Expert insight: Building a better future


Name: Elbert van den Bos
Job Title: Facility Manager

Samskip's Facility Manager, Elbert van den Bos, has a full plate when it comes to the company's sustainability initiatives.

He is currently considering whether using solar panels will have a significant impact on the energy bill and the carbon footprint of the multimodal transport operator's Rotterdam headquarters. He is also costing: a switch from incandescent lighting to LED, which would make a 40% saving in kw/hr energy use; power plugs for electric cars; and adding light sensitive sensors to adjust interior lighting in the open plan offices near the windows to take account of available daylight. 

“We can all agree that we need to protect the planet, for ourselves and for our children, but as a facility manager, it's my job to convert what we would like to do into what we can do as a business while meeting our objective of greater sustainability,” says Elbert. 

Elbert qualified in Facility Management in 1993, in a course with a significant environmental dimension. In his working life, he says he has developed techniques on the job and by talking to people so that sustainability strategies move forward and have a real, measurable impact.

Joining Samskip in 2008, Elbert's job takes in everything from security system cameras to catering, the mailroom to the toilets, the company letter heads to the reception area. “Essentially, everything that is not related to transport or IT comes via me, while I also liaise with the landlord and work with subcontractors,” he says.

Clearly, the variety provides plenty of opportunities to support Samskip's sustainability strategy, either by recommending investments in 'green' solutions or changes at a day to day level.

“One of the early changes I was responsible for sounds simple, but had a significant impact on paper wastage. I introduced a card system for printers to avoid people wasting paper by going through the stack, not finding their job and then ordering a reprint. The card system saves money, is good for the environment, and is also more secure.

“Small changes can quickly add up. Last year, we introduced hand dryers into the toilets to cut paper towel usage. We've also devised a project to recycle batteries and light bulbs.”

However, sustainability is also a core company value at Samskip, and Elbert's larger role in sustainability involves making recommendations to the company itself on ways to reduce the carbon footprint of the six-floor Samskip head office. 

“Last year, I worked with our landlord to assess how to improve window insulation,” he says. “Ultimately, after testing and presentations to management, we installed a new layer of special glass for the east, west and south sides of the building to keep the office warm in winter and cool in summer. We expect to save 45 tonnes of CO2 per year as a direct result of this.”

With a host of new sustainability initiatives underway, Elbert says he is not forgetting the details. “We're currently investigating how to separate coffee grounds to improve food recycling,” he says. “We're also considering a short/long flush system for the toilets and we recently changed to more environmentally-friendly, dust-free printer cartridges.”

It's because good ideas on sustainability can come from any direction that Elbert says he's also delighted to be part of Samskip's new inter-departmental 'Environmental Group', which meets regularly to discuss “what else we can do next to reduce our CO2 footprint”.

“We're also inviting new ideas from staff, and these can also be small changes or big ideas. Someone has suggested that it would make sense to collect all the paper cups separately; someone else has suggested Samskip makes a complete change to all-electric trucks. What I can say is that all ideas are welcome and are given full consideration.”

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