to reduce emissions by 55% by 2030 – we need to work urgently on greening our mobility. Electrification of your fleet in combination with soft mobility is already a step in the right direction. The government is driving this transition to zero-emission mobility by discouraging fossil-fuelled vehicles from a tax perspective and rewarding electrification. Think about more than just purchasing or leasing electric vehicles.

Towards Smart, Integrated Mobility Solutions

Mobility cards that offer an all-in-one solution for all your employees’ professional travel are still relatively unknown, but work very well. They allow you to book and pay for all necessary means of transport, from leased cars, public transport and taxis to shared mobility of bicycles, scooters and cars. Employees can also use them to fill up their lease cars, charge them and pay for parking and car wash.

Mobility platforms and apps go one step further: they offer the ideal multimodal solution in real time, depending on needs and traffic conditions. For example, taking the car to the outskirts of Brussels and then switching to an electric scooter or, in nice weather, biking to the office. The user of the mobility app can also buy a ticket directly from the suitable mobility provider, with a mobility budget that the employer makes available via a linked mobility platform. Such a platform allows employers to customise their mobility policy to meet their specific needs. This way, all employee mobility solutions are managed on the same platform. Moreover, all this is directly linked to the payroll of the payroll service provider. Thanks to the platform, the actual situation is displayed at all times and wages are always calculated correctly, taking into account individual mobility plans and expenses.

Say goodbye to congestion and administrative hassle, and hello to sustainable mobility!

Do you want a mobility policy that responds to the ever-changing needs of your employees and is committed to sustainability? Our experts will be happy to help you.

Mobility solutions are offered by Arval Belgium SA/NV via BNP Paribas Fortis SA/NV, Montagne du Parc/Warandeberg 3, B-1000 Brussels, Brussels Register of Companies VAT BE0403.199.702.
The information provided here does not constitute an offer. An offer will be made only after your dossier has been accepted and shall always be subject to the general terms and conditions of Arval Belgium SA/NV.

Article

01.07.2022

CO² Value Europe: a partnership for a circular carbon economy

The bank is partnering with CO² Value Europe, an organisation that aims to deploy technologies for capturing and using CO² as a raw material.

What if it was possible to capture CO2 for recycling and use it as a raw material, rather than relying on fossil carbon? At CO2 Value Europe, this is not a futuristic vision, but a very concrete ambition, based on the concept of Carbon Capture Utilisation (CCU). These technologies are being rolled out to more and more industrial players and have the potential to make a real difference in the fight against climate change.

The birth of a solution

“For many industrial sectors, completely eliminating carbon is very difficult, if not impossible”, says Célia Sapart, Director of Communications and Climate Science at CO2 Value Europe. "It’s not just about reducing our CO2 emissions to meet climate targets. It's also about developing a circular carbon economy, capturing CO2 from industrial fumes or directly from the atmosphere and transforming it into different types of products needed, such as building materials, basic chemicals and renewable fuels. It is therefore a question of reducing our emissions while at the same time 'de-fossilising' our economy.”

One billion tonnes of CO2 every year

A crazy project? On the contrary! “Many initiatives are developing and things are speeding up, but today there is a lack of a legislative and regulatory framework to move up a gear", says Sapart. "Contributing to defining this framework is also one of the key reasons for creating CO2 Value Europe, as our aim is to enable CCU technologies that have a scientifically proven positive impact on our environment to be developed on a large scale. To this end, we lobby the European authorities to ensure that the concept of the CCU is properly considered and taken into account, for example in the European Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). We are convinced that these technologies, developed in a clearly defined and regulated context, will make a difference and can lead to a significant reduction in CO2 emissions every year, as several studies from the latest IPCC assessment report reveal.”

An exchange of expertise

“We see this new partnership with BNP Paribas Fortis as a true sharing of knowledge”, says Anastasios Perimenis, Secretary General at CO2 Value Europe. "In order to accelerate the transition and make the first big projects happen and inspire others, we need financial support. BNP Paribas Fortis can help us understand which criteria are important to help finance the most promising CCU projects and put us in touch with key players. For our part, we bring our multidisciplinary knowledge and expertise on the CCU to increase investments in technologies that contribute to the transition to a circular, more sustainable and de-fossilised industry.”

Our support as a bank

“We are very excited to work with CO2 Value Europe”, says Didier Beauvois, Head of Corporate Banking and Member of the Executive Board of BNP Paribas Fortis. "To empower its impact on the climate, but also to encourage the creation of a new circular and industrial value chain. At BNP Paribas Fortis, we share CO2 Value Europe's ambition and want to play our role as a banker to the full, contributing to the development of innovative solutions that will make our economy more resilient and sustainable.”

Putting our expertise and relationships at the service of those seeking solutions for a better and more environmentally friendly industry: another example of Positive Banking.

Find out more

Visit the CO2 Value Europe website.

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