Yuma Labs makes sunglasses from recycled PET bottles. The Belgian firm has grown from a one-man startup into a company that manufactures items for other brands as well. But can the firm combine growth with sustainability? At BNP Paribas Fortis we certainly think so.
Yuma Labs (originally named YR Yuma) is the brainchild of Sebastiaan de Neubourg, explains his business partner Lenja Doms. She tells us: "Sebastiaan was working as a consultant, but he was itching to set up his own business. His idea was to use a 3D printer to make sunglasses from recycled plastic. He then found out at first hand why no-one had tried this before. Because it proved to be quite a bit harder than expected,” laughs Lenja.
By 2017 Sebastiaan had a workable prototype and he started a crowdfunding campaign for his sustainable sunglasses. It was an immediate hit. However, the project wasn’t first and foremost about achieving successful sales, reveals Lenja. “Sebastiaan saw the sunglasses primarily as a tool for making people aware of the basic principles of the circular economy. There’s no such thing as waste. A used Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottle provides the raw material for a new product, such as a pair of sunglasses.” And to complete the circle, the customer is encouraged to trade the sunglasses back in at the end of their life, in exchange for a new pair at an attractive discount.
Sustainable manufacturing, as Yuma Labs does it, inevitably means that the final product is more expensive. “Fully twice as expensive,” Lenja points out, explaining: “We certainly don’t want to see the circular economy pigeon-holed as the province of the elite. We already take account of the entire life-cycle of a product, and we take responsibility for the recycling and re-use of the materials. And let’s be quite clear about this: that’s more costly than just putting a product on the market without worrying about what happens to it later.”
Aiming for growth
In summer 2019, Lenja Doms and Ronald Duchateau came on board the Yuma team. This provided an opportunity to broaden the focus and look further than the consumer market. This month, Yuma Labs announced a collaborative project with a major fashion company. This upscaling will enable Yuma Labs to reach out to a much larger audience.
A good mix
In order to grow, a business needs financial resources. Yuma Labs has looked into quite a number of possible solutions, says Lenja. “These days there are a lot of initiatives designed to support sustainable businesses – from banks, the government and private investors. We’ve always tried to find the right balance between our own capital and external finance, and to achieve a good mix of different forms of finance between capital, grants and loans.”
Lenja has a golden tip for other businesspeople in the circular economy: "All too often I observe that the economic side of the story is neglected because companies keep on trying to find the perfect solution or the perfect product. There’s no sense in that. You shouldn’t try to be whiter than white.”
Creating added value
At BNP Paribas Fortis, Maxime Prové is the Account Manager for Yuma Labs. He endorses Lenja Doms’ view on this. “Entrepreneurs who set out to do sustainable or social business must also have a desire to create added value, otherwise the business won’t last,” Maxime points out, underlining: “You can’t pursue a sustainable, environmental or social business model unless it’s underpinned by a profit-making scenario. That’s the only way you’ll be able to grow, hire more people and make a greater impact.”
Photo: Karel Hemerijckx
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.
The five speakers represent the European Commission, science, an H2 producer from the maritime sector, the energy industry and finance.
Hydrogen and Innovation Policy Officer at the EU Commission (DG CLIMA: Directorate-General for Climate Action)
Professor at University of Antwerp & holder BNP Paribas Fortis Chair Transport, Logistics and Ports
General Manager Hydrogen at DEME (dredging, land reclamation, offshore energy)
Solutions and Partnerships Manager at ENGIE
Energy, Resources and Infrastructure at BNP Paribas Fortis
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sylphar, Lansweeper and Qover win Private Equity Awards in 2022
On 12 October, our bank and the Belgian Venture Capital & Private Equity Association put the winning companies in the spotlight. With the support of Private Equity, all three completed a remarkable growth track.
The winners of the 2022 Private Equity Awards have been announced. It was the fifth time that BNP Paribas Fortis organised this event together with the Belgian Venture Capital & Private Equity Association (BVA). In addition to rewarding Belgian growth companies, this is also a good opportunity to highlight the added value of venture capital for start-up, fast-growing and mature companies.
And the winners are...
The three winners were selected from nine nominees in three categories: Venture capital, Growth, and Buy-out company of the year.
Qover was voted 'Venture Company of the Year'. This award was created for young companies that develop and market an innovative product or service with the support of a venture capital investor.
Qover enables any digital company to embed insurance in its value proposition. The company has built a tech platform that can launch any insurance product in any market, language and currency in a matter of days. The company is ready to scale up internationally and was praised for its innovative and disruptive business model.
Lansweeper was named 'Growth Company of the Year'. This category is for companies that have significantly expanded their activities through organic growth or acquisitions. They bring a financial partner on board who does not want control.
Lansweeper is an IT Asset Management platform provider that helps companies better understand, protect, and centrally manage their IT devices and network. The company has developed a software platform that can be used to create an inventory of all types of technology assets, installed software, and users. Besides setting an excellent financial track record, the company succeeded in gaining a solid foothold internationally.
Sylphar was the winner in the 'Buy-out Company of the Year' category. These are companies that achieve growth through involved management with the backing of a private equity investor with a controlling interest.
Sylphar develops and packages innovative and consumer-friendly OTC products worldwide. OTC products are medicines that are sold directly to the consumer without requirinng a doctor's prescription. Examples include tooth whitening products and skin, hair and body care products. Their spectacular digital transformation of the sales process, strong international expansion, and rapid product development were decisive factors.
"As a financial instrument, private equity is perfectly suited for boosting innovation and sustainable growth. The three winners have all proven this", says Raf Moons, Head of BNP Paribas Fortis Private Equity.
Find out more about Private Equity at BNP Paribas Fortis.
Source: press release
Who will win a Private Equity Award this year?
The Private Equity Awards will be presented on 12 October 2022. We are organising this event for the fifth time, together with the Belgian Venture Capital & Private Equity Association (BVA). Check out this year’s nine nominees.
The Private Equity Awards reward Belgian companies that have received support from a private equity or venture capital investor for their growth and development. This is the fifth time that the Belgian Venture Capital & Private Equity Association (BVA) and BNP Paribas Fortis are organising this prestigious award ceremony.
The nine finalists were nominated based on criteria such as sustainable growth, authentic leadership, and active ownership. They are divided into three award categories: Venture capital, Growth, and Buy-out company of the year.
Venture company of the year:
Aerospacelab is an innovative scale-up specialising in satellite platforms and information obtained from geospatial technology. The company designs, manufactures and operates a constellation of satellites for remote sensing, collecting useful information.
Precirix is a biopharmaceutical company and a spin-off of the VUB. It is dedicated to extending and improving the lives of cancer patients by designing and developing precision radiopharmaceuticals.
Qover enables any digital company to embed insurance in its value proposition. The company has built a tech platform that can launch any insurance product in any market, language and currency in days.
Growth company of the year:
Efficy has developed a complete and highly customisable SaaS (Software as a Service) CRM (Customer Relationship Management) solution. The company wants to become five times bigger, increasing its market share to 5% of the independent CRM market in Europe, within five years.
- Fedrus International
Fedrus International is an international building materials group that manufactures and distributes roof and façade materials and services with a focus on EPDM rubber and zinc. The company wants to become the preferred partner of building professionals, with high quality standards and a great sense of innovation.
Lansweeper is an IT Asset Management platform provider that helps companies better understand, protect, and centrally manage their IT devices and network. The company has developed a software platform that can be used to create an inventory of all types of technology assets, installed software and users.
Buy-out company of the year:
- Baobab Collection
Baobab Collection sells diffusers and candles made from hand-blown glass or metal clad with precious leather. The Belgian brand remains true to its values of craftsmanship and excellence by supporting European expertise and craftsmen.
Sylphar develops and markets innovative and consumer-friendly OTC products worldwide. OTC products are medicines that are sold directly to the consumer without requiring a doctor's prescription. Examples include tooth whitening products and skin, hair and body care products.
- House of HR
House of HR is a leading European HR service provider focusing on Specialised Talent Solutions and Engineering & Consulting. Their goal is to connect people’s talents and dreams with successful companies.
Drive innovation and sustainable growth
"Private equity is a financial instrument that is perfectly suited to boost innovation and sustainable growth. The result is strong growth. But private equity involves after all so much more than just raising capital. Venture capital investors also share their knowledge and network, opening many doors. All the nominees have a solid track record and are all in with a chance to win. I am very curious to see which companies will take home an award", says Raf Moons, Head of BNP Paribas Fortis Private Equity.
Find out more about Private Equity at BNP Paribas Fortis.
Source: Press release BVA