Making transport as clean and silent as possible
St vd Brink: Impact Loan for sustainable investment
Logistics services provider St vd Brink is the only company in the Dutch market currently operating silent, energy-efficient trucks. The company has chosen to invest in sustainability: "Customers will simply not find silent and sustainable vehicles like ours anywhere else in the market."
The trucks operated by Netherlands-based logistics services provider St vd Brink have been gracing Dutch motorways for the past 70 years. It has grown from a regional company in the Veluwe region of the Netherlands into a national player in the transport sector. Its customers include some of the largest Dutch grocery chains.
The company owes its growth at least in part to its strategic decision to ramp up investment in sustainability and innovation. Gerrit Jan Mulder, the company's Managing Director: "This change of tack has made it even easier for us to win customer loyalty. Customers will simply not find silent and sustainable vehicles like ours anywhere else in the market."
Hybrid electric trucks
Over a decade ago, St vd Brink was the first transport company in the Netherlands to use silent trailers. Mulder: "We can actually drive and load the vehicles at night. This is not only greatly valued by our customers; it's actually better for the environment as well, as it reduces congestion."
In 2010 the company received the Lean & Green Award for its efforts to reduce carbon emissions. These include the introduction of hybrid electric trucks, which can run on electricity for the last stretch of a journey and are therefore absolutely silent. Mulder: "It's a huge relief for people living in city centres, because hybrid trucks make the process of stocking shops a lot cleaner while producing a lot less noise at the same time."
Solid business case
The company's next step was to invest in trucks running on LNG – liquefied natural gas, which happens to be the cleanest of all the fossil fuels. As Mulder explains, this does require a careful planning system, as there are currently only 20 petrol stations selling LNG in the Netherlands. He feels driving hybrid electric trucks make for a solid business case. "There are loading and unloading stations in the Netherlands that allow access to hybrid vehicles only, so in that sense our fleet is something of a niche in the market." St vd Brink has also been experimenting with innovative cooling engines, and its drivers are being trained and encouraged to drive as energy-efficiently as possible.
It has been Mulder's experience that finding innovations and sustainable solutions can be challenging: "We are dependent on truck manufacturers. Our fleet currently includes 480 vehicles, of which we replace around sixty or seventy on an annual basis. It is not just the company's fleet that is sustainable: its buildings also comply with the highest standards of sustainability. One of the buildings at its facility in the town of Wormerveer uses geothermal energy for its HVAC systems, and the company recently equipped a building for a customer based in Lelystad with solar panels, which are used to supply power to pre-loaded trailers."
St vd Brink received an Impact Loan from Rabobank to make these sustainable investments in buildings. "In taking out the loan, our company is eligible for a hefty discount. We're very happy with that, since profit margins in the transport industry tend to be low. We are also pleased that our Rabobank account manager told us about the Impact Loan. I would describe it as a perfect example of financial partnership."