30 years of SADC: Circular economy contributes to quality of life

  18 July 2017  |    Interview

To mark the occasion of SADC’s 30th anniversary, the summer 2017 edition of the business magazine Haarlemmermeer INTO Business included a special feature on SADC. Six entrepreneurs were interviewed for the article. Download the full article here (in Dutch), including the interviews with all six businesspeople.

In 1986, the Van der Zwan Committee, on behalf of the Dutch government, adopted the so-called ‘mainport’ policy. This marked the recognition of the Port of Rotterdam, at the time the world’s busiest port, as one of two of the Netherlands’ most important transport hubs. Schiphol Airport was considered the other ‘mainport’, but a lot of effort would have to be put into facilitating its growth. It was recommended to establish a regional project development company with the goal of developing business parks in the vicinity of Schiphol, in order to accommodate the commercial enterprise attracted by the growth of the airport. As a result, the Schiphol Area Development Company (SADC) was established in 1987.

By: Martin Hoekstra

“Our job is to stimulate the economy”, says Reinoud Fleurke, Area Manager at SADC. “We do this by developing high-quality, accessible and internationally competitive business locations.” The area of Schiphol Rijk-Oude Meer was developed back in the 1990s. At the time, the region was an obvious business location that particularly attracted American and Japanese companies. “That’s not the case anymore,” notes Fleurke. “Now we need to work harder to attract international customers to the region, given the international competition – mainly Frankfurt, Paris, London and Brussels.”

Every business park offers something to specific branches of industry. “The point is to offer a complementary portfolio from a demand-driven approach,” Fleurke explains. “We ensure each business park is suitable for specific kinds of companies. We can provide a good location for every company, regardless of their background or sector.”

Business parks under development
Airport Business Park Lijnden, home to many fashion businesses, is almost fully developed, while six other business parks are under development. These are Schiphol Trade Park (a hotspot for innovation and circular economy), Schiphol Logistics Park (for large-scale logistics), PolanenPark (regional enterprise), De President (high-end enterprise with international allure), Green Park Aalsmeer (logistics companies and innovators in horticulture) and Business Park Amsterdam Osdorp (urban economy).

Park management associations
“We set up park management associations for all business parks to ensure their quality in the long term,” says Fleurke. Jeanet van Antwerpen, CEO of SADC, agrees: “That’s what sets us apart.” She adds: “Our goal is not to deliver a one-off stimulus to economic growth – we want to make sure that the parks continue to be attractive.” This dovetails perfectly with SADC’s societal goal of boosting employment opportunity in the area.

There are still some sites for SADC to develop in the future. These sites will be transformed into business parks as soon as there is enough market demand. In the meantime, a number of them have been made available to test the growth of certain plants, for instance elephant grass and bamboo. The bamboo is used for various purposes including making powder for 3D printing, a binding agent for Rigo paints and bio-composite material for automobile dashboards.

The Groene Hoek is another temporary location. Van Antwerpen says: “We have commissioned the creation of a solar energy park consisting of 26 hectares of solar panels, enough to provide 4500 households with power. It will be operational in October. We want the power to feed into a data centre campus that we are due to develop at Schiphol Trade Park.”

When it comes to the future, Van Antwerpen likes to quote something she recently heard at a circular economy convention in Helsinki: “‘The best way to predict the future is to work on it today.’ That’s really what we are all about.” In the past decades, the economy developed according to a linear model. Natural resources were used and depleted, with a lot of pollution as a result. “We have made a significant impact on our environment and quality of life. For us, it’s hugely important to stimulate economic growth and to improve quality of life at the same time. But you can’t achieve this with just a few changes here and there – what you need is a wholly different economic model.”

Circular economy
That model is the circular economy. “When we set out to develop a site, we first investigate how we can do so without harming the environment”, Van Antwerpen explains. “We can use recycled materials, or we can build a road that can easily be removed again. We refer to this as design for disassembly.”

A circular development plan also looks into plants that are effective at purifying the air or water. It is a mentality that will improve the quality of life in the region in the long term. “Obviously we’re just starting out, but I really believe that this is the direction that the world as a whole should take.”

Fleurke adds that, in Business Park Amsterdam Osdorp, SADC have invested in a sustainable collective heat pump , with two water source heat pumps located beneath the business park, to which all the companies are connected. “That makes it possible to have the Osdorp park run as a zero-energy business park.”

Comparing the past 30 years with the years ahead, Van Antwerpen points out a very clear shift in demand. Initially it was all about visual quality. There needed to be detailed urban planning for business parks and the buildings and the greenery had to meet certain requirements. “In the coming years, we want to look much more at what the people who work there want. How can we create a pleasant working environment, so that businesses can recruit and retain the best people? You need to offer more than just a building set in a functionally designed business park.”

Fleurke adds: “It’s also about accessibility, safety and facilities. Amsterdam Osdorp Business Park is a case in point, with major investments made in green designs. That is why entrepreneurs are eager to establish offices there, and why employees are happy to work there.”