Edwin van der Eijk, co-owner VDE Plant, shares approach

Five years ago, VDE co-owner Karin van der Eijk saw a message on social media about footprinting. VDE was then one of the first companies to request a footprint at (back then) the Benefits of Nature Foundation. Karin and Edwin, together with their partner Hein Visser, are the third generation of the family business VDE Plant, which will be 75 years old in 2023. They employ 80 fte and grow a total of 13 hectares of tropical green houseplants and a line of different hydroponic concepts.

Sustainability is trending

Karin and Edwin convinced themselves to have their footprint calculated five years ago, because they wanted to become aware of the impact of their business ánd how to improve their impact. In addition, five years ago sustainability started to play an increasing role in the industry. So next to the intrinsic interest, the commercial aspect also started to play a role. These two interests together formed the motivator to keep going.

On all fronts, you need to be aware of what you are doing

Edwin van der Eijk, co-owner VDE Plant

Start taking steps

Many see sustainability as a lot of hassle, but Edwin van der Eijk disagrees. And he should know, because he is working on it. ”It has to be different or smarter. Just start with it”, says Edwin. For example, company procurement can play a big role in the journey to becoming a carbon positive company. Recently, Edwin had to order 250,000 new labels and two types of materials were presented to him. You can guess, one was sustainable and the other was standard. The sustainable variant is from TerraBoard and is FSC certified. This variant was 5% more expensive than the standard variant. Edwin didn’t have to think twice about that and went for the TerraBoard labels.

Edwin in the VDE Greenhouses

By engaging in footprinting, a company becomes more aware of its impact on the environment. This stimulates VDE to make sustainable choices, for example with purchasing. By regularly calculating a footprint you also build up a frame of reference. It may turn out, for example, that the production of one plant causes x CO2 emissions and another plant causes y CO2 more, but what does that mean? What do those numbers say? The more you measure, the more you know.

Making money with sustainability

In addition to VDE’s intrinsic motivation to become more sustainable for the next generation, there is also a commercial aspect to it. How nice is that? That you can make a profit with becoming more sustainable. Edwin notices that the market is becoming more and more attuned to this subject. More and more customers are saying that they want to be CO2 positive by 2030. These customers then also want to know, for example, what the emissions are of the sleeve of a plant, the cultivation pot, the label, and how much recycled material the product consists of. To keep up, you have to go along with this transition as a business owner. It is a great development for companies that results in a healthy drive.

Being prepared for the carbon tax

“If that carbon tax is coming, what are we actually talking about?”, Edwin wonders. Partly because of that, he wanted to know what the current state of VDE’s carbon footprint is. VDE recently discussed their 2020 footprint internally. They are going to use the year 2022 to see how they are going to further improve sustainability, by drawing up a sustainability plan. After first seeing where reductions can be made, they will also look at how the remaining emissions can be compensated via Bamboo Village Uganda. But will the government approve this way or will the carbon tax still be imposed? Edwin likes to be informed about this by Henri Potze, owner of Greenhouse Marketeers.

Open the gate to ideas and initiatives

Edwin van der Eijk

Employee engagement

The management of VDE Plant as well as the market are busy with sustainability and carbon tax. Are the company’s employees also well aware of this? First of all, Edwin indicates that VDE tries to keep their homework in order on as many fronts as possible. There is an information evening four times a year where all employees are welcome. Subjects like sales, finances, the health of the company and more are being discussed. Edwin tries to challenge the employees to come up with ideas or certain input. In addition to these four evenings a year, there is always room for input from employees. It is, after all, their workplace.

The new normal

Edwin has put sustainability at the top. In many areas he is working on this topic. The advice Edwin wants to give his colleagues in the floriculture sector is: “Just do it and don’t make it too complicated.” Sustainable production will become the new normal. VDE has been working towards this for some time. It is no longer something you can just do on the side, it is tomorrow’s norm.

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