ESG Manifesto: VanWonen aims to keep raising the bar

Publication, Healthiest Generations

VanWonen is the first area developer in the Netherlands to launch an ESG Manifesto. This manifesto – presented at Provada – is VanWonen’s response to the spatial and climate challenges of today: building homes in climate-proof environments, says CEO Alfred Bolks. “The manifesto gives substance to our ambition. And no, we can’t afford to rest on our laurels. On the contrary, I believe we should raise the bar a little higher each year.”

Creating homes and living environments for the healthiest generations: that is the VanWonen mission. The area and property developer, headquartered in Zwolle, strives for an inclusive and future-proof society, with neighbourhoods where everyone feels at home. In the words of Bolks: well-being for the earth, well-being for people and value-driven entrepreneurship. “As a socially engaged developer, I believe we must take our responsibility. Together with our stakeholders, we want to create economic, ecological, and social value with our projects.”

Bolks’ colleague Marcel de Ruiter nods in agreement: “We want to be a frontrunner when it comes to ESG. Simply complying with the laws and regulations isn’t enough anymore. There are a lot of new laws and regulations on the horizon, but we want to anticipate them well in advance. And do more than is required. Not because we have to, but because we are genuinely motivated to do the right thing. That doesn’t mean we are the best, far from it. We aim to inspire and challenge other parties, just as we seek inspiration and challenge from others. We are open to feedback from anyone on this manifesto. In fact, we encourage it. We are in this together.”

De Ruiter – who started at VanWonen as a property developer – is Manager of ESG, Sustainability & Innovation. In this capacity, he is responsible for all aspects of ESG within VanWonen: from setting the corporate policy and ambitions to defining, driving, and measuring. He considers it a wonderful role. Sometimes he feels like a missionary, he says with a smile. “Because of that intrinsic motivation, I am constantly engaged in it: with colleagues, with stakeholders, at home, with friends, with the executive management. If people ask me a question about ESG, I try to find out and give an answer as soon as possible. That way we can take steps together.”

The ESG Manifesto builds on the Sustainability Manifesto presented by the area and property developer in 2020. It can be seen as a compass for the choices that VanWonen makes in both its operations and area developments. De Ruiter: “With this new manifesto, we want to show everyone what VanWonen is doing in the area of ESG, how we want to care for our planet. Just putting a solar panel on a roof is not enough. When you buy solar panels, you want to know what materials they are made of, that no child labour was involved. Sustainability has become an important factor, just like money and time.”

Carbon-neutral by 2030
Bolks adds: “That path towards achieving complete carbon neutrality is very important to me. By 2030, VanWonen wants to be carbon-neutral in its operations, without carbon-offset gas and electricity, and with fully electric mobility. Within the next six years, we strive to achieve near-carbon neutrality in our projects. Ultimately, we want to be fully carbon-neutral by 2040. That is the path we are following, with attention to all aspects of ESG. In addition to sustainability in projects, ESG is also about social impact and good corporate governance. Our corporate culture is built on three important values: customer-oriented entrepreneurship, future-oriented together, and authenticity and integrity. I believe that it’s time to bring these values to life. Not just words, but making it happen.”

As the first developer in the Netherlands, VanWonen has an independent ESG audit carried out annually by Sustainalytics since 2023. The step to request an ESG Score is in line with VanWonen’s strong focus on social and sustainable ambitions, both in its projects and business operations. VanWonen wants to continue to learn, sharpen its ambitions and improve scores annually. The developer is also proactively preparing for the forthcoming laws and regulations regarding EU taxonomy and CSRD.

By building nature-inclusively, VanWonen contributes to more biodiversity in the neighbourhood, says Bolks. Climate change requires changes to the built environment. Heavy rainfall, drought and extreme heat will occur more frequently. Green roofs, green façades and plants and trees in outdoor areas provide water buffering, coolness, insulation against heat and improve the air quality. Also, not insignificantly, more green spaces lead to increased biodiversity and a more beautiful view. Bolks: “We have embraced the 3-30-300 principle.” Our goal is that you should be able to see 3 trees from your living room. We want to create 30% natural shade in our area developments, through trees. And there should be a park or green playground within 300 meters. This is also described in our ESG Manifesto. Not just words, but making it happen.”

This interview previously appeared on Read the entire article here (Dutch only):  

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