We endorse the agenda of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which provides a framework of 17 goals to which businesses, governments and citizens can contribute. In addition, we are taking actions today to prepare for the European Green Deal and the shift to a more circular economy. Based on our business operations and the achievements of the companies in our Group, we will continue to prove, year after year, that we take this commitment seriously.
Our commitments are a direct result of good management and of our purpose but are also formulated in response to a number of trends and risks, including (non-exhaustive list):
- Climate change and resource scarcity
- The European Green Deal
- CO2 taxation is no longer a distant prospect
- Sustainability reporting regulations
- Corporate Social Responsibility Directive starting in 2023
- Circular materials and construction methods
- Industrialisation in the construction sector
- The changing demands of our customers
- Changing expectations of stakeholders (including banks) and current and future employees
- Stricter tenders in which sustainability aspects and a TCO approach are playing an ever more prominent role.
- Changing demographics and urbanisation
Willemen Groep aims to be the preferred partner – a partner that realises future-oriented infrastructure works, projects and buildings in an efficient and climate-conscious manner with consideration for people and society. We have designed our policy
around these three focus points:
The SDGs in a nutshell
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a global sustainable development agenda to which citizens, businesses and governments can jointly contribute. They are a global compass for taking on challenges such as poverty, education and the climate crisis. These goals revolve around the whole of society.
The SDGs were drafted by the United Nations in 2015. The agenda points should be achieved by 2030. The SDGs consist of 17 goals and 169 underlying targets for the purpose of operationalising these goals. It is up to Member States to ensure their translation into national policies.
Willemen Groep can have a positive impact on several of these 17 SDGs, and our aim is to strengthen this positive impact to the maximum. For other SDGs, we must focus on reducing our negative impact.
Our priority SDGs, which we started working on in 2021 within the context of the SDG Champion programme, are:
- 6. Clean water and sanitation
- 7. Affordable and sustainable energy
- 8. Decent work and economic growth
- 9. Industry, innovation and infrastructure
- 11. Sustainable cities and communities
- 12. Responsible consumption and production
- 13. Climate action
- 15. Life on land
From SDG Pioneer to SDG Champion
Our board has undertaken to continuously improve its environmental care programme in accordance with ISO 14001, the CO2 Performance Ladder, and the VOKA Sustainable Entrepreneurship Charter. In 2017, our Group was one of the first Belgian companies to sign the United Nations SGD charter. Three years later, in 2020, we obtained the UNITAR ‘SDG Pioneer’ certificate. This is a distinction we’re very proud of, but our ambitions stretch much further. That’s why we started the SDG Champion track in 2021. This goes one step further than SDG Pioneer.
Construction project clients are making increasingly more demands in terms of sustainability – and rightly so. Identifying the carbon footprint is one of them. As one of the largest family construction groups in Belgium, we consider it our duty to contribute to a sustainable world. That’s why we calculate our carbon footprint on an annual basis, so we can set objectives that are in line with the European Green Deal.
CO2 Performance Ladder
The CO2 Performance Ladder is a CO2 management system that encourages businesses and public authorities to reduce their CO2 in a structural way, in their operations and in their projects and in their supply chains. In the Netherlands, the CO2 Performance Ladder, which consists of five levels, is used as a CO2 management system and as a procurement tool. Companies ranked up to and including Level 3 work on the CO2 emissions of their own organisation (and all their projects). To be ranked Level 4 or 5, a company must also take action in relation to the CO2 emissions in its supply chain and sector.
On 15 April 2021, Franki Construct successfully completed the recertification process for Level 4 on the CO2 Performance Ladder. Willemen Infra was the first company to fully complete the Level 3 certification process together with the Belgian certification body COPRO. At the beginning of 2021, this resulted in it being awarded the very first CO2 Conscious certificate in Belgium in accordance with the CO2 Performance Ladder 3.1 Handbook. Willemen Infra then started its Level 4 certification process at the end of 2021 and was able to obtain the CO2 Conscious certificate for Level 4 on the CO2 Performance Ladder at the start of 2022. That makes Willemen Infra the first Belgian road construction company with a certificate at that level.
Our fleet comprises a total of 1,413 vehicles. We have developed a strategy and plans to ensure our fleet becomes more fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly. Electric pool cars, an extensive network of charging stations, and our annual participation in Mobility Week are just a few examples.
“Waste is material in the hands of the wrong person.” Our supply of natural resources is finite, and material supply chains are still currently under huge pressure. Waste also has a particularly major impact on the environment. We apply a waste prevention policy in line with the principles of Lansink’s Ladder, alongside sustainable management and efficient (re)use of natural resources. That way, we are helping facilitate the transition towards a circular economy.
We donate obsolete IT material to Out of Use, which in turn donates part of the value to Natuurpunt for the annual national tree planting campaign in the context of ‘Bos voor Iedereen’ (Forest for Everyone). Two needs with one deed: because this way, we not only ensure that our old IT material is reused or recycled, but we also make an important contribution to a cleaner environment.
We are taking up our responsibility in improving groundwater levels in Belgium. We are doing so through initiatives on dewatering, as well as through innovative product developments that reduce the negative impact of surfacing on groundwater. Drainphalt® is one such example. This development by Willemen Infra and product of our innovation contest is an open asphalt surface that allows rainwater to drain directly into the soil or temporarily buffers it inside the asphalt surface. The rapid drainage of rainwater renders sewer systems, water trenches, discharge grids, buffer basins, and ditches redundant. In other words, Drainphalt® allows for significant space savings on location and provides a concrete solution to persistently falling groundwater levels.
But we also want to make a difference outside the company walls. That’s why we support ‘Join for Water’. Thanks to this NGO, tens of thousands of people gain access to sustainable solutions for drinking water, sanitation and hygiene, or water for agriculture every year. We provided very concrete support for a project in Ituri (East Congo) through Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs (OVO).
COOPERATION AND KNOWLEDGE-SHARING
Together, we achieve more. We are involved in various of sector-wide initiatives, and we are strongly committed to knowledge-sharing. Together with a large number of other companies, we are taking part in the VOKA Charter Sustainable Entrepreneurship, a multi-year journey on which companies learn from one another and from specialists how they can make their business operations more sustainable. We are also members of WaterstofNet, The Shift, BACA, Flux50 and VIL.