The implementation of sustainable business operations isn’t always easy. With Impact Nation, Menno van Leeuwen sees both opportunity and urgency to link companies to innovative startups and accelerate sustainable ambitions. Not with grand plans, but by tackling one challenge at a time. 5 questions about this approach and why he has a soft spot for Leafcloud.
A bank that’s accelerating the sustainability transition. What urgency do you see?
“About three years ago, we set ourselves the goal to be the number one partner for our customers in accelerating sustainable business operations. At ABN AMRO, many of our clients struggle with this issue; that’s why we started to think ‘beyond banking.’ We see businesses unable to fall behind on this topic because it jeopardizes their very existence. Companies, though, are often unsure where and how to start. They don’t have the network, get stuck in thinking big, or know too little about subsidies, for example. We help to create a healthy business model for this. Because we’re already at the table as a financier, we’re also an interesting sparring partner on these types of issues.”
The bank that proposes practical sustainability solutions?
“We’ve taken responsibility and started looking at how we can accelerate the transition. As a bank, we can’t do this alone, of course. That’s why, together with our partners, we’ve started a collective of various (inter)national start-ups and scale-ups, such as Leafcloud, which offer concrete sustainable solutions. With Impact Nation, we underline that no company can or needs to solve its sustainability issues all by itself. We strive to map out the company-related problems surrounding sustainability, look for solutions worldwide, and tackle one practical implementation together with hands-on guidance.”
Why start with one practical solution? Does that really help?
“We see that medium-sized companies in particular struggle with this issue. They often don’t have an extensive sustainability program. That’s why it’s good to tackle one project in a short cycle. This way, we can quickly demonstrate that investing in sustainability pays off. Moreover, it’s very lean to solve something in 100 days. That fits perfectly with the way start-ups work. Think of it as a first spark. If it leads to a positive result, it will inspire you to continue. Then you enter a completely different flow, rather than making endless long-term plans.”
“Green cloud is a typical example of something that many people are still unaware of or don’t yet see the urgency.”Menno van Leeuwen
How does Leafcloud fit with this?
“It’s a good example of how easy it is to make a difference by switching to a green, local cloud provider. It can definitely be a first step in making the business process more sustainable. On top of that, while it can have a big impact, it’s a typical example of something that many people are still unaware of or don’t yet see the urgency. Due to the pandemic, data usage is increasing rapidly, but that the cloud also has an energy impact is less well known. Thankfully, the media are increasingly fueling social awareness on this topic. Last year, with Impact Nation, we took up the challenge from a company that sees opportunities in measuring data usage as energy consumption and CO2 impact. This year, this has become a recurring theme in the conversations we have had with various data center operators and cloud users. Fortunately, we encounter a lot of innovation when scouting for sustainable solutions. Leafcloud, then, is simply an excellent alternative. I think the fact that the servers’ heat is reused for heating water is a smart asset. Then as a company, you will benefit directly from it.”
Is starting small, scaling up, and thus step-by-step becoming more sustainable a nice comparison?
“Absolutely. It’s also much more fun to work on. Starting small and scaling up quickly is a domino effect that we also want to achieve with Impact Nation. Entrepreneurs must take responsibility for the climate, but they can’t all go at the same pace. That’s why they have to become future-proof step by step. Nowadays, this is often imposed by regulations, but in our opinion, sustainability is also a ‘future-proof business.’ With Impact Nation, we bring the fragmented pieces together and ensure meaningful connections. Only then will we be able to ensure that companies make their business operations more sustainable based on intrinsic motivation.”
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