“With Sustalab, we accelerate awareness and facilitate sustainable action”

Sustalab, short for sustainability lab, is a learning, leadership and consultancy for good initiative that from the Faculty of Business and Economics.  The dynamic team of students and alumni has already had a huge impact on companies, sector federations and the Flemish government.

Founder Hans Verboven: “Our mission is to raise awareness for the transformative agenda of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The 17 SDGs set a global agenda of change and urge academia, business leaders, civil society and governments to act.

Although businesses are aware that sustainability is a basic condition of entrepreneurship, business leaders often still feel ill-equipped to respond to the current challenges their businesses face. That’s why Sustalab aims to help companies with sustainable growth, optimization, strategy and innovation.”

What’s in a name?

“Sustainability is not always easy to define, especially in business”, says Charlotte, business developer at Sustalab. “Sustainability for us is an opportunity for continuous improvement and strongly linked to the lean thinking definition: maximum value creation with minimum waste. This is an approach where on the one hand sustainability consists mostly out of process optimization and excellence within existing business models.

On the other hand, sustainability must also be able to inspire business leaders to make strategic changes and innovations. This approach, based on a 80/20 rule, makes it easier for businesses to understand the building blocks of sustainability.”

“Sustainability is about creating more and better value. Sustalab’s approach is a good example of how universities can create shared value for people (students and entrepreneurs), planet (how companies can become part of the solution) and profit (Business for Good).”
Guy Pollentier, Head of Sustainable Business Center BNP Paribas Fortis

Facilitating action

Sustalab has developed an approach with regards to sustainable innovation that allows companies to use the insights of the millennial generation to build strategies for tomorrow. They use hands-on management methods and self-developed tools to facilitate sustainable change and impact.

1.  Optimization

With support of the Flemish government, Sustalab founder Hans Verboven developed the Sustatool, an opensource tool that offers a translation of the current global SDG framework into pragmatic, business-oriented and concrete actions. In 2019 it became the government’s supported standard for small and medium-sized enterprises in Flanders.

“Sustatool situates sustainability on three levels: product/service excellence, operational excellence and organizational excellence”, says Hans. “Since sustainability is a broad concept, the three excellence levels contain fifteen themes, that cover various aspects – from HR to energy, mobility and purchasing policy. To further map sustainability, these 15 themes are divided in 90 sub-themes with more than 1.000 concrete actions and performance indicators. Everything is measurable, so companies can achieve real results.”

2. Sustainable Innovation

Sustalab also tries to facilitate strategic thinking about sustainable business innovation and new business models by something they call the ‘Battle of the Boards’. According to Hans, “the aim is to position the ‘board of millennials’ against a ‘board of directors’. Sustalab challenges the status quo, reacts on the board’s defense and works towards more sustainable and innovative business models. We believe our team of millennials can stimulate breakthroughs and disruptive ideas.”

“Businesses need a different, more pragmatic approach to map, monitor and measure their own strategic sustainability impact.”
Charlotte, business developer Sustalab

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