Monique Ravenstijn belongs to the fifth generation of entrepreneurs in her family. Her ancestors owned a small shop that sold homemade cheese and dairy products that started in 1875 as a dog-cart selling milk.
Today, Ravenstijn, a 46-year-old mother of three children, has a vision for her two supermarkets franchised from Jumbo, the second-largest supermarket chain in the Netherlands: to make the world a better place. Her entrepreneurial spirit, combined with a desire for a greener and more inclusive society, have pushed her to implement initiatives with social impact that contribute to sustainability and the circular economy around the supermarkets in Zwaagdijk and Heerhugowaard, north of Amsterdam.
“After years of just doing my business I learned that I was driven by a mission,” says Ravenstijn. “I believe that when we offer people more choices and teach them to choose outside the normal patterns, they will change the behaviours of these people —and also multinationals.”
Sustainable supermarket fosters circular economy and SME growth
It’s this combination of entrepreneurship and activism that helped Ravenstijn to qualify for an “Impact Loan” from Rabobank for the development of her second supermarket in Heerhugowaard.
Fons van Workum, relationship manager for the impact loan at Rabobank, explains that the product is intended for businesses that qualify as frontrunners in sustainability and are certified as such by an external assessment. Jumbo supermarkets fulfil this criterion because they hold a Lean & Green certification from Connekt, a Dutch public-private network for sustainable mobility. This commits companies to a reduction of at least 20% in CO2 emissions.
“The Impact Loan helps to give a positive edge to the clients that are willing to do something for the environment and have a social impact,” van Workum says. “Monique makes it happen. The themes of sustainability, healthy lifestyle and circular economy are all combined here.”
Rabobank’s Impact Loan is backed by the European Investment Bank. The EU bank’s cooperation with Rabobank on this programme started five years ago. The loan was signed in June 2018 for €250 million and contains a 10% climate action component.
Rabobank acts as an intermediary, allocating the funds from the European Investment Bank to a number of final beneficiaries, one of whom is Monique.
A new facility is available for 2020 for another €250 million.
“Through a financial partner like Rabobank we are able to support SMEs with good sustainable projects,” says Alexander Smits, loan officer at the European Investment Bank. “The allocation to Monique’s Jumbo supermarket is a very good example of the successful cooperation with Rabobank to stimulate investments towards sustainability and social impact”.
Common goals for a local bank and a local sustainable supermarket
Raymond Greuter, supermarket specialist at Rabobank, sums up the Impact Loan like this: “We support entrepreneurs in increasing their impact, while decreasing their ecological footprint.”
Ravenstijn’s Jumbo supermarkets, which employ 250 people and have 40 000 customers each week, stand out for a range of initiatives:
- the Zwaagdijk supermarket uses a composting machine. All organic waste is transformed to compost, which is given to customers free, to use in their gardens and balconies
- the Heerhugowaard supermarket delivers the organic waste to a no-waste-factory, which transforms it to products to be sold in the supermarket’s food corner
- the supermarket and its customers clean the surrounding area and dispose of litter at a recycling station
- the supermarkets only use fully degradable bags
- a lot of products are delivered by local or regionally based entrepreneurs
Sustainable supermarket generates social action
On the social responsibility side, 5% of the supermarkets’ employees have a mental or physical disorder and are less able to find other employment.
The supermarket is also a meeting place for lonely people from the community, who come in twice a week for a coffee and cake. Ravenstijn regularly organizes events such as craft workshops for groups of children, no-waste-dinners and educational activities for the employees.
Ravenstijn has created a not-for-profit organisation, Jeelink, with a network of citizens, farmers, corporates and SMEs. Its aim is to raise awareness about waste reduction and circular economy.
“If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got,” says Ravenstijn. “The need for change in our society is clear to me now. Above all, I believe that happy people are healthy people who make healthy choices for themselves and for the world around them.”