Supporting Van Houtum’s Circular Economy ambitions

Van Houtum BV

According to Van Houtum B.V.’s owner and current Director of Strategy and Innovation Henk van Houtum, the company’s approach basically means reusing all resources, including energy, instead of accepting the notion that waste is inevitable. “The Circular Economy and Cradle to Cradle philosophies both consider all materials used in industrial and commercial processes as ‘Technical’ and ‘Biological’ nutrients,” he explains. “Technical nutrients should have no negative impact on the environment and are to be reused and organic Biological nutrients can be returned to the ecosystem without specific treatment.”

“Our first products were ‘Cradle to Cradle’-certified in 2009, when we saw the added value the ‘Circular’ approach could have for our business and launched our Satino Black range. The products have various certification, including FSC, Carbon Neutral and Cradle to Cradle silver.”

Sustainable business drive towards a Circular Economy

The Circular Economy differs slightly from the Cradle to Cradle approach, as it takes economic value creation as its starting point, with improvement of ecological aspects as a derivative. “What really appeals to us is the positive agenda of Cradle to Cradle, because in embracing this approach, we provide a positive contribution to all stakeholders. This philosophy ensures raw materials can be reused in each new round of production and creates positive value for society. Of course, when looking at this from a Corporate Social Responsibility viewpoint, there’s more to be taken into account than materials alone. We try to make sure that the people who work here are happy and we invest in workplace safety. In fact, we’ve received several awards for our working conditions.”

“We were working on measuring Corporate Social Responsibility levels when we contacted Philips Innovation Services Environment and Safety, who have a high level of environmental awareness and a good track record. Their team started the Sustainability Scan followed by Life Cycle Assessments, and was attentive to our needs throughout the process.”

“We’re one of the first companies to work according to the ISO 26000 norm. However, getting to grips with this is fairly complex. The Philips Innovation Services Environment and Safety Sustainability Scan approach is much easier to work with and the outcome is very easy to read. Key themes and organizational issues are clearly defined, and values and priority levels are assigned to these. The extensive scan provided us with some useful insights. For example, we learned there are some interesting improvement possibilities for us, in areas such as sustainable purchasing, stakeholder management and consumer affairs.”

The end of ‘take make dispose’

“Looking ahead, we have innovation roadmaps for washroom products as well as processes. Our focus for the coming years is becoming fully carbon neutral. For example by introducing new materials or using only sustainable energy.”

“To roll out the Circular Economy concept successfully more widely, company leaders have to be fully convinced these ways of working add value. I think that it is vital to show the business community that companies that work according to these ideas are genuinely successful as a result of their choices.”

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