Sustainability pays off

Sustainability pays off
December 28, 2019
We have had our share of ups and downs as entrepreneurs over the past few years. Fortunately, we have always learned something from this. And fortunately not everything fails. Success is, after all, getting up more often than you fall. Our entrepreneurship is characterized by what someone once called 'stumbling forward'. I think consultants call it a 'learning organization', at least that sounds a lot hipper. But stumbling forward is fine as far as I'm concerned, as long as it's inthee right direction. And one of those crucial directions is our decision to make sustainabilitthede guiding principle in our business operations. In recent years we have invested in solar panels, solar water heaters, heat pumps, energy savings athe de complete electrification of our fleet. I have now discovered that this has made thel de differenctheto de future of our company.
Summer 2018, we posted a vacancy for a new employee in housekeeping. On this beautiful summer day, we receive five candidates under the large oak tree inthee garden othede Heische Hoeve. Althouthe de job marketthen de hospitality and hotel industry is certainly not generous, we received -also somewhat to our own surprise- more than 20 applications for this position. In all interviews, we ask people what would actuallthebe de reason for applyithe to de Heische Hoeve. And what turns out? Five times the got de same answer: "how you are engaged with sustainability and regional products". Five out of fivthetimes de same answer. That is quite specthel. All de more so because I myself had not immediately made a connection with housekeeping. Of course, biodegradable soap, solar botheers for de showers and solar thenels for the power of de washing machines...but does that make a difference in such an application procedure? No, but what does make a difference is how you as a comtheny are "in de game. How much you not only name sustainability as a value, but fortheost make it de guiding standard for your behavior. That makes (future) employees want to be part of your team, even if they only indirectly deal with these aspects in their own work. But this they you do get de right top people on board that you need to take your company a step further. Our first -unexpected- sustainability experience was: sustainability ensures betheer access to (de theght people on) de labor market.
Your turnover is also positively influenced by sustainability. Because for exactly the same reason, your customers - in our case guests - increasingly find it important how you as a company are 'inthee game' when it comes to sustainability. They want to feel that it's more than just some 'green key' icon othede wall, they want to feel that it's the de very heart of your company. We have therefore deliberately chosen not to do any labels or certifications. Even gold or platinum would not adequately express how important we think this theme is. So we are just ourselves and we say what we do: be good and tell it. Result: our guests love it! Does that mean you can charge more than your competitors? That's going a long way, and our products are fortunately somewhat awkward to compare with other providers. In our case, there is only one consideration for a potential customer and thatthes de relationship between price and quality. And that is exactly where an above-average sustainable business practice provides a big boost, as we have noticed. So our second sustainability experience was that it made it easier for us to complete our orders - better access to sales, so to speak.
The hallmark of sustainable investments, is that they are more durable. May sound like an open door, but you have to realize thatthee technical life almost always far exceedthede economic life (depreciation period). Whether it's our solar panels, solar water heaters, heat pumps, biomass, biopropanthe de fact that our tractor is fuelled with blue diesel,ther de electrification of our fleet: almost without exception, these sustainable investments are earned back in 4-5 years. Had we calculated this precisely in advance for each componThet? De answer is no. We just went for it. And whtheher de payback period would be 3, 6 or 8 years, for us that would not be a reason to make a different assessment. It's allthebout de bigger picture. We simply want to minimize our foodprint because we feel we owe it to future generations. Not because the want de best possible return, but funnily enough that seems to go hand in hathe along de way. So our third sustainability experience was that we can significantthe reduce de costs of our operations, which means that by investing in sustainability we can also achieve a better result.
Fall 2019. Crowdfunding for our whiskey plans completed the insight. Inthee capital market, green financing is becoming more and more 'a thing'. Bankers are starting to ask questions about it when financing and I recently got to attend an interesting meeting 'Sustainable money seeks sustainable entrepreneur'TheDe story in a nutshell: there is more green capital from investors and savers ththe de intermediaries and banks can put away. Recently I experienced this myself. We launched a crowdfunding campaign and our wildest expectations were exceeded. Blank funding at 3.71% and from € 1,000 a bottle of whiskey per yeThe. De funding was full in no time. It is interesting to read thrthegh de motivations of investors. Of course youtheead de favor factor of your network, but especially comments from savers / investors who do not know us personally are interesting. They simply find sustainability so important that they are willing to exchange part of their return for your sustainable ambitions. Quite a mouthful, but it comes dthen to de fact that you can get more money, against less security and at lower costs, through sustainable business practices. Investors require an "intangible" security in return: your persistent and sustained sustainability ambition as an entrepreneur. I was surprised by this and also astonished. And I came to realize that through our sustainable approach, we have also gained better acthess to de capital market.
And then the circle was complete: as a company you can indeed getthee most out of it if you opt for sustainability, withouthede proverbial lid falling on your nose. Better access the de labor market, better accesstheo de capital market, more sales from nicer customers and a better result becthese de total cost of ownership in your company goes down by sustainable investments. All by making sustainability a guiding principle.
I also read the people who, out of a kind of political opportunism, seem merely to like to complain about climate and sustainability. But I thought it would be good to contrast that with another positive image. And I would advise entrepreneurs not to judge too quickly, but to just dothee math for once. And if you don't want to invest in sustainability fothede money, do it from your heart. For an even brighter future for generations to come.
Wishing everyone a sustainable 2020!
Dennis Hurkmans

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