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Building in a green DNA: The Proximus sustainability story

Understanding sustainability and incorporating it at the core of business decisions is something that leaders at the Belgium-based company are taking quite seriously. In this story they share their aims and aspirations, along with what they’re doing to align business interest with that of the planet.

“Every small step can make a difference,” says Catherine Bals of Proximus.

This seemingly simple statement conveys the value that telecom and digital services company, Proximus, holds dearly when it comes to making the world a better place for the future generations. The Belgium-based company, at its core, is bringing about a transformation into everything that they do to turn themselves into a truly circular company.

Catherine, who is the Reputation & Sustainability Department Lead at Proximus, believes that even as individuals, in every decision, one should bear in mind the impact that they have on people, society, and the planet.

For her, sustainability reflects strongly in what she does professionally as well.

Karl Cuveele, the Group Procurement Department Lead at Proximus, is well aligned with Catherine and believes that sustainability directly connects with the long-term preservation of our planet and of our well-being.

Much like Karl, Catherine also believes that sustainability needs to be taken seriously, and it’s the key to create a better world.

“It’s really a key issue. And, now a days, it is really a value creator for the business.”- Karl Cuveele Tweet

“If we want to make sure that they have the same, or even a better life than ours currently, we really need to preserve what we leave for our future generations,” she says.

Karl strongly believes that over the last years, being sustainable has evolved from a nice to have to a must have.

“It’s really a key issue. And, now a days, it is really a value creator for the business,” he says, while adding: “Another important element is that our stakeholders, including our suppliers and our customers also have a responsibility to take sustainability seriously and work on it.”

At the core of Proximus, the company is breathing life into this idea by ensuring that sustainability gets deeply ingrained into every decision they make. The organization has done this by giving the approach place in its core strategy as a company – the company has four that it focuses on under its Inspire 2022 vision statement

Guillaume Boutin, Chief Executive Officer of Proximus says that a change the company has made in the past years is to embed green in every business decision.

“In the past we had to meet regulatory framework, we had to build nice business cases. But now we also have to make sure that every decision we take is a green decision that is contributing to build a green planet,” says Guillaume, while also expressing that this is a challenge not only for Proximus, but the entire tech industry.

This understanding of the challenge the world faces has encouraged Proximus to look into their extended ecosystem as well.

The executives at Proximus believe that expanding the network of sustainability with its third-party suppliers is critical for them to move forward in their journey.

“Suppliers are very important because, for telcos, next to implementing 100% renewable energy strategy, what we buy, and put into the market is really what’s going to impact our reduction in terms of CO2 footprint,” says Bals.

“Do not over engineer. Just throw yourself into the process. Make sure you set ambitions, and take it step by step along that journey.” - Catherine Bals

Karl says that this has made it imperative that the suppliers also become a part of a circular model.

“And that’s why we need to build circular ecosystems, and circular business models in order to achieve our sustainable goals,” he says.

Catherine adds that this shift towards a truly circular company can only be ensured when things are designed and produced differently, while also extending the lifecycle of what is put into the market, and also recycled at the end.

The result of this thought is a Circular Manifesto under which the organization is bringing in its supplier ecosystem under the realm of sustainability as well by combining 3 Rs - Reduce, Reuse & Recycle - with an aim to improve its CO₂ footprint even further down the supply chain.

“We really need to go into supplier engagement programs and get activations with our suppliers,” believes Karl.

Infosys, which is a partner for Proximus, turned carbon-neutral in 2020 and is a part of this association.

“Proximus and Infosys enjoy a deep partnership,” says Anand Swaminathan, who heads the Communications, Media and Telecom practice at Infosys, while adding that the partnership fits very well on their journey to build a sustainable future.

With the learnings in place, and as the company moves forward on its sustainability journey, they suggest that others looking at moving into this journey should start on the journey.

“Do not over engineer. Just throw yourself into the process. Make sure you set ambitions and take it step by step along that journey,” shares Catherine.

“It will first come from your employees, and that’s why also adopting the culture of the company that green is as important as other cultural behavior, or cultural values, is so important.” - Guillaume Boutin Tweet

Adding to that, Guillaume suggests that organizations should get rid of the thought that it is a one-company issue, and any one company can solve it alone.

“We need to build ecosystems of companies, of partners, in order to have a real impact on sustainability,” he says, while suggesting: “Create innovative partnerships, innovative ecosystems to create a society with less CO2 impact.”

Karl advices that companies should start small but be convincing - “Be inclusive, be persistent, and this from top to bottom and from bottom to top,” he says.

And finally comes the culture of any organization, says Guillaume.

“It will first come from your employees, and that’s why also adopting the culture of the company that green is as important as other cultural behavior, or cultural values, is so important,” he says. He believes that adding this approach is being well received by the employees because they see the purpose of it: “And, I think, if you want to be a strong brand for the years to come, you really need to walk the talk of green.”

“That’s what we’re trying to achieve, quite modestly, to add a green DNA to the Proximus culture,” he says.

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