The importance of sustainability for DNS Belgium
DNS Belgium has been investing in sustainability for years. We do this because we believe that a more digitised world is capable of using the scarce resources in the world more efficiently than a non-digitised society.
To back up that statement, DNS Belgium is playing a pioneering role in the field of sustainability. We want to be an inspiring example for other organisations that wish to embed sustainability strategically and give something back to society. It is DNS Belgium's ambition, over the next few years, to make the entire chain of suppliers and distribution partners more sustainable, thereby making a real positive impact. Contrary to what many people expect, investing in sustainability does not have to entail high costs. In recent years, we have noticed that many investments in sustainability have a very short payback period.
The greatest impact we have had in recent years was with the creation of the non-profit organisation DigitalForYouth.be in collaboration with Close the Gap vzw. With this project, we have succeeded in collecting more than 20,000 laptops and restoring them to their original state in order to distribute them via organisations working with or for young people, to young people in Belgium who do not have the means to buy a laptop at home.
DNS Belgium has also managed to reduce its carbon footprint by some 58% percent compared to the baseline measurement in 2016. CO2 emissions that we are unable to reduce, we offset through projects at home and abroad, such as the Plant een bos project. From 2023, all our company vehicles will be 100 per cent electric. This will reduce our carbon footprint even further.
Meanwhile, sustainability has become an integral part of our strategic choices and our sustainability policy influences daily decisions.
Philip Du Bois, General Manager DNS Belgium
Our achievements in 2021
VCDO 2021 and SDG Champion
As in the past 5 years, we also submitted an action plan for the VOKA Charter for Sustainable Entrepreneurship in 2021. With the exception of one action, we succeeded in achieving all our objectives.
2021 was also the year that we applied to become SDG Champion. We want to make a substantial contribution to the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals within our own core business. We can really reduce the digital divide among young people in Belgium. To that end, we chose a project on social and societal transition: Digital For Youth. It is a project that we started before participating in the VCDO and with which we made a huge impact last year for young people who were stuck at home without a laptop during the lockdown. We continued to support the non-profit organisation through DNS Belgium in 2021 financially (with a donation of €325,000) and administratively. We make our staff members and their expertise and our office facilities available to the non-profit organisation.
We managed to organise three project calls in 2021 by working together with the King Baldwin Foundation. This way, we supported organisations that work to close the digital gap for young people. After the floods in the summer of 2021, we were able to support the administrations of the most affected municipalities in the Vesdre valley with 1,040 laptops. In total, we distributed 3,852 laptops through Digital For Youth. The Digital For Youth report is available here.
Thirty-five people were working for DNS Belgium at the end of 2021 (Joint Committee 335): 21.4 on a full-time basis (19.1 men and 2.3 women). Of our 13.3 part-time employees, 6.4 were men and 6.9 women. In total, we employed 32 FTEs, of whom 24.4 were men and 7.6 women. There were 4 consultants employed in 2021, 2 men and 2 women. In 2021, 2 people left the company and we were joined by 2 new colleagues.
DNS Belgium wants to be an inspiring place to work in a sustainable way. We stimulate further continuous feedback, direct communication, personal growth and training. In 2021, we fine-tuned the competency profiles for all our staff. A competency profile can help to stimulate talent, development and feedback and thus contribute to a sustainable and inspiring workplace. We have developed the following competency profiles:
- Competency profile for everyone
- Competency profile for team leads
- Competency profile for expert in team
- Competency profile for unique expert
We experimented with hybrid work and meeting formats in 2021. We set up a working group to guide this process. They thought about the (obligatory) work from home during and after coronavirus crisis, ergonomics, working arrangements, etc.
To stay up to date, we encourage our employees to take training courses. Every employee is entitled to a personal training plan with corresponding training days and budget. In 2021, 35 people attended one or more training courses. In total, 20 different training courses were taken, representing 509 training hours.
We organised three workshop sessions on giving feedback. These took place online because of the coronavirus pandemic. We then held individual training sessions and although the workshops were optional, 20 of the 35 employees participated. We also organised a workshop on mental resilience.
Well-being at work
The mental well-being of our employees is important to us. In addition to the annual Hay survey, we conducted an extra survey on the mental well-being of our employees. To connect colleagues while working from home, we organised small bonding, relaxing and surprising activities for our employees at least once a month.
DNS Belgium has had two confidential counsellors, one male and one female, for a number of years now. Colleagues can approach them for problems relating to psychosocial risks at work (including bullying, stress, sexual harassment) or for a simple chat. They can initiate dialogue in case of conflicts between employees or between an employee and a manager. They can always count on the support of the external confidential counsellor (IDEWE).
Every employee has the right to use Pulso's services. Pulso offers an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) which provides an accessible channel for employees to get advice or guidance quickly and discretely on all kinds of personal questions or difficulties that can affect their personal well-being and functioning in the company.
Gender equality was also on the agenda. We organised a gender-neutral writing workshop for our communication service and product managers and a workshop on the importance of diversity and gender. We published an article on women who were important for the development of IT and who are important in ICT today.
Leader in security
Security of our domain names
The security of our domain name zones is one of our three main strategic objectives. The measures we introduced in previous years have consequently been retained:
- Our support staff manually check the holder data of all newly registered domain names.
- The Notice & Action (N&A) agreement that we concluded with the FPS Economy and the Data Protection Authority means that we revoke domain names on their responsibility. We tried to extend this cooperation protocol to some other government departments in 2021, but unfortunately that did not work out.
- We also continued our R&D efforts in 2021, for instance in cooperation with a PhD student from the KU Leuven for the project "Early prediction of malicious registrations". Some other students also took up one of our research cases for their thesis.
In 2020, we launched registrant verification so as to be proactive and to prevent malicious domain names from becoming active in our zones. In 2021, we refined the rules for registrant verification. We also worked on a portal where registrants could easily upload their identity details.
Our efforts resulted in 6,125 domain names being revoked: 5,245 due to incorrect registration details, 59 fake web shops, 173 domain names due to fraud or phishing and the rest for other reasons. We picked out 2,912 domain names through our manual screening and an additional 2,709 from our own research. The rest were reported to us by our partners.
We want to be transparent about the extra security measures we implement to take rogue domain names offline. That is why we drew up a transparency report in 2021 wherein we indicated the number of domain names we took offline.
We held several audits for our ISO27.001 certification. These were both internal and external audits. The improvement proposals that came out of these were immediately followed up and implemented. We held a cyber security awareness programme with our employees and when we were allowed back in the office, we carried out a disaster recovery exercise in cooperation with an external party.
Privacy and information security by design continued to be one of our main principles in our engineering department. In addition to a number of internal programmes, we are also working on a new Anycast@ISP server for some smaller ISPs.
To enhance security in our domain name zones, we are actively looking for partners to cooperate with. Our role in CENTR is a good case in point internationally. Our Information Security Officer continued to serve as Co-chair of the cybersecurity working group within CENTR in 2021.
Nationally, we are a member of the Cybersecurity Coalition and make a valuable contribution to the coalition from our knowledge and social position, where we are active in several working groups and sub-working groups. We communicate about the cyber security coalition on our website (links). We support the cybersecurity campaign of the CCB and CERT and regularly share cybersecurity-related content from or with them.
Digital inclusion has become one of the key themes for our CSR strategy in recent years. That is why we established Digital For Youth in 2019. We submitted our financial, logistic and human resources support to the organisation and the principle of cooperation between Close the Gap, CTG circular and the King Baldwin Foundation as a case for obtaining the SDG champion certificate. One of the actions was the establishment of the Digital For Youth Fund within the King Baldwin Foundation. We use this fund to finance actions on digital inclusion and young people together with Close the Gap and the KBS.
Promoting digital inclusion and combating digital stress
Our efforts on the digital inclusion front were not limited to support to Digital For Youth. We took an active part in the Digitall e-inclusion ecosystem, signed the Digital Inclusion Charter and communicated on the topic through articles on our website and our social media channels.
In 2021, we contributed to the creation of SOM, Making Education Together, a Leuven ecosystem that promotes digital inclusion. SOM is an initiative of the city of Leuven, the University College Leuven-Limburg (UCLL) and several civil society organisations. We have drawn on the expertise we have built up with Digital For Youth in recent years to help them build a stable organisation.
We renewed our AnySurfer accreditation for our corporate website, including the Claimjeidee section. By complying with WCAG standards, we ensure that our main communication channel is accessible to blind and visually impaired people and those with motor disabilities, among others. As in previous years, we continued to communicate actively in low-threshold language so that our messages can also reach people who are less literate.
The cybersecurity challenge is an annual competition organised for students. The students have to solve cybersecurity-related puzzles in teams, a number of which we set up. We did this because we want to explain the importance of security and the DNS system to students. We also sponsored the organisation of the competition financially.
In 2021, we continued to offer the Ava & Trix teaching package and our episode on how the internet works to primary schools free of charge.
Our employees were also actively involved in education in 2021. We gave lectures on digital sustainability and inclusion at the Antwerp Management School and at the Thomas More University College, and on the inspiration day for e-inclusion and social work and policy. Our lawyer also gave a lesson on domain name law at the KU Leuven. We spoke about sustainable entrepreneurship at the SDG forum and at a VOKA session about digital sustainability.
In 2021, we launched a campaign on safe online shopping aimed at older people. We actively involved researchers on digital ageism as well as representatives of the Flemish Council for the Elderly.
In 2017, we also decided to promote the SDGs actively by including them in all our external communications. We continued to do so in 2021 as well. By communicating about our sustainability efforts, we want to inspire and motivate employees, partners at home and abroad, other registries, etc. to take action themselves and work on a structural and strategic sustainability policy.
DNS Belgium has been climate neutral since 2018. We drew up a CO2 reduction plan in 2017 and we have been systematically implementing it within our organisation ever since. Last year, we reduced our CO2 emissions by renewing our company car policy in which we opted all-out for electric vehicles. Cars with combustion engines were banned. The impact of our decision will become more and more visible in our CO2 emissions in the coming years, as we replace more leased cars with electric ones. Other measures included migrating some applications from our internal office server room to the cloud, thereby reducing power consumption. We have also taken a leading role internationally. We provided our expertise to the CENTR community, including by promoting the CENTR sustainability calculation model. In addition, we supported CENTR's remote participation feature. We hope this will enable more people to attend CENTR meetings online and thus reduce their carbon impact.
We calculated our climate footprint for the year 2021. Here are the results for 2021 in detail and the comparison with previous years:
We offset the CO2 produced by supporting a renewable energy project. In addition, we supported planteenbos.be and communicated about the new forest they have planted thanks to our support. In this way, we contributed to nature conservation and development in Belgium.
Our main sustainability stakeholders are our employees, the members of our association, the government and the registrars . Since 2021, we also count organisations working on digital inclusion and sustainability among our stakeholders.
We set up a CSR committee in 2021. This committee defined the CSR strategy 2025 as the new horizon. The committee is composed of eight volunteers from all departments. We hold a tactical meeting every week to which all employees are invited, where each department discusses the most important topics for the week. There were also nine staff meetings.
In 2021, we organised three registrar forums for consultations with our registrars. We held six meetings of boards on which the members of our association are represented, and we consulted with the various authorities in our country twelve times. We actively participated in various sessions of the Cybersecurity Coalition, including the awareness focus group, cloud security and NIS 2.
On the digital inclusion front, we participated in the monthly meetings of the e-inclusion task force.
In order to achieve all its aims and ambitions while making the greatest possible impact, DNS Belgium is a member of numerous federations and associations: CENTR, ICANN , DNS-OARC, Ripe NCC, Cybersecurity Coalition, APWG, GTLD Registries Stakeholder Group (RySG), Geo gTLD ivzw, Guberna, Agoria, Beltug, VSDC, The Shift, Leuven climate neutral 2030, Unizo, Bike. To work (Fietsersbond), VOKA Chamber of Commerce, the e-inclusion taskforce, Digitall, and Digital For Youth.
About DNS Belgium and this report
This is the annual sustainability report from DNS Belgium. DNS Belgium vzw (non-profit association) is located in the Ubicenter at Philipssite 5/13 inHeverlee, Belgium and manages all .be, .vlaanderen and .brussels domain names.
Our mission is the operational and administrative management of the domain name zones for .be, .vlaanderen and .brussels and we focus on quality and security. We make the internet more accessible by acting as an intermediary for all possible internet players at the national and international level and we encourage the use of the internet through domain names.
DNS Belgium ensures that the .be domain names are constantly available worldwide by guaranteeing that the name servers are permanently accessible. Our general annual report indicates in which countries our domain names are registered. DNS Belgium puts the safety and quality of domain name use and by extension the internet first in all its actions and tries to strengthen consumer confidence in the digital society.
In addition to quality and safety, sustainability is at the heart of what DNS Belgium does. In this annual sustainability report you will read about our new sustainability strategy with a view to 2025, the four pillars on which it is based, and the actions that led to that strategy last year. You can also read what we do to make our reporting transparent and GRI compliant.
For more information on the structure of the organisation, the strategy, the values and the board of directors please go to our corporate website, where you will also find the annual reports of previous years and our strategy for the coming years. The financial report for 2021 also includes the auditors’ report.
Our CSR strategy 2025
GRI Compliant and Correct Reporting
GRI stands for Global Reporting Initiative and is the independent, international organisation that helps companies and organisations assume responsibility for their impact by providing a global common language for communicating that impact.
The GRI standards are the world's most widely used standards for reporting on social, economic and environmental sustainability. They distinguish three standards: universal, sectorial and what are known as topic standards. It goes without saying that DNS Belgium wants to continue to report correctly on its sustainability efforts in the future and therefore to continue to be GRI compliant. We will do everything in our power to make our annual reports and sustainability reports as GRI compliant as possible in the coming years. We have not yet succeeded one hundred percent this year, but we will strive to do so in the years to come.
Communicating about the organisation and strategy
On our website we communicate clearly e.g., about the organisation's activities, size, target audience, stakeholders, organisational structure, supply chain, etc., and changes in these areas. The auditors' reports are available on the website. DNS Belgium communicates regularly about its sustainability efforts and initiatives, in which we clearly state what our impact is, what risks and opportunities are associated with it and how we involve our stakeholders.
We prepare an annual sustainability report on the results achieved in the previous year. This annual report is drawn up by the CSR coordinator. The basis for this is the sustainability strategy, the financial report and the participation and audit report in the VOKA Charter for Sustainable Entrepreneurship and SDG 12 (Responsible consumption and production), target 12.6 (Encourage companies, especially large and transnational companies, to adopt sustainable practices and to integrate sustainability information into their reporting cycle). This report was produced between July and September 2022.
Do you have questions about this Sustainability Report? Please send an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org .