On 14 June Queen Mathilde of Belgium visited the Harelbeke-based company Vyncke. As a UN advocate for the SDGs, the Queen was attending a round table discussion on sustainable development organised by The Shift at Vyncke. Deputy Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and ten Belgian entrepreneurs accompanied the Queen during this working visit. The company leaders explained how they help to promote the SDGs in our country.
Queen Mathilde was appointed by the previous Secretary-General of the UN as an Advocate for the SDGs, or Sustainable Development Goals. The 17 SDGs are a set of global goals aimed at achieving a sustainable world by 2030.
Ten Belgian entrepreneurs for whom sustainability is an important cornerstone of their business sat down with the Queen round the table. They were:
- Thomas Leysen (KBC, Umicore)
- Jan De Witte (Barco)
- Caroline Van Marcke (Van Marcke)
- André Bouffioux (Siemens)
- Bob Elsen (Joker)
- Tom Bossuyt (BOSS)
- Jacques Vandermeiren (Port of Antwerp)
- Clarisse Lhoste (MSD)
- Wouter de Geest (BASF)
Obviously the board members of Vyncke attended the discussion as well.
Joker’s main focus is SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions). The company is convinced that interculturality and having a broad vision of the world contributes to peace. It therefore organises trips with the intention of preventing prejudice and preconceptions. It aims to spread its vision of sustainable tourism and share it with others through the Via Via Tourism Academy.
Siemens’ field of interest is SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth), with their main focus being inclusive growth. They want to prepare their 2,800 employees for the coming digital disruption. The technology company applies a dual learning model. In addition to that they work with educational institutions to encourage the acquisition of STEM skills. Siemens Belgium is responsible for French-speaking Africa and its activities contribute to infrastructure, sustainable economies and smarter cities.
BASF’s focus is SDG 17 (partnerships for the goals). The chemicals company has gone into partnership with KDG college of higher education. Their joint aim is to close the performance and opportunities gap for the first year Bachelor’s pioneer students. Pioneer students are those who are the first in a family to go on to further education and who therefore have no frame of reference at home. They achieve this aim through a variety of different initiatives, such as organising a summer course, the writing campaign ‘Someone Has to Be the First’ and by setting up a community under the leadership of students from the higher years.
This distributor of bathrooms, heating installations and kitchens focuses its core activities on SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation). Their specialised Water Treatment department carries out water analyses for their clients daily, and they advise their clients on water and heat-saving solutions at their Big Blue Points. In addition to that they offer water treatment products, ranging from rainwater recuperation to all sorts of water softeners.
Port of Antwerp
SDG 17 (partnerships for the goals) is high on the agenda at the Port of Antwerp, too. The port plays a role as a partnership broker for the 800 companies in the surrounding area. It has 1,300 connections with other ports and wants to achieve a modal shift in port transport to train and water transport.
Family company Vyncke was a perfect fit for the United Nations’ goals as well. "It was Alexander De Croo who thought our company would be a suitable partner for the round table discussion”, says Peter Vyncke, CEO of the company. "Early this year we got a phone call asking what we thought of the idea. Obviously we said yes. We were delighted to be able to welcome the Queen to our company.”
Local TV-station WTV made a video clip of Queen Mathilde’s visit. Watch it here.