Kwartiertje duurzaamheid met Cindy van Rijswick van Rabobank

Een van de belangrijkste onderwerpen wanneer het over duurzaamheid gaat is samenwerken. Waarom zou dat zijn? 

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Samenwerking zorgt voor vrije bronnen van informatie en transparantie, wat leidt tot een toename van mogelijkheden tot verbetering voor alle betrokkenen. De tuinbouwsector is een goed voorbeeld van dit proces. In dit interview geeft Cindy van Rijswick, Industrie analist van fruit, groenten en sierteelt voor Rabobank, haar visie op de toekomstige rol van duurzaamheid in de Nederlandse sierteeltsector. De Rabobank spant zich op het moment in op het gebied van duurzame ontwikkeling; Cindy vertelt ons meer over deze inspanningen en de visie van Rabobank als een cruciale partij in samenwerking voor een duurzame tuinbouwsector.


Het interview is in het Engels afgenomen en daarom ook in het Engels hier geplaatst:


What motivated Rabobank to join BON as a Founding Father?

Rabobank likes to be a sustainable organization itself but also wants to inspire its customers to work on sustainability. And I think that the unique aspect of Benefits of Nature is that you have a tool for companies to measure sustainability.  Companies need to measure in order to manage.


Vision: “Sustainably successful together”, could you explain us this vision?

As a cooperative bank, Rabobank aims to help its clients achieve their ambitions in and for a sustainable society. For that reason, we focus our own contribution to society on accelerating sustainable agriculture and food supply worldwide, and on strengthening the vitality of communities.


So basically collaboration and being together is an important theme when talking about sustainability in Rabobank?

Yeah, as a corporative bank we want to support initiatives in the society, so our main value of the bank is customer value, so it is not like a listed company that wants to optimize profits in the short term, but we look more into the long term.  I think sustainability is very important for the long term, and part of our funds or profit are used to support that, support customers and also support other initiatives such as BON plants, so that is why we decided to support this initiative and become a Founding Father. The floriculture sector is an important sector for the Rabobank, we finance more than 80% of the growers here in The Netherlands so I think it is important for the sector to be ready for the future.  Being a sustainable company is a prerequisite to be successful in the long term.

Rabobank wants to share its view on sustainability with the sector in a publication. We are planning this publication early next year. In this report we use the example of Benefits of Nature, because it is a true example of how companies can work on sustainability and that they can really use this tool to measure their performance.


What role do you think collaboration has in achieving sustainability in the horticulture sector?

I think that collaboration is really important especially in the supply chain; partners need to have long-term commitment with each other and collaborate to achieve efficiency, to produce what consumers want and also to discuss sustainability issues. Sustainability for the consumer, but also for the retailer and society. I guess that as an individual company it is difficult to achieve.


It is interesting to hear that your view of collaboration is not just between companies (growers) but also all involved in the supply chain?

Yes I am referring to a supply chain cooperation, I do not think that all growers need to cooperate on this issue horizontally, although might have benefits for all.  However sometimes it is also important they cooperate.  But it is definitely necessary especially also good when those growers can cooperate with their clients, because their clients know what is going on in the market. It is important that they stay next to the consumer wants and then they can have a flow of products from the grower to the trader, to retailer to consumer there is also but also a flow of information going downstream from consumer and retailer to the grower, backwards is also very important.


How has it (collaboration) evolved in the last few years in the sector?

I think that the supply chain has become shorter. That means more and more flows are going directly from growers to retailers, with the help of logistics and trading companies and I think that is a positive thing. Because this improves product quality and it mproves information exchange within the supply chain. The flow of information as well, so there is better communication between the companies if there is more direct interaction about what the consumer wants and what they can produce to fulfill the consumer needs.


How do you view collaboration to be in the future?

I think it remains important but collaboration itself is not the goal. It is a means to reach other goals: the sector needs to be profitable in the end.  Eventually and to reach that goal sustainability is key for a profitable sector and vice versa. It is one of the key requirements to continue in the sector.


What are the main challenges in achieving sustainability in the horticultural sector?

I think a challenge is that the sector often operates on low margins, both growers and trading companies,  it is very difficult the growers are under pressure but also a lot of trading companies are. Therefore, it is really difficult to have money available to set up new initiatives to invest in sustainability. It is a challenge for the sector to work on long-term achievements like sustainability so it is quite difficult because the sector is busy with daily work and to survive every day , it gets difficult to work on the long term achievements like sustainability.  I think that the whole value chain should try to have a profitable value chain for everybody so they can work on a better sector on the long term.  


And do you think that this is the gap the banking sector tries to close, is this the role Rabobank plays in sustainability?

I think we have played a role already because many of the investments in the sector in the last decade have had sustainability reasons, for example to save energy in the green house or that kind of investments.  They have needed the financing from the bank.


So is availability of financing the main offer Rabobank has for ways of tackling challenges in sustainability for the sector?

We finance solutions, network, knowledge sharing and sponsoring. Aadditionally to offering finance availability we also provide knowledge that we like to share with our customers, we also have certain funds available like the support for BON if growers of companies have good ideas but it is not really commercial they can always make a project come to Rabobank and see if there is a certain fund or subside available.  So we have some funds for that: for innovative ideas or very specific ideas that are not commercial but have great impact. Furthermore, we also offer a big network, also internationally. We can also link companies together.  So we have a network, knowledge sharing and financing and support like I mentioned.


In what ways do you think that BON and Rabobank can combine forces towards the common goal?

I believe the collaboration is still in an early stage, but what we hope is that many more companies will work with BON and will start measuring and managing towards more sustainability. Improve their businesses so may have a more efficient business and a more sustainable business. By using the EcoChain tool companies can improve efficiency of their businesses and to help we think that is important that companies are aware of the urgency of sustainability and want to measure sustainability. We want to help BON with that by means of the publication we want to write. We hope to inspire companies to work with BON or other tools to increase sustainability as well and it doesn’t strictly have to be BON.  They can also decide someone else but it is one of the options, as long as they are working towards sustainability. I think we want to show BON as a good example or option especially because BON is working in all the value chain. 


Anything you want to add about sustainability and collaboration for Rabobank.

Yes, what we often hear from our costumers is that they see sustainability as an extra burden but I want to say to them I think that through measuring your performance on sustainability you can also improve your business and actually save costs to run your business more smoothly.  And that is actually what we see in other sectors that happening quite oftens a lot, if companies start to work with it and be more aware of there internal processes they actually improve efficiency and save costs in the end. Then you have reached two achievements a more sustainable company and a more efficient one. Furthermore,  if many more companies join BON, a valuable  and a good database with interesting data could be  is built of and might offer interesting data that could offer new insights for all companies in the chain. all over the supply chain over many companies, maybe companies wont be ready to share it yet but if they are open to share their data or do a benchmark then you can get really interesting knowledge to share.


Door de positieve betrokkenheid van de banksector bij de duurzame ontwikkeling van de tuinbouwsector te erkennen komt het belang van inter-industriële samenwerking bovendrijven. Het is erg interessant te zien hoe Rabobank een echt verschil maakt in de Nederlandse tuinbouwsector: het inspireren van bedrijven om een verschil te maken en de traditionele manieren van ondernemen uitdagen, echt ‘thinking out of the glass’.