INTERVIEW with Mr Carlo Hein, CEO of Ramborn

Did you miss our "One hour max talk on sustainability strategy with Mr Hein, CEO of Ramborn"? Read the summary of the session below or watch the video!

The business benefits of doing good

Carlo Hein works with a diverse range of local businesses, each with a commitment to environmental sustainability and social responsibility. He explained the business case of this approach to the 10th July One Hour Max Talk on Sustainability Strategy webinar.

“When you see the next generation inspired by what you are doing, and you see how they want to be part of the change, that is great to see, confirms what we are doing is right and gives us all energy,” is a strong argument for business strategy driven by sustainability Carlo notes. This helps sustain excitement in the businesses for managers and directors, and that translates into attention to detail and commitment to adding value. It’s also a question of engaging the customer. “Firms that do not invest into sustainability will go out of businesses, because consumer attitudes are moving very quickly now,” he added. 

Sustainability journey

Carlo has lived this journey. He began working with his family’s property firm Becolux nearly a quarter of a century ago, and over this time the firm and the family have embraced these new ways of doing business. It began with investment into the country’s first wind farm in 1996, and then the country’s largest solar power park in 2003. 

This thinking also transferred to the mainstream property business. “We saw how complicated it was to create a kilowatt of new energy, so this made us think about how we would use energy better in our properties,” he said. Then when a hobby project of making cider became more serious and led to the creation of Ramborn Cider Co., social and environmental considerations were built into that company from the ground up, particularly concerning managing its carbon footprint, helping biodiversity flourish and supporting the local economy and community. 

Clients willing to pay

As regards the real estate business, Carlo is convinced that tenants benefit in a variety of ways from offices being built and managed with respect for the environment. “A sustainable building improves the well-being of the people who use it, and this has a positive impact on productivity, and thus tenants are willing to pay extra for this,” he said. Similarly, for a premium consumer product like Ramborn, customers have a greater willingness to support a brand when they see that it has a climate-friendly carbon-negative footprint such as is the case for the cider-maker. The way the firm works with local apple growers to ensure biodiversity is also a commercial plus-point, in addition to being the right thing to do. 

Motivating factor

Family firms can be challenged with questions over succession, often with children wanting to strike out in a fresh direction. A firm strategy focused on sustainability can help to engage the next generation. He saw this vividly when Ramborn decided to seek B Corp accreditation: “We invited the next generation to participate in this project, and their voice was so loud that this overwhelmed any resistance to embarking on this challenging path,” Carlo said. 

As well, these assessment processes make managers and directors reconsider the way they approach business, both in terms of sustainability but also pure business opportunity. For instance with Ramborn, they decided to seek B Corp status, another widely respected certification of a firm’s contribution to positive environmental and social engagement, in pursuing B Corp certification they also identified new ways to create positive impact and business value.  

Re-examine the business

“This process was a lot of work, but it showed that we were missing out on business opportunities,” he said. “For example we were working closely with farmers to help them take care of their orchards, and we were providing a range of valuable services free of charge. The B Corp process made us realise that we could make this a payable service that helps farmers improve their productivity and add value, while generating revenue for ourselves.” Thus Ramborn found they could work to boost the biodiversity of one million square metres of orchards accompanied with business benefits.

Measuring impact is also incorporated into the bonus programme, and Carlo says there is broad satisfaction with this approach, making people feel part of a mission. “Financials are obviously important, but having an impact on the community, on energy use, on biodiversity, that is particularly healthy for a company and that stimulates everyone,” he said.