Pioneer in sustainability

22 June 2021

Since 2017, DNS Belgium has been strategically involved in corporate social responsibility and corporate sustainability. The collaboration with VOKA Vlaams-Brabant has proven to be both inspiring and instructive. VOKA and DNS Belgium look back over the past four years and take a look into the future.

Bie Gielen is Corporate Sustainability consultant at VOKA Vlaams-Brabant. In this capacity she coordinates the Voka Sustainable Business Charter (or VCDO) in the province. ‘We take companies through the support programme. It starts with a check to see if they are in order with basic legal requirements. And we make a scan of how they are doing and in which areas they can still grow in light of the 17 UN SDGs.’

SDG Champion

DNS Belgium had such a scan back in 2016, making it one of the trailblazers in the region. ‘DNS Belgium was one of the first nine participants. They were among the first group of SDG Pioneers and will also be among the first to become SDG Champion,' says Gielen. SDG Pioneer is not an absolute assessment of your level but rather a reward for your efforts. Anyone who has successfully participated in the Voka Sustainable Business Charter for three years and has made an effort for each SDG becomes an SDG Pioneer.

‘But to become an SDG Champion, something really substantial has to change in the way an organisation operates. They must at least initiate a pilot project or engagement on transition. This really challenges them to set an example within the sector and actively seek an additional social added value', adds Gielen. ‘Becoming an SDG Champion is therefore really not that obvious. It is an international recognition that is only reserved for the more ambitious organisations.’

'To become an SDG Champion, something really substantial has to change in the way an organisation operates.'

‘DNS Belgium is a real pioneer and trailblazer because corporate sustainability is in their DNA. They want to be an ambassador and play an engaged pioneering role. They do this, for example, by spreading the message to CENTR and showing them how they can do better as a registry . This is about their carbon footprint, but also, for example, by encouraging all countries to come on board by holding more digital meetings, sharing good practices, etc.

Employees are the driving force

In 2021, the focus will be more on the wellbeing of DNS Belgium's employees. ‘We can see that working from home has many advantages, but the disadvantages are also becoming apparent. For example, we have now put together a work group of volunteers from all departments to reflect on how we are going to organise the work post-corona', says Arnaud Recko, sustainability coordinator at DNS Belgium. ‘We are giving them the mandate to draw up a new home working policy because we believe very strongly in employee participation and we prefer decisions to be made by the people who will be directly affected by them.

That is also why DNS Belgium is closely involving employees in the development of its sustainability strategy. ‘Employees are given the opportunity to take responsibility for their own wellbeing. They are also the driving force behind our corporate social responsibility’, says Recko.

Achieve maximum impact

As a trailblazer, do you not run the risk that at a certain moment there won't be much left to do, because you have completed all the high-impact actions? Gielen doesn't think it will happen that quickly. ‘As long as society evolves, DNS Belgium will be able to evolve as well and continue to take initiatives to tackle social challenges.’ This is also confirmed by Recko: ‘When we founded Digital For Youth in 2019, we could never have known that we'd be able to launch such a huge campaign the following year.

'You have to be ready and willing to seize opportunities'

‘But of course you also have to be ready and willing to seize those opportunities. We could also have just focused on our standard operation and distributed a few hundred laptops each year. But the demand for help from society was so strong that we seized it with both hands. Because of Corona we had a big impact for the small organisation that we are.

‘It's also very inspiring, because with this campaign, as a service company, they were able to link environment to circular economy and social objectives. It is easier to make that combination as a production company,’ Gielen adds.

According to Recko, it is also easier to take new initiatives, because you are becoming more mature in your thinking about impact and actions. ‘You reflect on how you can make the biggest impact within your core business with limited resources,’ he says. ‘The Voka Sustainable Business Charter forces you to make your sustainability principles as global as possible. But you also see where you have made the biggest impact and you can focus on that.’

Sounding board and source of inspiration

Despite its wealth of experience, VOKA can still play an important role in the further development of DNS Belgium as a sustainable business. ‘We let them plan ahead and then challenge their plans: are they ambitious and realistic, would you not work with this or that partner...' says Gielen. ‘By making connections with other companies, by looking at others' best practices, we can provide useful advice. At the same time, we are a sounding board that comes up with ideas and asks about objectives and impact, so that they can aim their sights even more efficiently.

‘The years of interaction with VOKA have really helped us to reflect more deeply about our sustainability strategy. Thanks to them, we have become more mature in our thinking about sustainability,' Recko concludes. ‘VOKA has always been a source of inspiration and a challenger. We look forward to continuing to work with them as ambassadors for the Voka Sustainable Business Charter in our region and to achieving the objectives set for the Voka Sustainable Business Charter 2030.’

With this article, we support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.