Challenge to Improve: Bramske van Beijma

About clean air and big steps

"Let's give people more air - literally and figuratively"

As challengers, our colleagues challenge the market. Bramske van Beijma is one of them. Her motive? Clean Air.

The Zeeland beaches, that's where it started. Bramske traveled with her parents, brothers and sister to their holiday home in Zeeland as often as she could. The Rotterdam family longed for fresh air. At home, the wind was often coming from the wrong direction, causing the polluted air from the industrial area to blow exactly to the parental home. Especially for Bramske's brother, who often suffered from lung problems in the heart of Rotterdam, the trips were no superfluous luxury. Besides the weekends and holidays in Zeeland, Bramske spent her summers in the mountains. When we crossed the Dutch border again, I noticed it immediately. 'Hmm', I thought. 'What's that smell?'"

A leap in time. Bramske started at Ballast Nedam in September 2020 as Director Corporate Social Responsibility. Her task: to create awareness to get even more active with sustainability and corporate social responsibility. As a challenger she boosts intrinsic motivation, she feeds her colleagues with information and she keeps all teams on the ball. A role that fits Bramske perfectly. "In short, I challenge the status quo. Stagnation is decline, so we have to deal with all the new issues. Otherwise you will no longer participate in the market. Clients and competitors are taking steps."

You have a big task. Do you also see yourself as a challenger?
"I do. I literally started at Ballast Nedam with the request to challenge the company. These themes should not simply be ticked off to get the right certificates. It should actually initiate a transition, which is desperately needed within these themes because we work for a better living environment. This has a high priority, especially in urban areas. I have experienced that myself. How nice would it be to not have those smelly cars around us, but to see nature instead? We see that everywhere is silting up due to urbanization. Let's put nature in between and give people more air - literally and figuratively."

How nice would it be to not have those smelly cars around us?
Bramske van Beijma Director Corporate Social Responsibility Ballast Nedam
You say you challenge the status quo. How do you do that?
“We are building beautiful, sustainable projects. For example, we are active in realizing BREEAM-certified buildings and we work with environmental cost indicator calculations for infrastructure projects. And we carry out circular ideas. For example, we made our prefabricated concrete beams on a viaduct of the A9 Gaasperdammerweg available for an investigation by Royal HaskoningDHV. We also focus on innovations and pilots. It goes without saying that we want to perform our work in a clean manner. For example, our client Rijkswaterstaat wants emission-free construction sites by 2030. But we actually want to achieve that sooner. To make a beautiful, positive impact, we also have to leave something behind for the world in the long term. That is why I am now busy cleaning the construction site and our construction process, so that our projects have a lasting, positive impact."

Together with Hochtief and Van Oord, we are going to construct 2.4 kilometers of quays and earthworks in the Prinses Amaliahaven, for the growth of the port of Rotterdam. An area you know well, if we look back on your youth. How do you ensure cleaning at that enormous construction site from Ballast Nedam?
"We already noticed during the tender phase of the Princess Amaliahaven that we have to work actively to reduce CO2 emissions. That is why we took a critical look at our process and equipment. It is difficult, because not all construction machines are electric yet. Small electric equipment is possible, but heavy electric pile drivers do not yet exist."

"We started investigating whether we could work with biofuels for eighty percent, such as HVO. And what about our work processes? Could we work differently? Even smarter? We sat down with the work planners to see if we could use a different approach. We are now going to do the drainage electrically, instead of using a diesel generator. That makes a difference, because now we even need less sheet piling. And because we don't have to hammer a sheet pile wall, we have much less steel, man hours and transport required. And all in all, that also saves CO2 emissions."

How do you create awareness in such a project?
"Small steps increase awareness. Visibility of sustainability is important at the Princess Amaliahaven. We have an energy-neutral chain with heat pumps and solar panels. We are also installing energy-neutral cabins with solar panels on the roof on the enormous construction site, so that our people can drink coffee there during their break. We are constantly looking at how we can build with even less materials, machines and fossil fuels. If we can also generate our own energy in the meantime, that would be even better."

Small steps for a big impact.

"That's right. On the one hand, I tackle the simple things. The low-hanging fruit, for the quick yield. On the other hand, I look further and I create strength by working together. That is why we have joined De Groene Koers: the platform for the construction and infrastructure sector that focuses on the emission reduction of mobile equipment. We are also affiliated with ENI: Emission-Free Network Infrastructure. This foundation focuses on the CO2 reduction of Infrastructure construction sites and strives for CO2 neutrality in 2026 instead of 2030. In the field of circularity, we are also active in working groups of the circular construction platform CB'23."

Social responsibility goes further than just sustainability, of course. This also includes the themes of safety, good employment practices, digitalisation, integrity and community engagement management. Thus, social return, the deployment of people at a distance from the labor market, also falls within your portfolio.
"There are still a lot of steps to be taken in the field of social return. That is why I challenged our HR department to hire extra five people from social return to give them a chance and gain work experience. A certain use of social return on our projects is mandatory for tenders, but we can do even more than that. This is something we are going to work hard for."

People are motivated and comitted. That is so beautiful to see.
Bramske van Beijma Director Corporate Social Responsibility Ballast Nedam
Time is ticking and the deadline for CO2 neutrality in 2030 is getting closer. What have you already accomplished at Ballast Nedam in your first nine months?
"A lot, if I look back like this. I have brought about a change in the way of thinking, whereby I have put social responsibility and sustainability even more firmly on the map within the company. The CSR department is now more visible and more involved, which means that we provide more input in pre-qualifications and tenders such as the Prinses Amaliahaven. We have signed framework contracts for Dutch green electricity for our office, production and construction locations, a third of the lease cars that we offer to our employees are now electric and our new fuel contract includes GTL (Gas to Liquid) and HVO (Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil ). All our wood is sustainably certified and we are now also questioning our subcontractors even more critically on sustainability."

"It is important here that we all have to feel ownership. It is not that I am the only one to challenge the club. This is something collective and the motivation must come from colleagues themselves. People are motivated and comitted. That is so beautiful to see. When I look at what I have now achieved in nine months, I see how great the effect is when you make people enthusiastic. We are going faster and faster. I am proud of our organisation and the path we have taken."

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