Van Oord has made a selection of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) that are most linked with its business: dredging and offshore contracting. What is the result of this selection process, how did they do it and what is the result? We asked Sander Dekker, manager Sustainability at Van Oord:
OET: Which SDGs are most linked to your business and how do you address them?
We selected 7 SDGs that relate the most to our business. Number 7, affordable and clean energy, 8, decent work and economic growth, 9, industry, innovation and infrastructure, 11, sustainable cities and communities, 13, climate action, 14, life below water, and 17 partnerships to achieve the goals. Why them? They are reflecting our main business drivers or our direct business impact which is particularly related with marine life and climate.
OET: How does Van Oord measure its impact on those SDGs?
We found that we were already working on several of those SDGs, they were in line with some of our corporate responsibility themes. We then added extra themes, also to match the remaining relevant SDGs. We set the baseline in 2018, will formulate KPIs for 2019 and start reporting on them in 2020. For instance, when talking about climate action we measure our carbon dioxide footprint, and for measuring affordable and clean energy we measure our turnover in offshore and offshore wind.
OET: What are the main challenges or the main dilemma?
The main dilemma is that we are working globally and each region has its specific needs and difference in focus on SDGs. What is required for Europe is different from Latin America. For example in North western Europe there is a strong focus on renewable energy such as offshore wind, while in the Caribbean there is a focus on coral reef rehabilitation and marine life. As we operate in both areas we can offer our work as an opportunity: for each client we have something they focus on. However, we are not so big that we can do all different things at the same time, so we have to make choices.
OET: Why did you start working on SDGs?
We started with an internal drive to act as a good steward. But of course we are, as a contractor, always trying to serve client needs. In some cases our clients face demands of society, in other cases they have to demonstrate their contribution to institutions such as the World Bank to get financial support. We help them create added value of their projects in terms of contribution to the SDGs. Actually, the SDGs are great to work with as they are the common language for societal added value.
OET: How do you create internal engagement?
By communicating practical examples that bring our sustainability efforts close to the individual worker. For example we are investigating our company cars policy and to what extent the cars can be fully electrical, thereby contributing to SDG 7 and 13.
OET: Do you work industry or cross-sector wise?
Both. I see an increasing amount of contractors, for example other marine contractors and infrastructure contractors, that are serious about the SDGs. An example of our cross-sectoral work is that, together, with an electricity company, we set up a cooperation with an environmental NGO, contributing to SDG 7 and 14.
What makes Van Oord unique in working on the SDGs?
As a family-business we are focused on long-term continuity. This matches with the longer term focus of the SDGs: you don’t work from year to year but you give your corporate responsibility a long term horizon and stability. Furthermore, it may affect your competitive position, depending on the region you operate. In Europe there is a lot of attention for the SDGs, but in some other regions it is less. I expect that within the next five years all marine contractors will have SDGs as part of their policy. However, to what extent can you presently implement SDGs without losing your competitive position in marine contracting business? A question we will discuss during the upcoming workshop.