Is there a difference between sustainability and CSR?
Alexander Heijkamp: Sustainability is closely linked to our core business at Athlon. Our goal is to be an inspiring frontrunner in sustainable mobility and take action on the climate crisis. We aim to inspire our customers to step up their efforts by making it easier for them to do so and setting a good example ourselves. I believe it is a question of changing our travel behaviour and learning to adapt to this new normal. Specifically, this includes aspects such as accelerating the electrification of mobility and increasing its flexibility. Improving road safety in Europe is another aspect of sustainability. All these things are topics high on the European Commission’s agenda, as part of the European Green Deal and Vision Zero. The European Green Deal, sets out a detailed vision to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. A concrete elaboration of the Green Deal is the package Fit for 55. The package contains new climate legislation and aims to accelerate the transition to a climate-neutral future. Taken together, the proposals are far-reaching and affect all European Member States, sectors and citizens.
In the Commission work programme, the revisions and initiatives linked to the European Green Deal climate actions and in particular the climate target plan's 55 % net reduction target are presented under this Fit for 55 package. Athlon actively contributes to the EU goals by accelerating the transition to a flexible, electric and safe fleet for companies and their employees.
Internally, sustainability also means lowering the CO2 footprint of our own organisation, for example by introducing climate-neutral offices and transitioning to an electric employee fleet.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) includes the things we do above and beyond what customers expect from us. One aspect of that is our volunteer program, which focuses on doing good for others. The idea is to really do something positive for somebody else, without expecting anything in return. There is also more of an internal side to CSR, such as taking care of our employees’ wellbeing and creating a diverse and inclusive workplace. CSR is the social aspect of running a business. To me it also means being the best and most inspiring employer you can be.
What is Athlon’s sustainability and CSR strategy?
Alexander: We have decided to focus on five areas of impact where we can really improve our performance from good to great. Two impact areas are connected to sustainability: Climate Action and Road Safety. For CSR, we will focus on Community Engagement, Vitality and Diversity & Inclusion. We have clear ambitions for 2025 for each of these areas of impact. We have linked our sustainability and CSR strategy to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which enables us to talk to our customers about our joint impact using a common language. I call it joint impact, because we really need to speed up our efforts in partnership with our present and future customers.
What’s your vision for the future of mobility?
Alexander: I think we have all witnessed dramatic changes to work, home life and mobility. A few years ago, work and home life were clearly separated and mobility was what you needed to be able to do your job. Last year we saw how work, life and mobility all merged . We learned to work from home and realised that it was remarkably effective for many people. So work and life have become more flexible. That is why all employers need to rethink their mobility policies to fit the new needs of their workforce. It’s an exciting puzzle to solve, with experts such as Athlon on hand to help. We have a clear vision of how mobility can be organised to make it more flexible and sustainable.
I really think we are on the eve of a revolution. The economy is evolving fast into something new, where revenue cannot be separated from its impact on society.
In fact I really think we are on the eve of a revolution. The economy is rapidly evolving into something new, where revenue cannot be separated from its impact on society. Employers who commit to sustainability will soon be able to recruit the absolute best talents who want to contribute to that kind of organisation. Maybe every organisation should add a crucial new stakeholder to the typical line-up of customers, employees, the government and shareholders. This stakeholder is the Earth. What is the impact of everything you do on this immense, essential stakeholder? I believe that changing mobility is an easy way to start making changes. Are you in, or are you out?
How does Athlon’s sustainability and CSR strategy impact Athlon’s customers?
Alexander: More and more customers want to lower the CO2 footprint of their organisation. Changing employee mobility is quite easy to do if you are guided through the process, and our customers realise that we are an ideal partner on that journey. Because sustainability and CSR are part of our core strategy, our international knowledge and practical solutions offer invaluable support. Athlon is not just another supplier of vehicles, but a real co-creator.
We want to be a learning organisation, learning from our employees as well as our customers. We also want to bring our customers together so they can inspire each other with great ideas. After all, we all share the same challenge: to increase awareness of how to change travel behaviour and reduce CO2 emissions by electrifying our entire fleets.
You have not been in this role of Sustainability and CSR Director at Athlon International for long . Where do you start?
Alexander: I want to connect with every Athlon market by visiting colleagues and customers, digitally but also in person. I believe you connect best with people when you have a personal bond. And I really like the outside-in approach, so for me it is really logical to ask customers what they expect from us. Of course I will travel to the different Athlon markets with an electric car because I don’t want to fly and create more CO2 emissions. In other words: I’ll be taking an entirely electric trip of 12,000 km with zero CO2 emissions! That is a way for me to experience for myself that it is possible to travel throughout Europe entirely by electric car. I plan to share my experiences through social media as well as in a white paper on electric vehicles. I practice what I preach and want to inspire others to do the same. I believe that, together with colleagues and our customers, we can create an impressive sustainability and CSR movement in Europe.