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Influencer interview: Marjan Verbeek, Strategic Partnership Manager

January 13, 2020 / Africa

Marjan Verbeek, Strategic Partnership Manager at Climate Neutral Group, works to help companies develop truly sustainable travel policies. After 15 years in the travel industry, she now combines entrepreneurship with a responsible future to enable the movement to net-zero emissions.

Marjan spoke at a travel industry event in Uber’s Amsterdam office, discussing a thought-provoking topic—”Sustainable business travel: is it just an impossible dream?” We’re excited to share her insights and tips on how to become climate neutral.

Let’s hear it from her:

I was working in tourism for almost 15 years when I was asked to join Climate Neutral Group to make the travel business more sustainable. It was a great challenge where I could bring my knowledge, skills, and network to create a larger impact in favour of the climate.

Besides my work I love to spend time with my family and friends, cook for them and play volleyball.

Helping businesses move towards net-zero emissions

1. What do you love most about the work you do?

Creating a positive impact.

2. What’s your biggest priority when you work with customers and partners?

Again, it’s creating a positive impact but in consultation with our partners, where together we’re looking for a suitable solution within the organisation to be as sustainable as possible and future-proof (being on track towards a net-zero emissions economy).

3. What are the main challenges you have faced?

I think the main challenge is changing behaviour. Changing behaviour remains difficult for us as human beings.

4. At our Amsterdam event, you talked about how offsetting allows us to take responsibility but isn’t a solution. How can we invest in an alternative way of flying with net-zero emissions?

Offsetting is not the “end” solution but it is at least taking responsibility for your current emissions. This goes hand in hand with investing in technology and innovation—taking action now and investing in the future.

This means in the short term, biokerosene and synthetic kerosene will be a solution, which is what we need to focus on and invest in. For the medium to long term, electric flying could be an option for short-haul flights with smaller airplanes. And for the long term, we are really looking for a radical new way of flying.

In any case, we must be more aware of our choices. We must adopt alternative ways of travelling, which needs to be way more accessible and attractive but also change our mindset.

“We will always continue to travel, but we will have to make more conscious choices.”

Marjan Verbeek, Strategic Partnership Manager at Climate Neutral Group,

5. Some people might think their individual actions to reduce carbon emissions are minimal when it comes to the big picture. What would you say to encourage people to continue their efforts?

Never think that your own contribution is too low to make a difference. If we move and take smaller steps forward, we will make this change. We can only make an impact together and accelerate. And be aware that nothing has to be perfect in the beginning; just start!

6. How would you describe the link between technological solutions, traveller’s choices and government actions when it comes to reducing carbon emissions?

It goes all hand in hand. We need the travellers for the demand, we need the market/business to invest in new technologies and see the new business models and opportunities, and we need to government to support this with regulations and possible support in giving incentives or funding.

7. You have 15 years of experience in the travel industry. What major changes have you noticed over this period?

I think the major change is that everybody is aware of the fact that we need to act. The urgency is there. We’re thinking about where and how to start to create an impact in favour of the climate.

8. There’s a new generation entering the workforce, and they have more awareness of newer technologies and sustainability issues. How do you think their habits and priorities will affect business travel over the next 10 years?

They will have a great effect. We already see now that millennials are making different more sustainable choices. The technology will support us in giving better insights so we can make better conscious choices and travel in a more sustainable way. Technology will accelerate the energy transition.

9. What’s one stand-out story from your career where you feel like you made a real impact in making business travel more sustainable?

I was always working in tourism, which is a great dynamic environment but not the most sustainable one. By joining Climate Neutral Group, I make business travel more sustainable on a daily basis.

10. Finally, what’s the most important piece of advice you would like to share with other partnership managers who would like to prioritise the climate-neutral movement?

Start with getting insights on your climate impact, see where you can reduce, put milestones for the coming period (one to five or ten years) adapt your policy if needed, ask for feedback, share results and follow up on this important information so you can create support. Management should lead by example.

Marjan Vanbeek discussing the movement to net-zero emissions at Uber HQ in Amsterdam.
Marjan works at Climate Neutral Group and was a special guest at a sustainability event at Uber HQ in Amsterdam.

Want more?

Marjan Verbeek discussed whether sustainable business travel is achievable at a business breakfast in Uber’s Amsterdam office. Find out the highlights from this event.