Sustainability not only benefits the environment...

A column by Alex Kloosterboer, COO at Kloosterboer

Sustainability isn’t just a chapter in our sales pitch. It really is key to Kloosterboer’s operations. By making our company as environmentally friendly as possible, we not only contribute to a cleaner port and a greener world; sustainability actually adds value to our business.

Four to five years ago, sustainability was not very high on Kloosterboer’s agenda. It wasn’t until we considered the input of several new employees that we realised that we could do more as a company. Now we are dedicated to sustainability. As long as there is some return, we are willing to invest in more sustainable solutions. Even if that return can’t be expressed in direct financial benefits.

For example, we built the extension to the Kloosterboer Delta Terminal in Rotterdam as energy-efficiently and sustainably as possible. It subsequently obtained a ‘very good’ BREEAM certificate, making Kloosterboer the very first cold store in the Netherlands to have such a rating. Furthermore, we have recently invested in 1800 solar panels for the terminal roof and at our site in Vlissingen we run a 4 kW wind turbine. Those solar panels produce around 6 per cent of our total energy consumption at the Delta terminal. That might not sound much, but our energy bill adds up to several million euros a year. You do the maths.

Also in transport we try to do our share. We aim to transport as many of our containers by barge and we minimise the shipment of empty containers. Instead of returning containers that were used to drop off cargo at our cold stores to a depot, we re-use them to send our products to the end user. These steps not only make our business more environmentally friendly, they also improve our cost-efficiency.

But even if there are no direct financial benefits, we are willing to explore new options. Sustainability adds value to our business in other ways than money. It not only motivates our employees and gives us a good feeling, it is also an extra selling point towards our customers and their customers. The consumer is increasingly looking for a sustainable product. Multinationals are adapting their operations accordingly and are demanding that the rest of the supply chain follows their lead. However, I believe that it’s better to be ahead.

The sustainable way might not always be the easiest, but it pays off in the end. If Kloosterboer can do it, you can do it too. You can start with some simple steps. For example, when building new warehouses or business locations, I would recommend keeping open the option for solar panels, even if you don’t intend to place solar panels on the roof at that moment. The extra costs of the necessary adjustments to the construction are minimal and it gives you the opportunity to add solar panels in the future or to rent out roof space to companies specialised in solar energy.

The port of Rotterdam is an incredibly beautiful port. We should do everything in our power to keep it clean and green. I think that we should all ask ourselves the question: ‘Can I justify that the way we operate is as sustainable as can be?’ By doing so, we are on our way to making the port of Rotterdam the most sustainable port in the world, and that adds more value to our companies as well. 

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