The new ‘business as usual’ is value-driven: 3 concrete examples
For a long time now, it has been Upgrade Estate's ambition only to make a profit in a sustainable way. And the company certainly succeeds in doing so with flying colours. In podcast episode #3 of Vlerick Change Makers, co-CEO Nele Van Damme zooms in on three initiatives which demonstrate that a value-driven organisation is more successful than a financially driven company and discusses the idea behind this.
Our value-driven initiatives in 2020
“Upgrade Estate is a value-driven company that builds and manages sustainable and innovative housing for students and young professionals,” says Nele. “When it became clear at the start of the coronavirus crisis that we were able to overcome our 5 biggest challenges, we focused on our corporate mission: creating social impact. In no time at all, we had three value-driven initiatives that would make all the difference to our stakeholders.”
#1 Free energy consumption
“During the lockdown, 60% of our students went back home. We were soon flooded with questions about the rental costs. It even made the news. To give our tenants and their parents peace of mind, we donated six weeks of free energy consumption to all our 3,000 tenants.”
#2 Upgrade Solidarity
“For students who could no longer pay their rent, we wanted to do even more. As a result, we set up a fund called Upgrade Solidarity. With the money collected from our investors, we were able to reimburse up to 90% of the rental costs for people such as working students or students whose parents were both on furlough. Admittedly, this was an intense and stressful period with plenty of problems and challenges. But being able to make a difference gives us so much energy and satisfaction.”
“We will never be able to go back to business as usual. So next year we are launching a third brand, Upoffiz. Not just the umpteenth coworking space or incubator, but a home base for growing companies in which interaction and connection take centre stage. Our target group is companies with a strong identity and a clear growth path that focuses on the wellbeing of their employees. We will naturally also provide webinar studios, outdoor meeting facilities, software for streaming and video calls in every meeting room, and so on. And it doesn’t end there. We can see a huge number of possibilities, so bring it on!”
Purpose as a driving force
“I am convinced that the current, financially driven economy is evolving into a value-driven economy, and that we have almost reached the tipping point. Companies that want to achieve long-term success can only do so if they make a clear social contribution. The new book by Steven Van Belleghem, ‘The offer you can't refuse’, says that the new customer expectations are influenced by three elements: ease of use, a life partner and saving the world. Companies that cannot provide an answer to these needs will not survive, in my opinion.”
Time for social entrepreneurship
“In the war for talent, we are seeing that employees like to identify with the company they work for. If this trend continues, and I hope it will, social entrepreneurship will only gain in popularity. I am therefore convinced that companies should take the lead here and share their best practices. If you don’t think you can change the world with a sustainable and profitable business model, you are wrong. I am very proud that Upgrade Estate is making a profit in a responsible way and suggest only investing time and money in companies with a world-changing mindset from now on.”
You can read more about how exactly Nele tackles the war for talent in Nele's advice on young entrepreneurship or find out more in the full podcast episode Vlerick Change Makers Podcast - #3 Nele Van Damme.