From sorting waste to cutting back on printing

Sustainability @ Vlerick

Vlerick sets great store by sustainability. We’ve been doing it for years, on all our campuses. The quiet, pragmatic force behind our sustainability policy is our operations manager Steven Clemminck. He highlights the three pillars of our sustainability policy: interventions with a major impact, focus on health and an integrated approach.

“We’ve been working on sustainability for years, through good and challenging economic cycles, even before it really became a ‘hot’ topic,” says Steven. “In 2002-2003, we renovated the historic Groot Seminarie so we could accommodate our Ghent campus there. The renovation of a building from the early 20th century was a massive ecological challenge, but you are making a huge upgrade.”

Renovations are currently underway on the Brussels campus. “Here, too, we are focusing on an energy-efficient and environmentally friendly building: men's toilets with sensors, LED lighting almost everywhere and a green roof. We will also review the air conditioning during the future expansion on the Brussels campus.”

1. Interventions with a major impact

With three campuses and a wide range of student facilities, energy consumption is already a challenge for our School. “In addition to our permanent staff, we have an ever-changing audience of 7,000 students and participants each year. This makes it hard to educate people about sustainability,” Steven acknowledges. “This is why we focus less on individual discipline, but rather on interventions with a major impact.”

And this impact certainly exists. Over the past few years, here at Vlerick we have produced some highly impressive results* and are rightly proud of them. Steven: “Sustainability is sometimes a question of one far-reaching decision, such as a heat pump or a new boiler, but equally often it involves a series of small, consistent interventions and sustained efforts.”

3 reasons to be proud
40% less electricity

Electricity consumption Ghent

Electricity consumption Leuven 

How did we accomplish this? Among other things, by:

  • insulating the roof on the Ghent campus
  • installing LED lighting
  • modifying the cooling of the server room
  • providing light sensors.

In 2019, the Ghent campus will be equipped with a high efficiency boiler, a new cooling unit and a heat pump.

20% less water on average

Water consumption Ghent

Water consumption Leuven 

How did we accomplish this? Among other things, by:

  • reprogramming the toilet flush system
  • optimising the cistern
  • cleaning with bio-org (see below)
70% less paper usage

Consumption of paper

How did we accomplish this? Among other things, by:

  • providing teaching materials online
  • setting double-sided printing as the default option wherever possible.

2. Focus on health

A business school like Vlerick is primarily a people business. The common thread that runs through many sustainable decisions on our campuses is therefore health.

Healthy cleaning

These days, our Ghent campus is cleaned using micro-organisms, without water or chemical agents (bio-org). The micro-organisms, which ‘eat’ the visible and invisible dirt, are dispersed in the rooms via atomisation and air conditioning. Stubborn dirt is removed with a fibre cloth or mop. “At the beginning of this year, when we opted for this cleaning method in collaboration with Sodexo, some of the employees frowned at the thought,” says Steven. “And that’s quite understandable. But now, everyone can see that the place is clean and has a pleasant smell. This cleaning method ensures a healthier working climate: allergens and germs are removed from the environment.”

Mindful eating

Sustainability - foodWe are also living up to our pioneering reputation in the field of catering, once again in cooperation with Sodexo. Steven: “All the coffee and tea is fair trade. The food that we serve in the cafeteria and at events is as seasonal as possible. Sodexo's Mindful module allows you to choose a healthy sandwich and get more information about its nutritional value. We welcome Sodexo's ambition to halve its food waste by the end of 2020.”

Flexible mobility

Vlerick employees have been able to convert part of their salary into more tax-friendly matters since last year. Among other things, this means that you are entirely free to choose how you want to travel. “Depending on your daily mobility needs, you can combine public transport, bicycle and car. Want to come by bike today and by train tomorrow? No problem. If you need a car, you can opt for the Cambio car-sharing system or your own car and can submit your parking ticket as an expense. Since the introduction of flexible mobility, the number of employees submitting parking tickets as an expense has fallen by more than half.”

3. Integrated approach

Combining different aspects of sustainability

At first glance, some sustainability-related decisions or measures seem entirely logical.

Sustainability - plastic bottlesTake our water bottles, for example: why not simply replace the PET bottles with glass bottles? Isn't that more environmentally friendly? “It's not actually that simple,” Steven nuances. “PET bottles end up in a good ‘recycling’ loop, while glass bottles need to be cleaned and are heavier to deliver. The heavier carts make the floor wear out faster. Given the differences in level on our campuses, we are currently examining the options for providing decentralised filling points. We are also thinking of bottling filtered natural and sparkling water ourselves. As a result, we will focus not only on less plastic/waste, but also on drastically reducing the transport required for the water. We’re working on it!” 

“We also want to reduce the number of disposable cups for coffee and soup. The cups are already biodegradable, but all too often they end up in the mixed waste. Although we still have a few operational issues, we are convinced that this waste stream can also be reduced.”

Decision

Sustainability initiatives often involve a balance between ambition and feasibility. Steven: “We are ambitious and have a clear green vision. But we don’t want to take shortcuts: solutions have to remain operationally feasible. This also plays a very important role in our cooperation with external partners. If we want them to be part of our story, it comes down to clearly communicating our vision and coordinating with them.”

Did you know that

  • sorted waste bins cost about 70,000 euros and only last for a maximum of 10 years? 
  • sorted waste collection costs +/- 27,000 euros per year?
  • we renew approximately 15,000 euros worth of electrical equipment each year?
  • the number of employees choosing public transport has risen by 32% over the past year?  

* We don't have that many figures available for the Brussels campus because we rent the building. However, we do intend to start measurements there as well. The building is currently being renovated, which means that we are taking a major step forward in terms of ecology.

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