Sustainable entrepreneurship: a focus on Sociaago
#SRI — 01.02.2022

Sustainable entrepreneurship: a focus on Sociaago

By Mikael Gillekens - Manager, Social Companies and Sustainable Business Retail

A sustainable company is anchored in its raison d'être. For Sociaago, this is a decisive factor for governance decisions and measures aiming to improve its environmental and social impact.

SUMMARY

•     Sustainable entrepreneurship starts with the company's raison d'être

•     Sociaago positioned itself as a service partner for established companies

•     Its open governance stems directly from this raison d'être

•     It shows numerous opportunities for reducing the environmental impact

•     Sociaago reminds us that social benefits are also essential

How can entrepreneurs act in a sustainable way? Obviously we could cite a number of indicators that measure the environmental or social impact. However, the first step is to look at the company’s raison d'être, in other words, what it contributes to society.

In the case of Sociaago, its objective was to put food producers in the Brussels suburbs into contact with stores located in the city centre. In short, by promoting short-circuit selling in the capital of Europe that includes favouring local producers.

To this end, the project led by Manufast and Olivier Van Cauwelaert involved developing a logistics platform specialised in picking services. The move to a new warehouse in Zellik will facilitate the provision of fresh produce.

Objectifs de développement durable

“Sociaago demonstrates the importance of partnerships.”

Mikael Gillekens - Manager Social companies and Sustainable Business Retail

Partnerships

This raison d'être has largely shaped Sociaago governance. Indeed, as the company is not driven by competition, it has chosen to operate as a cooperative encompassing all parties (including consumers) through crowdfunding.

Of course, this model would not be the best fit for every project. A company that manages to develop a more sustainable solution will have a competitive advantage over established players. But Sociaago demonstrates the importance of partnerships, which is the United Nations' 17th Sustainable Development Goal. Indeed, it partners with Korte Keten (producers) and  GoodFood (stores, restaurants) and is in talks with many other businesses with a view to accelerating its development and positive impact.

Environmental impact

The environmental footprint is crucial and must be taken into account at all levels when defining the company's raison d'être. Sociaago thus limits its partnerships to producers and processing companies located within a 20km radius of Brussels. It also aims to improve its indirect environmental impact by promoting organic producers and those in the conversion phase.

The second aspect to consider is the environmental impact of the activities themselves, and how to minimise it as much as possible. As a logistics hub, Sociaago has focused on packaging (returnable and reusable) and transportation. Deliveries to stores in Brussels are thus made by cargo bikes, in partnership with Urbike.

“Social entrepreneurship put commercial enterprise at the service of the common good.”

Mikael Gillekens - Manager Social companies and Sustainable Business Retail

Social inclusion

The third aspect of a sustainable company is its social impact. Sociaago is particularly conscious of this aspect, and subcontracts the order preparation activity to Manufast, an adapted work enterprise. As a result of its growth, Sociaago plans to expand its workforce nearly fivefold to employ 20 people with a disability and 5 people on a work integration scheme (Article 60) within three  years.

More broadly, social entrepreneurship puts commercial enterprise at the service of the common good, whether it is for society in general or for staff. This is primarily based on an exchange of best practises that BNP Paribas Fortis promotes through its networking and support services.

The opinions given on this website are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the position of BNP Paribas Wealth Management.  

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