Iris Carolina de Gruijter is Community Manager and Marketeer of Futureproof.community, an online platform free to access and use which aims to facilitate sustainable solutions to a wide range of business challenges. As a longtime community manager, Iris is dedicated to enhance sustainable business and natural capital awareness amongst entrepreneurs. Sustainability always has been the core of her work, using community building and marcom at Greenwish, Made-By and working in Bangkok Thailand. Her current project is the development and implementation of the international Futureproof.community, using this online platform she helps to match business challenges with solutions – sustainable products, services and knowledge or tools. The community brings together like-minded people and help working towards sustainable deal making. +5500 members currently work on solving 176 challenges with 625 solutions. Futureproof.community also has a natural capital entry: naturalcapital.community. The community consists of business owners, CSR managers, business developers and project managers and is an initiative by MVO Nederland and partners which is free to access and use. (Versión en español de la entrevista)
Mercados de Medio Ambiente.- Why, when and how was Futureproof project brought to life? Who is behind the initiative?
Iris Carolina de Gruijter.- Futureproof.community was launched with several stakeholders. Originally a coalition of organisations and the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment wanted an online community platform for their activities to enhance and strengthen the circular economy in the Netherlands (www.circulairondernemen.nl). As the coalition and Ministre Department behind the Dutch Climate Coalition also wanted to use an online community platform, we’ve requested to combine these projects and create one platform with different entrances on topics. As time progressed we’ve changed the community from a communication/inspirational platform into an online matchmaking platform, so we provide our community members with a clear proposition: this was the launch of Futureproof.community. One and a half year since several ministries and organisations have teamed up with us to use the community for their sustainability topics (natural capital in cooperation with the Ministry of Economic Affairs being the latest example). MVO Nederland has been behind the initiative, and part of all the coalitions making Futureproof.community possible.
MMA.- What are the platform goals in short, medium and long-term?
ICG.- We aim to become the online matchmaking platform helping business become futureproof by matching sustainable challenges with solutions, mainly on the demand-supply chains.
We want to provide services for 20,000 community members in 2018, matching 500 challenges with 1,500 solutions. We also consider responses and connections as matches, which we will count separately.
Though we started in the Netherlands, the long term we will become an international platform focusing on international supply chains and strengthening regional/sectoral networks. We’re launching our Indian coalition in november, a pilot working on sustainable business improvements in Kenia in december and possibly next year Costa Rica and Sri Lanka.
MMA.- Futureproof.community is mainly focused on sustainability, an area which needs to be addressed by many different approaches (social, environmental, finance, human resources…). What are your target profiles in terms of people and companies?
ICG.- The ideal community members are entrepreneurs, CSR managers, business developers, procurement managers and project managers. They work for business that strive to improve their sustainable results by creating new or improving their supply chain relations. Through the stories we collect and making the matches visible we also hope to inspire a broader group of professionals to take a step, thus upscaling the efforts and results of the community members.
MMA.- What benefits does your network offer to those who join it? Why would be interesting for professionals or companies from a different country than the Netherlands to be part of this network?
ICG.- We provide the matchmaking for our community members. Mostly we work searching for the best solution following a challenge, but in some cases a solution is ready for a scale up and in need of partners/financers/buyers, we will look for challenges in that case. For now the focus has been solving Dutch challenges, but with the new circles (subcommunities) on Indian, Kenyan and other business we are moving to an international scope.
Also we are sharing the challenges part of the World Forum on Natural Capital, as a first big step into the international (not country related) scene.
MMA.- How many companies and members are currently in the community? What percentage of each is not from the Netherlands?
ICG.- Members: 5,500, companies: 2,200. 86% is Dutch, but we are growing most internationally now.
MMA.- What are the main concerns or areas of interest shown by members with regard to sustainability?
ICG.- Zero waste, recycling/avoiding plastics and soil quality are the most prominent interest of our community members.
MMA.- Let´s imagine that we need guidance to solve a problem related to how business manages biodiversity. Could we find a solution in Futureproof? How does it work?
ICG.- We tend to look for business with a less broad challenge, the more to the point the better the matchmaking works. That’s why we have added a helpdesk feature to the community. Questions like this will be answered by our helpdesk colleagues and we also have a collaboration with CREM for 5 challenges on natural capital this year. Depending on results we will continue and expand this collaboration.
MMA.- Do you organise or coordinate events/webinars with a focus on sustainability open to members? Or is it the purpose of the events calendar to keep members up-to-date by providing information about key events?
ICG.- The event feature on the community is meant to share existing events, posted by community members. We organise events as well, depending on theme/setting/goal etc. Next year we will organise 4 events on natural capital in the Netherlands, together with another organisation. We will look into online events/activities next year as we will start with our communication and marketing approach and test out some options.
MMA.- Is there any challenge or solution shared within Futureproof which is special for you due to its complexity, originality, effectiveness obtained or some other reason which makes it particularly important?
ICG.- For me personally the challenges of the World Forum on Natural Capital are of high relevance for the entire community, as they seek innovations and ideas on natural capital thinking in business. We have just published these and start communicating about them. World Forum on Natural Capital seeks for:
- Innovations to mainstream natural capital thinking.
- Innovations to help governments put natural capital at the heart of the transition to a green economy.
- Innovations to inspire rapid growth in conservation finance and help meet the Global Goals for 2030.
We’d like to welcome all readers to comment on these or post a solution to any of these challenges.
MMA.- What concrete actions are you taking to favor the participation and involvement of the members of Futureproof and to encourage potential professionals/companies to join?
ICG.- We are still in start-up mode, as we have been working mainly on projects circulairondernemen.nl and klimaatcoalitie.nl. First we want to improve our emailing to our community members and activate them on challenges and solutions. Next is launching our marketing approach and third we want to engage with our community members more in circles: subcommunities that are focused on a niche, either by topic (foodwaste), approach (Indian-Dutch trade relations) or sector (tourism, chemics, construction or agriculture are examples).
MMA.- At this time, most of your contents are in Dutch and some few in English. Are you looking into the possibility of boosting English contents to raise the interest among non-Dutch-speakers?
ICG.- Yes, and more importantly we are looking into auto translation options so the platform is accessible to anyone interested in making their business futureproof.
MMA.- Since the launch of the initiative, what milestones would you like to highlight?
ICG.- We have 5500 members, and are solving complex challenges: from a systemic approach to zero waste construction sites to reusable carpet of convention centre (RAI Amsterdam) and true priced fruit and vegetables for our prisons. We are still developing some imporant features like showing the matches made on our community and providing insight in the status of challenges, these will help us better describe milestones.