A sustainable strategy?
A must for Proximus
A Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policy is an integral part of management of a modern-day business. In a rapidly evolving world, Proximus made the early choice to be on the front line for more digital inclusion and more sustainability. Today, Proximus sets ambitious targets to affirm this daily social commitment.
As a major player in Belgium’s economy, Proximus has always fully taken on its corporate social responsibility, either in matters of education, the environment or support for our communities. With time, the CSR policy of Proximus evolved and it was completely overhauled at the start of 2018 in favor of a more global approach, which has made it possible to determine a complete sustainability strategy. Here, we explain. Proximus is a true pioneer in matters of sustainability strategy? Xavier Dekeuleneer: “It has now been approximately ten years that Proximus defined and implemented a CSR policy. We even are a benchmark for the other European operators. At the start of 2019, we launched our new sustainability strategy, built around 4 strategic areas. In March 2020, Guillaume Boutin, our CEO, presented his new corporate strategic vision for the period 2020-2022. One of those four areas handles sustainability, while another involves digital inclusion. What is striking here, is that sustainability and the desire to have a positive impact on society are an integral part of our company’s plan for growth.” Philippe Deconinck: “We are also at the forefront in the fight against climate change. Currently, Proximus is carbon neutral for its own activities. We were awarded by the CDP, for our actions in the fight against global warming and the reduction of our emissions.” CDP is a not-for-profit charity running the global disclosure system for investors, companies, cities, states and regions to manage their environmental impacts. What are your main targets in terms of the corporate sustainability strategy? Xavier: “We want to contribute every day to a digitally inclusive, safe, sustainable and prosperous Belgium. We use that ambition to build our sustainability strategy based on 4 pillars: to ensure a better digital life, take care of our stakeholders (clients, suppliers, employees), contribute to society and respect our planet.”
is an Electronics and Telecommunications Engineer and CSR Manager at Proximus. He started his career in 1998 with Belgacom Mobile to help deploy their mobile network. He integrated the new CSR policy created in 2008 by Belgacom, before becoming its manager in 2013.
“To contribute to society is investing in digital inclusion. Digital technology for everybody.”
What do you mean by a better digital life? Xavier: “To improve our networks every day, by developing innovating solutions, specifically in everything that is ‘smart’ (smart mobility, smart cities, smart energy), we provide solutions that enable everybody to live better, and to work more efficiently. To live better also means to invest in a safer digital society. That is why, for example, we have had a solid partnership with Child Focus for about 10 years now, making children of the 5th and 6th years of primary school aware of safe and responsible internet use. Twice a year, the volunteers of Proximus go to the schools to talk about this subject. That way, we raise awareness every year with at least 10,000 children.” Are all your stakeholders involved in your sustainability strategy? Xavier: “Our sustainability policy unites all our stakeholders: clients, suppliers, employees, shareholders, investors, media, authorities, opinion leaders and communities. The idea is to establish a structured dialogue with each of our stakeholders so that we are sure to understand their concerns, requirements, what is important for them. Based on their answers, we improve our strategies, products, services and technologies so that we stay relevant for each of our stakeholders. Maintaining a permanent dialogue with clients improves their customer experience, and simultaneously allows us to offer them responsible marketing. Moreover, we have developed the program ‘The voice of the customer’, which is a follow-up program with our clients where we use their feedback to improve our services and procedures. In terms of our employees, it is of the utmost importance that we guide them during the transformation of the company. That happens with training to improve their digital knowledge, with a healthy and safe environment, but also through diversity in the different groups.” Philippe: “In terms of our supply chain, we work with more than 4,000 suppliers and we comply with the most stringent of social and environmental standards. 100% of our current contracts with our suppliers contain a social, ethical and environmental sustainability clause they need to comply with. We carry out regular audits with our suppliers to ensure they comply with these standards.”
PHILIPPE DECONINCK Is CSR Manager Environment and Supply Chain at Proximus and Electro-mechanics Engineer. He started working with Belgacom in 1995 and was employed in several departments, such as logistics, purchasing, e-business and customer service before becoming manager of Proximus’ environmental sustainability in 2010.
How does this long-term commitment from Proximus contribute to the daily lives of the Belgians? Xavier: “We commit to making the digital society accessible to all. That will happen, for example, with digital education. Within that framework, we target different audiences. First of all, young jobseekers with little to no qualifications. By cooperating with MolenGeek and School 19 in Brussels or Technobel in Wallonia, we contribute by training youngsters in programming and in new technologies’ professions so that they can find work. And then there are our seniors. It is not always easy to use social media and to surf the web in complete safety. That is why we launched the ‘diggit’ program, to encourage children, in the form of a competition, to share their knowledge of the internet with their elders. Disabled people are also a priority. The internet helps them in their daily lives, provided that the devices used are user friendly. That is the reason we have our smartphones and tablets tested by disabled people to make sure that these devices meet their specific requirements. The same is valid for all our websites, our applications such as MyProximus and our TV platform, Pickx.” You are also helping to make life better in hospitals and in the area of personal assistance? Xavier: “Digital inclusion also concerns children suffering from long-term illnesses. Our partners Bednet and Take Off have developed a videoconferencing system that enables them to stay in touch with their classmates and to continue their education from a distance. We provide financial support and make the connection available for free. And finally, I must not forget to pay tribute to our employees, who daily volunteer to support jobseekers, mentor students or provide meals to the homeless and the migrants in the area of our offices. Our social commitment truly is versatile and essential.”
“BY 2030, PROXIMUS WANTS TO BE A NET-POSITIVE COMPANY AND TRULY CIRCULAR.”
“A company’s sustainability criteria are playing an ever-increasing role in the choice of clients, future colleagues and investors.”
Does Proximus also have ambitious environmental targets? Philippe: “Since 2016, we have been a carbon neutral company for activities directly under our control. We have revised upwards our ambition of climate neutrality in order to reach a positive net contribution by 2030. And also, by 2030, we want to be a truly circular company. As of today, we have prepared a detailed roadmap to redefine the way we work and run our supply chains. It is in that context, as I already stated, that our suppliers have a key role to play by subscribing to our strengthened sustainability criteria.” Why is it important for a company like Proximus to commit to this way of operating? Philippe: “Climate change is a very important social concern and as a leader in our sector, we want to set an example by substantially reducing our negative impact on the environment. That demand increases with our investors and clients as well. Our clients treat us the way we treat our suppliers, and that is quite understandable.”
“THE WORLD IS CHANGING? SO WE NEED TO CHANGE AS WELL.”
With our sustainability strategy, we contribute to a digitally inclusive, safe, sustainable and prosperous Belgium. To achieve that target we take initiatives in 4 strategic areas.