BLYDE WAKE-UP CALLS
5 BURNING QUESTIONS TO FRANCO PRONTERA, COUNTRY MANAGER AT TOO GOOD TO GO BELGIUM
The past years have laid bare many truths about our current model of capitalism — the severe income inequality and the belief that improving human lives and taking care of the environment are expendable for better profit margins. The changemakers in the growing Certified B Corporation community are demanding an end to the myth that profits must come at the expense of purpose, and environmental and social care. It’s time to wake up, it’s time for action.
At Blyde we believe in questioning the status quo. We believe in the power of the collective, in taking a stand and inspiring people by showing what can and must be changed. In our weekly Wake Up Calls, Blyde stirs up hunger for positive change. We listen to several B Corp voices who talk about their call to action for companies around the globe today. By letting people from different perspectives and businesses speak, we would like to underline the important role of business in this decade of action. ‘On stage’ today: changemaker Franco Prontera, country manager at Too Good To Go Belgium.
Too Good To Go is an app and a community of Waste Warriors fighting food waste together. What was your wake-up call for contributing to a better world?
Although my interest in climate change and the environment gradually grew during my years at the University, I still remember the exact tipping point that made me go all in. On a casual Tuesday evening in the winter of 2010, in a small and scrappy class with not more than 15 other interested, I attended a lecture of ‘Dos Winkel’. He is a Dutch amateur diver and underwater photographer who, over the course of 20 years, visited the same diving spots across the world and mapped the impact of our current way of living. This visual representation of the negative impact of our consumption behaviour and the lack of respect we seemingly have on our environment, struck me like lighting. It awakened a sense of urgency and responsibility that made me think about my personal impact and engaged me to be part of the solution to these imminent threats to our planet. I changed my study program that month, which marked the start of my new education as a Master in Ecology and Environmental Sciences. A fantastic two-year program that allowed me to immerse myself among my peers into the science and solutions to battle climate change.
Parallel to this passion for our beautiful planet, since I left high school, I was always deeply intrigued by entrepreneurship and the positive force entrepreneurs and companies can have on our world. During, but especially after my studies, I allowed myself to experiment with this and dove into the start-up world of Antwerp, launching small initiatives and companies ranging from an e-commerce start-up selling premium olive oil to a tech start-up building apps and websites to help big corporates innovate. 7 years after meeting Dos Winkel, a few succeeded and failed adventures and a 7-month trip in Asia later, I encountered the crossroads of my two passions, the environment and entrepreneurship, within Too Good To Go. I was lucky to be able to launch the Belgian market with a few others in 2018 and be there ever since.
What is your call to action for companies around the globe?
Two things. Courage and optimism.
Courage to change or challenge your company to move towards having a positive sum outcome on our planet. Win-Win. The age of classic business is over. We can simply not keep doing whatever we want, however we want, neglecting the consequences on our people and planet. Not only the legal and regulatory world are putting more and more restrictions on this, also from a business perspective, from a people perspective, this is the way forward. Your customers, suppliers, producers, employees will demand transparency and intent to move towards a sustainable way of going what you do. Have the courage to take the difficult decision, to do it the hard way. It might take longer, or cost more money, but the outcome will be so much more valuable in the long-term. There are tons of examples where companies combine a positive impact on the world with a profitable and financially healthy business. Business for good is not only the right thing to do, it’s the only thing to do.
The second is optimism. A lot of companies have got a beating in the past years. The global pandemic, lockdown, the war in Ukraine, supply chain issues in China, rising interest rates, a harsh VC climate, the energy crisis, inflation. It seems like the list of serious challenges is never ending and one could easily get into a pessimistic mindset, expecting the next big challenge in these so-called ‘unprecedented times’ is right around the corner. At the same time, new technologies, innovative business models and cost of knowledge have never been more accessible and easy to obtain. We opened the year 2023 in Belgium with the hottest first of January ever recorded. Climate change has never been felt more present. But at the same time, on that same day, 40% of all electricity was produced by wind turbines. 40%. This is huge. Yes, we need to take action and we all have to do it together. But let’s not lose motivation or energy with the challenges ahead of us. With positive intent and technology, change can happen, fast. It’s up to us.
The Sustainable Development Goals are an important blueprint for making the necessary changes. Which of these Goals calls you the most and why?
Call me a groupie, but I will nominate SDG 12 and more specifically 12.3 for sure! SDG 12 reads as ‘Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns’, where 12.3 puts a target on it: “By 2030, half per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses”
More than one third of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted from farm to fork. This huge level of inefficiency has an economic, social, and environmental impact. Food loss and waste causes more than €940 billion per year in economic losses. It exacerbates food insecurity and malnutrition. And food that is ultimately lost or wasted consumes about a quarter of all water used by agriculture, requires land area the size of China and is responsible for an estimated 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Reducing this food loss and waste is a “triple win.” Reductions can save money for farmers, companies, and households. Wasting less means feeding more. And reductions alleviate pressure on climate, water, and land resources.
Call me a changemaker – your company in 2030…(biggest dreams, wishes, plans?)
Looking inside out, I’d like to see us claim a spot among giants like Patagonia, Ben&Jerry’s and Allbirds, becoming a standard and reference in the world of businesses for good. Staying true to our mission and intention along the way and not losing track because of distractions, or laziness. At Too Good To Go, we have a diamond in our hands, a business model offering a win-win-win solution, both for us as for the planet and our customers, I’d like to see us inspiring other companies to follow in our footprints.
Looking inside in, I would say that I’m super proud that currently, we have built the biggest marketplace to save food. In 2030, I’d like to keep this position and have expanded our impact globally across continents and cultures. Next to offering a B2B marketplace connecting consumers and food entrepreneurs, I’d like to see ourselves expanding the product, offering even more solutions to producers, manufacturers, retail and consumers at home to frictionless, while still honouring our win-win-win model, to save as much food out of the bin as possible. In terms of people and team, I’d like to see us grow into a powerhouse with ambitious and talented people with a strong culture and hunger to raise the bar.
If you could invite one company to join the B Corp community, what company would that be and why?
Cool question! I think I’ll go with a local player in our sector with impact in Belgium. I would love to see a retailer in food be able to convince their (internal) decision makers to raise the bar and get the B-corp certification in. Food retailers have so much influence on our behaviour and consumption that they would put down a powerful statement towards their peers. That’s with I’d like to see The Colruyt Group join the B-Corp Club.