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. See also the article The full potential of reforestation.
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
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.
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Karim Hajjar of Solvay is the 'Trends CFO of the Year 2022'
Trends and BNP Paribas Fortis highlight the performance of a Belgian financial director with this award, which was presented for the eleventh time on 1 June. Recticel won the 'Deal of the Year' award.
Photographer: Christophe Ketels
Karim Hajjar, CFO of the Solvay Chemicals and Materials Group, accepted the 'CFO of the Year' award at the Brussels Expo on Wednesday evening following Ingrid Daerden from Aedifica. The 59-year-old Brit has been the financial rock in Solvay’s branding for nine years, and has helped transform the traditional chemical group into a world player in high-tech plastics.
Fighting spirit and drive
In 2013, Hajjar joined Solvay as CFO. He first worked under CEO Jean-Pierre Clamadieu, with whom he completed over fifty deals. Since 2019, Hajjar, a father of five, has been assisting Clamadieu's successor Ilham Kadri through the pandemic and other crises, and streamlining the group. As part of this streamlining, a breakup of Solvay is planned for the second half of next year. One part, provisionally called EssentialCo, would include historical activities such as soda ash and the Silica branch, which focuses on the car tyre sector. The other part, SpecialCo, will include the fast-growing special polymers for
smartphones, the composite business in the aerospace and automotive industries, among others. “A no-brainer”, says Hajjar, who has faced much hotter fires in his life. Born in Beirut, he grew up during the Lebanese civil war. His family lost everything, which formed the breeding ground for Hajjar's fighting spirit and drive.
Karim Hajjar won out over four other strong candidates: Kristiaan De Beukelaer (Media House), Maud Larochette (N-Side), Geert Peeters (Greenyard) and Johan Vankelecom (Belfius).
Recticel wins the 'Deal of the Year 2022'
For the fourth time Trends also awarded a 'Deal of the Year' award. All mergers, acquisitions and capital operations (stock market introduction, capital increase, private placement, etc.) involving a Belgian company in 2021 were eligible. The most important criterion is the financial and strategic added value that the operation created for the stakeholders.
There were five deals in the running, and the one from Recticel emerged as the winner. This major player in polyurethane solutions is active in the furniture, automotive and construction sectors and sold its Engineered Foams division to the American company Carpenter for a final net proceeds of 606 million euros. This was an exceptionally strategic operation, with which Recticel was able to avert a hostile takeover attempt by the Austrian Greiner.
Since 2012, BNP Paribas Fortis and Trends have been putting the spotlight on the exceptional qualities of a CFO of a top 500 company in Belgium. In 2019, the 'Deal of the Year' award was created. Because rewarding and encouraging contributors to our economy is also Positive Banking.
Congratulations to the winning CFO, the team behind the winning “Deal of the Year” and to all the other candidates.
Are you the next 'Entrepreneur of the Year'?
Will your business succeed Aertssen and Odoo as ‘Enterprise of the Year 2022'? Who knows! Apply now and perhaps your company will snap up this prestigious award.
A dazzling event honouring the very best companies
The annual awards ceremony is an initiative of EY in collaboration with De Tijd/L’Echo and BNP Paribas Fortis. Last year, Aertssen, was crowned ‘Onderneming van het Jaar’ and Odoo ‘Entreprise de l’Année’. Deliverect was named 'Scale-up of the Year' for Flanders and Cowboy for the French-speaking part of Belgium. The winners of the 2022 awards will be announced on 5 and 6 December.
More than just numbers
The 'Entrepreneur of the Year' award has become a tradition as well as a quality label. The award recognises unique Belgian companies that demonstrate excellent entrepreneurial acumen and successful management. Companies that have weathered the storms of recent years, charting an impressive course. Because entrepreneurship is about more than just numbers, something the jury is keenly aware of. A company’s size and turnover therefore play less of a role in the assessment. Finalists are selected on the basis of criteria such as the company’s growth and financial results, entrepreneurship, internationalisation, innovation and good governance.
Oxygen for the economy
Didier Beauvois, Head of Corporate Banking & Member of the Executive Board, is proud that BNP Paribas Fortis has been a partner of this event from the outset. "Businesses face many challenges today. After the coronavirus pandemic, geopolitical challenges are now forcing companies to be more flexible. Sustainability also continues to be an important topic. Our mission is to help companies become future-ready because entrepreneurs are the driving force behind the Belgian economy. This also explains why we like to put these innovators in the spotlight every year and why we encourage Belgian companies to apply."
Why take part?
Winning the ‘Entrepreneur of the Year' or 'Scale-up of the Year' award offers numerous benefits to your company. These awards enjoy heightened national and international prestige and raise your company's profile. The awards ceremony attracts a great deal of media interest, both for winners and finalists, in addition to offering excellent networking opportunities. A place in the final is also a huge morale booster for your employees.
Interested? Apply now by surfing to the EY website Onderneming van het Jaar 2022 / Entreprise de l’Année 2022. Here you will find all the information about the criteria, the selection procedure and the registration process.
Source: image + text EY.com
Opt for a more sustainable mobility offer thanks to bicycle leasing
Sustainability isn't a hype – it's a must. The transition is also in full swing in terms of mobility. With bicycle leasing, you offer your employees a high-quality bicycle package and choose a more sustainable mobility offer. And it's tax efficient.
Cycling to work is popular
Not only our way of working has become hybrid; so too has the way we travel to work. More and more people are seeing the benefits of cycling to work, whether or not electric. An e-bike or speed pedelec is no longer just a gadget. Thanks to these, you can now comfortably cycle longer distances. So, bicycles are certainly part of a sustainable mobility policy. Bicycle leasing allows you to offer your employees a healthy and sporty option that reduces your organisation’s carbon footprint.
How does bicycle leasing work?
Bicycle leasing is much more than just financing bicycles. Maintenance, repairs, breakdown service and insurance are all included in the package. With Bike Lease, our mobility partner Arval offers an operational, full-service solution for 36 months. With over 120 brands and all types of bicycles, the range is extensive: city bikes, sports bikes, e-bikes, speed pedelecs, mountain bikes, folding bikes, etc. Your employees choose the bicycle that suits them best. An annual maintenance budget is provided for maintenance and repair by professionals. Bike Lease also includes indemnity for accidents, theft and vandalism of the bicycle with a fixed excess based on the value of the lease bike. And finally, a 24/7 breakdown service is provided within 45 minutes, anywhere in Belgium.
Good for everyone
Including bicycles in your mobility offer offers both your company and your employees many advantages.
The leasing costs are deductible for your company if your employees use their bikes to commute. By using this bike to commute, they avoid a taxable benefit in kind.
Cycling makes healthier and fitter employees who suffer less from stress. And your company benefits from this as well.
A bicycle is a cheaper alternative or complement to a company car for short to medium-distance trips. You save on fuel, maintenance and parking costs. It also allows you to offer mobility to a wider target group.
Once your employees have chosen a type of bicycle, they decide for themselves when they pedal to work. Through all kinds of weather, when the sun is shining or when there are too many traffic jams and a bicycle is the perfect alternative to a car. They can also enjoy their bikes in their free time.
A bicycle has of course a low ecological footprint and fits perfectly in a sustainable mobility policy. By offering your employees a bicycle, your company emits less CO2 and your organisation becomes more socially responsible.