Encon: 'Sustainability is a good thing, including for your business.'

KBC is projecting itself increasingly emphatically as a partner on the journey of companies wishing to do business more sustainably. KBC offers services that go beyond traditional financing offerings. For large and medium-sized companies, KBC has joined forces with sustainability pioneer Encon.

'We have been working with Encon for five years now,' says Wim Eraly, Senior General Manager at KBC Commercial Banking. 'The collaboration is part of our broader ambition to raise awareness among customers about the importance of sustainability. Our philosophy is clear: the companies that are imbued with the importance of sustainability today are going to be the strong companies of the future. And these are the companies that we want to partner.'

'KBC aims to be a one-stop shop for all its customers, small or large, with a good network of services and partners.

Wim Eraly - Senior Seneral Manager at KBC Commercial Banking


Encon may be somewhat reminiscent of ecoWise, a consulting firm that KBC set up internally to guide its customers in their sustainability investments. 'You shouldn’t think of ecoWise and Encon as competitors,' clarified Eraly immediately. 'With Encon, we focus on large clients within Corporate Banking, whereas EcoWise helps SMEs on a project level. But the underlying approach is the same: With a good network of services and partners, KBC aims to be a one-stop shop for all its customers, small or large.'

Through the partnership between KBC and Encon, KBC's enterprise clients can count on fully individualised professional sustainability advice tailored to their business processes and needs. The resulting investments can be financed by clients using KBC's solutions. The bank is also making an extra commercial effort. The upshot is that sustainability grows from within the company itself, with KBC and Encon acting as catalysts and facilitators.

In its transition to more sustainable operations, KBC quickly realised that it lacked the necessary expertise itself. To make the move to tailor-made advice and unburden its customers, it needed to look for a partner. 'We are not engineers or consultants devising sustainability strategies. With Encon, we found the right partner, one that recognised the value of our commercial network. It has also built sufficient credibility in its business. We had known Encon for some time. It is a client of KBC and we worked together on sustainability projects within KBC Real Estate.

Successful partnership

'We were actually in business well before that collaboration began,' Robin Bruninx adds. He founded Encon in 2002. 'The idea was simple: companies should not have to choose between what is good for the planet and what is good for their business. We have now been demonstrating for more than 20 years that investing in sustainability pays off and delivers economic benefits. We believe that investing in sustainability is the only real way to drive sustainable growth. Initially we were purely an energy consultancy, but gradually our offer has grown to include CO2 advice and guidance to help companies move towards more sustainability in a broader sense.'

'What was important was that the partnership gelled,' says Eraly. 'Encon needs to be able to work well with our commercial teams to identify the right customers.' For Bruninx, the challenge was clear. 'If we don't do our job well, it reflects negatively on KBC. The fact that we’ve been working well together for five years now demonstrates that the formula has traction.'

Our philosophy is to grow businesses by investing in sustainability.

Robin Bruninx - Founder Encon

'Our approach is ‘vertical’,' Bruninx continues. 'First, we help companies integrate sustainability thinking into the heart of their strategy. Subsequently, we will work together with them on concrete projects. KBC wants sustainable customers in both senses of the word: green and for the long term. A sustainability strategy for the first meaning enables the second.'

In the five years they have been working together, Encon has overseen some 450 projects by KBC clients. 'That’s enabled us to kick-start no less than 700 million euros-worth of sustainability investments,' says Bruninx proudly. And there is still room for growth: those 450 collaborations came from half the total number of referrals. 'It sometimes happens that we refer a customer to Encon at a time when they are not quite ready. But at the same time, an initial collaboration often leads to projects at a later date,' says Eraly.

Mandatory reporting

'Not every client has an actual project in mind at the time of our introductory meeting,' Bruninx adds. 'There can sometimes be six months between the first contact and the first contract. The budgets you need to fundamentally refocus your strategy and the projects that generates are not something companies have readily available. But one in every two customers who engage with us go on to confirm the success of our approach. Typically, customers who find their way to Encon through KBC are industrial customers. One example is Facil, an automotive supplier. And it’s not a small one: 'In fact they’re a multinational,' Eraly points out. Companies in that sector are under pressure not just from below or from the government; they are faced with increasingly stringent requirements set by the major carmakers, which put their entire supply chain under pressure to reduce the carbon footprint,' Bruninx explains. Another client that ended up with Encon via KBC is Distrilog, a major logistics player in Benelux. 'We helped them with cooling systems and energy savings.'

We also support companies from completely different sectors. Bruninx cites the example of Studio 100. We support their parks with a decarbonisation strategy under Europe's Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive,' explains Bruninx. That familar directive, known as CSRD for short, is increasing the sense of urgency for many companies. Europe imposes strict rules for reporting on sustainability policy and climate impact. In addition, legislation on renovation obligations, EPC certificates, electric vehicles and lower emission standards is also evolving at lightning speed. 'Companies do need to get started on all that,' says Bruninx. 'And for us that's not a problem: it's been our business for 22 years.'

Faster growth

‘Sustainability will increasingly become a differentiating, strategic factor for companies in the coming years’, say Eraly and Bruninx. Sustainability is not a cost, but a great opportunity and the driver of future growth. ‘Investing in reducing energy consumption and renewable energy helps bring down operating costs’, Eraly concludes.
In addition, there is increasing consumer demand for sustainable products. Moreover, sustainable businesses are increasingly one step ahead in the 'war for talent'. The generation who are currently graduating want to work for a company with a clear social purpose.
So integrating sustainability right across the business will ensure that the company is future-proof and create a virtuous circle of sustainable growth.

What steps is KBC itself taking to be more sustainable?

Read all about it in our sustainability report.

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