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Fieldtrip Biodiversity

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Insurers and pension funds have joined forces. Within the framework of the Convenant on International Corporate Social Responsibility (ICSR), a working group has been set up, in which financial institutions, government and NGOs jointly focus on preventing further loss of biodiversity.

Questions that will be addressed in the working group include how cultivated soy finds its way to Europe. Is this done through deforestation in the Amazon and Cerrado, because soy plantations are being built? The Dutch meat and dairy processing industry uses soy in livestock farming, but can that demand decrease? Are there alternatives? Which one? All insights gained by the working group are used in discussions with international, listed companies that process soy and in which insurers and pension funds invest. These so-called engagement conversations are of course intended to encourage these companies to work more on a sustainable production chain.

On location

And where can the participants in the covenants get more and better inspiration than in the field? The setting for the so-called Fieldtrip Biodiversity is the Organic Farm Veld en Beek.

Curious? Read the story of farmer Jan below! Or scroll on for the stories of the other speakers.

Farmer Jan: "Sustainability doesn't just come out of the blue"

"We do what consumers want"

Jan Wieringa is director of Biologica (now Bionext) when he scratches his head. He has a good time in his position, but decides to change course. "I started doing what I wanted to do when I was little: become a farmer."

Regular clientele

That was more than twenty years ago. Together with his wife Marijke, Jan started with eight cows in 1999. Now he has fifty cows on a mixed farm (fields and meadows), with about 400 hectares of land and he sells dairy, cheese, meat, bread, vegetables and fruit to a regular clientele of about 3,300 people. Customers can pick up their products 24-7 at one of the five self-service points in the immediate vicinity. Everyone has their own key, registers with an app what he or she takes with him or her and the payment then takes place via direct debit.
The Organic Farm Veld en Beek is the setting of the Fieldtrip Biodiversity for which about thirty interested asset managers, governments and NGOs have come to Doorwerth.


Jan talks passionately about the history of the farm, about the entrepreneurs involved ("we have no employees, but work with entrepreneurs") and about the consumer. "We do what the consumer wants," he says firmly. "That in itself is not surprising. Every entrepreneur does that, but normally there are still a few links between farmer and customer in agriculture. At Campina, for example, there is a marketer who one day realizes that the consumer might like Meadow Milk. We mainly ask ourselves that kind of thing, because we have known what the consumer wants for a long time."

Read more ...


Farmer Jan: "DDND (Sustainable So Not Expensive) is the only solution"

What is engagement?

en·ga·ge·ment / sense of moral obligation. That is the name that Van Dale (Dutch dictionairy) gives to the word engagement. During the Climate Work Conference 2021 at the end of last year, Richard Weurding, managing director of the Dutch Association of Insurers, already hinted that 'looking through the eye hairs, insurers are still opting for engagement for the time being'. According to him, public-private partnerships are the way forward to, among other things, keep climate change manageable. At the same time, he stressed that clarity is one of the most important conditions for being effective. "Not only in the short term, but especially in the medium term. The government must take much more control. It is constantly called, but is not yet sufficiently off the ground," says Weurding.

Commitment to halt biodiversity loss

The international CSR covenant for the insurance sector is one of the ways in which insurers try to make a difference through public-private partnerships with governments and NGOs by encouraging companies in which insurers invest their customers' money to change their thinking.
With the annual theme Biodiversity, which is aimed at three large internationally operating companies, the conversation is started to prevent deforestation, and thus biodiversity loss.


In the video, Aegon, NN and a.s.r. explain what they mean by engagement, what accents they place during the engagement process (which has recently been extended by six months) and what result they are satisfied with.

Arthur van Mansvelt: "To stop deforestation, we are looking at alternatives"

"Sometimes you have to ask questions, even if it hurts"

Two know more than one. That is the idea behind the combined working group of insurers and pension funds at the ICSR, which is now looking into the theme of biodiversity. And that was also the idea behind the double interview that chairman Pieter van der Gaag had during the Fieldtrip in the old grupstal of farmer Jan.

Joint working group

Insurers and pension funds each have their own ICSR covenant (International Corporate Social Responsibility), in which they work together with sector organisations, government, trade unions and civil society organisations. The aim is to identify and prevent abuses such as exploitation, animal suffering or environmental damage. For the remaining duration of the covenant, the theme Biodiversity has been chosen and a joint working group has been set up to bring more focus to this. Nienke van der Veen of World Animal Protection (WAP) and Arthur van Mansvelt (Achmea Investment Management) are happy with this. "Together we can do much more. Moreover, in a collaboration we can both increase our impact and bring more efficiency."


The focus of the working group is on a joint case: soy production in Brazil. "To stop deforestation as a result of the construction of soy plantations, we are looking at alternatives to the soy that the Netherlands imports from Brazil and China," says Arthur.
After the first discussions and gathering the necessary information, the working group has entered the next phase. In it, the members of the working group focus on four important topics: stopping deforestation, more sustainable production, alternatives to soy and replacing meat with plant-based ingredients (from animal to planet-based).

Three companies

"We are now in talks with three international companies in the food industry. In most conversations, we mainly ask a lot of questions," says Nienke. "Think of questions such as: where are you? And what do you do about biodiversity? We can compare these companies nicely, because they all focus on regenerative agriculture. In short, that is strengthening natural resources instead of depleting them. This agricultural method mainly focuses on improving soil quality."
One of the biggest challenges concerns reporting by companies, Arthur adds. "The devil is in the detail. Figuring out exactly what companies are doing is difficult. What is your definition? Which targets? What are the improvements in five years' time? A little sustainable is not enough to stop the loss of biodiversity. Sometimes we have to ask a lot of questions, even if it hurts the company. Fortunately, the NGOs are good at that."


Nienke nods. "If we want companies to change their approach, we do indeed have to ask a lot of questions. How will these companies approach the transition from animal to planet-based ? And of course we can organize many webinars or enter into a discussion with each other again, but we can also visit a farmer to see with our own eyes how it works in practice. That's why we're here today!"

Nienke van der Veen: "If we want companies to change, we have to ask a lot of questions"

Theun Vellinga: "Whichever way you look at it, somewhere we pay a bill"

"Sustainable food is not sexy"

He has been doing research in livestock farming for more than thirty years and has a lot of (international) experience with the animal feed chain. Theun Vellinga (Wageningen University) knows exactly where things go wrong. "We have to adjust our eating patterns and that's a hell of a job."

Sustainable agriculture

Theun is used to standing in front of a group and does not need a Powerpoint . He does it out of the bare head and just starts at the beginning: what to do with soy? "If we want to achieve sustainable agriculture, we must first look at the consumption of proteins of all people in Europe. That amounts to 105 grams per person per day (65 grams of animal protein and forty grams of vegetable), while for an adult 65 grams would be enough. That means that the animal proteins would already be sufficient, but that requires a lot of cattle and that cattle also needs to be fed again."

Stop using soy?

According to Theun, we can do two things: look for alternatives to soy or think about human consumption.

Read more ...

Theun Vellinga: "As long as we consider meat as main dishes and vegetables as a side dish, we still have a long way to go"

Research into circular effects

Curious about the report in which Theun and colleagues describe what the consequences and reactions are if we stop importing soy altogether? Click here.

Ruud Zanders: "If we want to feed the world fairly, we have to stop the competition between animals and people"

"I didn't want to do what I did anymore"

"Why do we do what we do?" It is the first sheet of the presentation by Ruud Zanders, one of the founders of Kipster. On the sheet a picture of his parents. Ruud talks about the history and present of poultry farming and about the history and present of society.

'We demand meat'

Ruud is from Venray and was raised on a farm. Both his father and his mother come from a farming family and so it was logical that he – together with his brother – took over the farm from his parents. "We did the same as our parents, continued on the same path. Almost everyone did, but fifty years ago people took to the streets and demonstrated for more meat: 'We demand meat!' Now people are demonstrating in the heart of Amsterdam and the slogan is: 'Make minced meat from the meat industry!' We produced on the basis of the former, while we had to deal with the latter. We had a turnover of 45 million, quite a lot for a farm, but we went bankrupt."

Can it be done differently?

After the bankruptcy, Ruud's house was sold. He stood on the street with his wife and three children, went to a rented house and wondered what to do next. "I didn't want to do what I did anymore. And I wondered: can it be done differently?"
He shows another quote in his presentation: Is it ethical to feed good food to animals? "That's the reason for kipster was founded, but I couldn't (and didn't want to) do it alone."

Circular food chain

Together with three co-entrepreneurs (Maurits Groen, Olivier Wegloop and Styn Claessens), Ruud wants to produce eggs, but differently. "Our first question was: why would we do that? Does it make sense? And is there a role for animals in the food system?"
One of their most important conditions is therefore that there must be a circular food chain. "If we want to feed the world fairly, we have to stop the competition between animals and people," says Ruud. "Research by Wageningen University (Imke de Boer and Hannah van Zanten) shows that seventy percent of agricultural land is used for animals and thirty percent of grain production worldwide is for animals. Why? We should feed production animals only with by-products from the land and from human consumption. It's downright ridiculous what we humans throw away in food."

Animal welfare

Kipster's first farm was built in Venray, with both an indoor and an outdoor garden for the chickens. The 24,000 chickens can go outside whenever they want.
In a nutshell, Kipster is now the most environmentally friendly chicken farm with the highest animal welfare standard, which is also growing rapidly. The Kipster eggs are for sale in the Netherlands at the Lidl, but soon also in America, at Kroger (after the Wallmart the largest supermarket chain). In addition, talks are ongoing in France, Belgium, the United Kingdom and Germany. "For me, it's not about the amount of eggs we can sell," Ruud emphasizes. "We would like to tell our story and help feed the world more fairly."

A free tip

At the end of his presentation, Ruud Zanders (Kipster) had a free tip in store for the attendees: "From now on, only buy white eggs. These have a lower carbon footprint than brown ones." Why is that?, asks one of the participants present at the field trip. "Because a white chicken eats less than a brown one. She needs the same amount of feed to produce an egg, but less for her own maintenance due to a lower body weight."

Reactions of the participants:

Reactions of the participants:

Reactions of the participants:

  • "We can help our customers to make the right choices!"
  • "The pricing of organic food remains interesting. Supermarkets play a major role in this and that is why we need to involve them in the new way of thinking, so that they can change their marketing."
  • "Today's story is beautiful. And clear. We need to focus on changing the whole food chain. Supermarkets have to keep up with this change, but we can also exert our influence."
  • "Maybe we can start our own fund?"
  • "An important question is: how can we steer investments for the future? And what is the role of consumers? Perhaps that consumer can serve as a lever?"
  • "We must not only focus on the chain, but also firmly focus on biodiversity. After all, do we want to influence consumers and supermarkets in the Netherlands? Or do we focus on what's happening in South America?"
  • "Let's realize that regenerative is a vague term. What does it mean to you? And what criteria do you use? It's about soils and vulnerability, but also about alternatives that actually improve the soil, such as placing and growing trees that are more productive."
  • "We must not forget that there is already certification. Why shouldn't we adjust and use it a bit so that we can start the conversation?"
  • "Even if the covenants end in 2023, there is nothing stopping us from keeping the conversation going, is there?"

New chairman of the insurance covenant

Kees Vendrik is the new chairman of the international CSR covenant for the Insurance sector. In this covenant, insurers, NGOs and the government work together to make a positive contribution to the environment, social conditions and corporate governance. The parties also want to prevent violations on these themes.

Vendrik is Chief Economist at Triodos Bank in daily life and has been a member of the Senate for GroenLinks since June 2019.

(Text: Miranda de Groene - Photography: Ivar Pel)

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