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Interview Tim sustainability manager

For more than eight years, Tim has been part of the Rompa team, where he recently made the switch from account manager to sustainability manager. In the interview below, he explains why he chose this new challenge and what drives him in this role. Read on to find out what Tim has to say about his new role, the challenges and opportunities ahead, and how he plans to lead Rompa into a more sustainable future.

Why a Sustainability Manager now?

"Maybe the right question is: why now, and not earlier? If you look around you, it is an unavoidable issue. A subject that is essentially much broader than 'corporate sustainability'. It is about how we look after this planet, how we treat each other, which rules we agree on and comply with. In other words: about taking responsibility. This is applicable to every individual, but also to every organisation. We are a production company that mainly processes plastics. So it makes sense that we think about that, and we also start reporting to what extent we do that, and what the potential impact is - our 'footprint'. But of course, there is much more at play in our case: we are an international company with factories in different countries, with different cultures. What does that mean for our human resources policy? How about local regulations? And what tools can we use to reduce our footprint there? Interesting and unavoidable questions. That's what I'm going to work on."

What is your background with sustainability?

"I graduated on this subject. Twice, in fact. And that was quite a while ago, imagine for how long this has been a serious issue now. For my master I researched at Rabobank Netherlands what it means for the dedication and commitment of employees, if they recognize and appreciate that they work for a socially responsible organisation. And while studying Business Economics, I conducted a stakeholder analysis for a large Dutch carrier, using it to advise on how to shape their CSR policy. After my studies, I always took an above-average interest in the subject. By following how companies deal with these challenges, among other things, but also being conscious about my own footprint."

Why the move from Sales Manager to Sustainability Manager?

"For the time being, I remain active in Sales as well. And that double role is not illogical either; there is definitely overlap. I wanted to broaden my scope, and also do something with a bit more 'meaning'. I am very happy that this was possible within Rompa. We are now a serious company, a professional organisation, and that also means we have to deal with responsibilities. I find it extremely interesting  to investigate how we can achieve sustainable growth. That search really gives me new energy."

What challenges did you see with our customers?

"Our customer is perhaps our most important stakeholder. They already require us to meet certain terms related to ESG (environment, social, governance). It’s also part of their audits nowadays. What you also see is that our customers want and require us to take the test at third parties, such as Ecovadis and CDP. We are working hard on that. Besides that, I see a role for Rompa  in advising them how to make their products more sustainable. Can we influence the design? Can we use sustainable materials (recycled, bio-based)? Is it possible to avoid plastic packaging? And what about design-for-disassembly, so that the materials in the product can be easily separated at the end of the use-cycle."

Which aspects would you like to tackle first?

"Now you’re pushing on a weak spot, I’m afraid, ha-ha. Maybe I want too much at the same time, is the honest answer. Look, fundamentally it's about putting in place a solid Sustainability strategy, for the years to come. After all, this is by no means a hot topic, with a long-term horizon. This year - together with our stakeholders - we will determine which themes are important, and based on a baseline measurement we will determine where we are, and where we want to go in the coming years. How are we going to let Rompa grow, in a responsible way? So with an eye for planet, people, continuity, regulations ... We also have to report on this from 2025 onwards, according to the CSRD: a reporting directive imposed on organisations by the European Union. We take that very seriously. After all, it also forces us to take a good look at our impact, and how to manage it. In addition, there are of course ad hoc issues, which we also have to address. All in all, a well-filled agenda I would say."

What do our stakeholders notice about this?

"First of all, that we visit them, start a dialogue with them. We call this a stakeholder analysis. What do they expect from Rompa as a supplier, customer or employer in terms of ESG? Where can we as an organisation make a difference? This applies internally: our employees - and externally: our customers, financiers and suppliers for example. Because I’m convinced: the knife can easily cut both ways. We can take responsibility, AND increase our supplier added value. Sustainability is also a topic to distinguish yourself in the market. This is therefore a perfect component to integrate into our Early Supplier Involvement (ESI) activities. By thinking about how our designs can contribute to the customer's sustainability objectives, we are taking a shot to stay ahead of the competition!"

How do you think our business performance is going to be impacted?

"Sustainability is about your impact: financial, social, environmental. By organising that well, you are dealing with direct and in-direct gains. An example: using a recycled material directly has a positive environmental impact on the footprint of a product. So does using green energy to manufacture that product. Does that directly provide Rompa with a better result? Not necessarily, but of course it does indirectly. If we help our customer in this way, we naturally increase our growth opportunities with that customer. Image building also comes into play here. If you do the right things, and show this to your stakeholders, sooner or later you will get appreciation and rewarding for it. Sustainability is perhaps not a leading factor yet - right now it’s mainly still price, quality and delivery performance - but mark my words: sustainability is going to climb the ladder on sourcing criteria rather sooner than later."

How will we tackle this globally?

"We have factories around the world. That's where it happens. That's where we make impact. So it is only logical that we manage this with them. Every factory now has a Sustainability Representative who is part of the Global Sustainability team. This month, we have a kick-off event with this team. The first thing then is to map out where we are. What is our footprint per factory? How is our human resources policy there? What local regulations do we have to deal with? Combined with the input from the stakeholder analysis, and of course our own vision, we will define a strategy together with the Global Management Team involved. A clear multi-year strategy, with short and long term objectives, and related KPI’s." 

In your view, what is the end goal in terms of sustainability within Rompa?

"An end goal? There isn't one. Just as there is never a  finish line for  company growth, I reckon. You keep moving as a company, also in terms of sustainability. The world changes, stakeholder demands are evolving, raw materials are finite, regulations change. Sustainability is an ongoing topic that will only increase in importance. Also for Rompa. That doesn't mean we shouldn't set ourselves goals. We certainly have them. For this year, that means forming a Sustainability team (check!), carrying out a stakeholder analysis (ongoing), doing a baseline measurement, and with that shaping a long-term strategy. A strategy that should contribute to Rompa's growth objectives, and enable this growth in a responsible way. Well, if that doesn’t sound like a nice challenge, what does?"