We should all act for a greener society

With three children who are basically growing up ordering things online, I think a lot about how we can make that process more sustainable. From production to logistics, there’s a lot that can be done. After all, our planet’s resources are limited, and if we don’t act now, then when?

Hans Schurmans
Director Logistics operations
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Don’t get me wrong: I’m not against e-commerce itself. On the contrary (and if I did, I wouldn’t be working for Proximus)! However, I do think we should all take our responsibility to contribute to a greener society. Not just personally, but professionally as well. Companies that refuse to accept that reality, will soon find they no longer have a reason to exist. That’s my opinion, at least.

At Proximus, we consider sustainability as a whole: if we want our company to become greener, we must work on many different levels to achieve that. We have to try out different things to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Good ideas are great, but you don’t achieve net zero carbon emissions with good ideas alone.

Part of the act: circular devices

So, how are we ‘acting’? One of the ‘problem areas’ we’ve been zoomed in on for the past decade, is the circularity of our devices like modems, decoders, WiFi boosters and mobile phones. Basically, it’s the opposite of planned obsolescence: we’re trying to keep our devices in rotation for as long as technically possible, by rethinking the entire strategy around them. We do this on four levels:

  1. Circularity by design

    What should a device (not) be able to do? From the moment we design a device, we think about its lifecycle and how often we will be reusing it. It can be something as simple as replacing a plastic clip that breaks off easily by a metal part, but it can be other things, too, like:

    • Material: why not use recycled plastic from the get-go?
    • Packaging design: printing a user manual on the box saves paper.
    • Packaging size: smaller packages have a lower carbon footprint in transport.
  2. Repair and refurbishment

    In 2021, over 800,000 of fixed home devices – like modems and decoders – got repaired and refurbished. And more than 40% of the home devices we distributed were refurbished devices as well. We do this in our own distribution center in collaboration with a sheltered workshop, which means the project also has a positive social impact.

  3. Empowering our customers

    As a company, we believe we should set a good example, and we feel a responsibility to raise awareness among our customers, as well as encourage them to return their devices.

    • Raise awareness: We show the environmental footprint of a refurbished phone versus an ordinary one in our shops. But ultimately, it’s up to the consumer to decide.
    • Encourage: By leasing devices like modems and decoders, we ensure our customers have an incentive to bring them back to a pick-up point. Giving vouchers in return for old mobile phones helps, too.
  4. Looking ahead

    We’re just getting started: if we want to keep making a positive impact on our planet, we need to keep working and we need to set clear goals. Like our ambition to make our supply chain fully carbon neutral in order to reach net zero emissions across our full footprint by 2040. Because it’s not just about the devices themselves: it’s also about bringing production closer to usage, opting for greener transport methods (like trains over trucks, or cargo bikes for deliveries in cities), improving the efficiency of warehouses and distribution centers, … There are so many parts of the process we can still investigate and improve upon.

    A great example is CULT (Collaborative Urban Logistics & Transport), where we’re working with other companies like Danone, Delhaize and even Telenet to bundle parcel deliveries within cities: no competition to protect the planet. But that’s just one of many projects.

Let’s act together

One thing is for sure: I’m more excited than ever about what’s to come. By working together, from suppliers to customers, we can keep bringing about change for the better. As long as we act, all of us can make a difference.

Tell me: how are you planning to act?


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