10 greenest entrepeneurs
Every country has its ‘green’ entrepreneurs. They show what it means to attack the most pressing problems of our time and make serious cash along the way. Some of them are related to green energy, others to recycling and sustainable banking. But they all share a mission: to make as much money as possible. Just not at the cost of our environment. This time in TIC’s top-10: Holland’s greenest businessmen… and one Joan of Arc.
1. Ruud Koornstra
Like many other ‘green pioneers’, Koornstra earned a whole lot of money before committing himself to the environment. At the age of 23 he founded his first company, K&B Events & Television, a producer of TV-shows. Mr. Koornstra grew the business from zero to 400 people, with over 120 million in annual revenue. After selling his company in 2000, he founded Tendris Holding, a conglomerate of sustainable companies. One of them was Durion Energie (later Oxxio), which offered green energy to the public for less money than gray energy. Koornstra also introduced VisaGreencard, a creditcard that promises compensation for the CO2-emissions of certain purchases. With Lemnis Lighting (developer of the Pharox led-lamp, which uses 90 percent less energy than an incandescent bulb) he won the “Pioneer Award” from the World Economic Forum. Last year, Lemnis Lighting was listed in America’s top-10 of most innovative companies in consumer products. Do you want more proof? Well, here it is: Koornstra is the world’s sole owner of an electric Lotus.
2. Paul Hamm
Based in the province of Limburg, Hamm owns a total of 36 companies. The former director of DSM invests heavily in biofuels, sustainable plastics, the fabrication of wind engines and electric cars. Mr. Hamm is the main initiator of BioMCN, near the city of Delfzijl. BioMCN is not only the world’s first bio-methonal plant, but also the world’s biggest producer of a second generation biofuel. Hamm took a serious blow with the recent bankruptcy of Econcern (2009), a renewable energy firm. As an Econcern shareholder, he lost 30 million euros. The drama also affected Hamm’s company Duracar, daughter of Econcern. This manufacturer of rather unattractive electric vans was recently sold to a Chinese company. But Hamm remains ambitious. His newest pet topic is algae farming. If you wonder why – algea can be used as biodiesel fuel.
3. Henk Keilman
As CEO of RIG Investments, Keilman invests in wind parks, solar parks and biofuel production units. He earned millions with the sale of American telecom company MTC Netsource (1998). Today, Keilman owns 40 percent of London exchange market listed Emergya Wind Technologies (EWT), the biggest Dutch wind turbine supplier. RIG also took a substantial share in We Are Green 2 BV (publisher of Green.2, the world’s first green glossy) and Algaelink, an international manufacturer of algae growing equipment for generating biofuels. In his spare time, Henk Keilman is chairman of the Dutch Vegetarian Association and juror in the Dutch version of the TV-show Dragons’ Den. Last but not least: Keilmann is involved in the Dutch Hare Krishna movement and well known for his spiritual lectures.
4. Coen van Oostrom
A familiair face at the Clinton Global Initiative (a meeting of leaders dedicated to a sunstainable global community) and CEO/founder of real estate developer OVG. After seeing Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, Van Oostrom also saw the light and promised to establish sustainable buildings with a total value of one billion euros within five years (2007 – 2012). Despite the financial crisis, he still believes he can do it. OVG is currently developing the most sustainable building in Europe: TNT Green Office, near Amsterdam Schiphol Airport.
5. Peter Blom
Triodos Bank is one of the few banks that benefits from the financial crisis. This European registered bank finances companies, institutions and projects that ‘add cultural value and benefit people and the environment’. Triodos won the Financial Times Sustainable Bank of the Year Award in 2009. Its charismatic leader, Peter Blom, was the second Dutchman to join the Club of Rome, a global think-tank and centre of innovation and initiative. Not bad for someone who never finished his studies in Economics and gave up his moonlighting job at one of the the first organic food centres in the Netherlands for a career at Triodos (1980).
6. Wouter van Dieren
Godfather of the Dutch environmental movement. Became the Netherland’s first member of the Club of Rome and is co-founder of several environmental institutions. Van Dieren has long been forecasting the end of casino capitalism and the fossil-fueled industrial era. The financial crisis marked his come-back as a popular lecturer. Since 1985, he has been chair of IMSA Amsterdam, a leading European think-tank and consultancy on sustainability and innovation. Van Dieren has recently called for the construction of small nucleair plants. That was before the Japan disaster.
7. Jeroen de Haas
Under the inspiring leadership of Jeroen de Haas, Eneco (The Netherland’s third energy company) is investing throughout Europe in sustainable energy production: onshore and offshore wind farms, thermal and solar energy, biomass and hydropower. By 2013, 20% of its supply will be generated by sustainable sources. As early as 2030, Eneco expects its electricity supply to be entirely sustainable. In 2009, De Haas acquired core parts of Econcern, which strengthened Eneco’s sustainibility strategy. He also announced the purchase of electric scooters and 500 electric vans to be used by Eneco personnel. And the CEO himself? He rides a bike.
8. Feike Sijbesma
How strange that the CEO of a chemical company has been granted the UN’s 2010 Humanitarian of the Year Award. In Feike Sijbesma’s case, not so strange. The CEO of Royal DSM won the award for his commitment to corporate social responsibility and DSM’s partnership with the United Nations World Food Programme. In 2010, DSM retained its number one position in the chemical industry sector in the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index. Under Sijbesma’s management DSM’s focus shifted from making plastics to hightech sustainable materials.
9. Ewoud Goudswaard
Before the turn of the millennium, Ewoud Goudswaard was an old-fashioned banker. He was cured by an Australian trip reflection with his wife and son. Mrs. Goudswaard gave up advocacy and commited herself to social welfare. And her husband? He became managing director of ASN Bank, The Netherland’s largest sustainable bank. In its investment and lending decisions, ASN pays strong attention to issues like child labour, climate change, human rights and genetic technology. Since the start of the financial crisis, the bank has doubled its customer file, to nearly 500,000 in 2011.
10. Hannet de Vries-in ‘t Veld
Despite her artistic ambitions, Mrs. de Vries-in ‘t Veld ended up in the world of garbage. In 2006, she became general director of VAR, a leader in waste recycling technology. When she took over, De Vries (also known as the Dutch Joan of Arc of recycling) promised to turn VAR into an energy-neutral company by 2009. She kept her promise, thanks to an organic waste fermentation installation, which generates electricity from vegetable-based waste. It also provides 5,000 households with green energy. But De Vries wants more. One of her ambitions is to clear rain-water with the use of algae. Unsurprisingly, she has written a book about waste recycling and Cradle to Cradle.