What will the Netherlands look like in the future? We asked a cross-section of people this question.
In this episode: Francis Quint, head of the investment branch of the Rabobank. In her view, we need to build a more sustainable society in the next ten to fifteen years, with equal opportunities and better services for all. Accelerating that transition calls for a different vision on asset management - from short-term to long-term socially responsible investing - and for coalitions between investors, companies, and the government. "Together, we need to set concrete goals and take action."
Is this the Netherlands? That question spontaneously arose for Francis Quint several times in the past year. “My father was isolated in his room in a nursing home for months. Our children could not go to school and home education was sometimes difficult. The corona crisis has shown that care and education - basic needs for all of us - do not have the level and adaptability that I always assumed.”
It is one of the social issues that Quint is keen to help solve. She is globally responsible for the 2.2- billion-Euro investment portfolio the Rabobank uses to invest in innovative non-listed companies: from start-ups to large corporations. Internationally, the focus is on the transitions in the food sector and agriculture; in our own country, it is also on energy transition, healthcare, and digitization. Now is the time to build the Netherlands of the future, Quint says.
What should we tackle first?
“We are facing a major social challenge: in the coming years, we need to bring about change in five areas simultaneously. The first is the energy transition, to meet the climate targets and be carbon neutral by 2050 at the latest. The second transition is to reduce social inequality and build an inclusive society in which everyone feels at home and has equal opportunities. The third challenge is to work towards affordable and accessible healthcare for every Dutch person. The fourth transition must take place in Food & Agriculture: how do we ensure sufficient food for everyone, with the smallest ecological footprint, by making the food chain more sustainable? And the fifth transition must enable and accelerate the other four: digitization.”
That is a tall order. How will we accomplish that?
“The pandemic has shown that we cannot continue on the current path. The corona crisis has magnified our social problems. We have experienced how urgent it is to make our energy consumption and food chain more sustainable, how dependent we are on supplies of raw materials and products from abroad, how unequally it is distributed in our society and where the shortcomings in care and education lie. That helps; we have become more aware of the need for change. This is the right time to actually initiate and accelerate all the necessary changes.”
That is going to require a lot of money…
“To achieve the Paris climate goals, we need $6 trillion worldwide to invest in sustainability through 2030, according to BCG's Global Asset Management report. And that's just one of the transitions we need to make. But the good news is that that money is already there. That six trillion dollars is only eight percent of the current total assets under management worldwide. We just need to start using that wealth in a different way. Currently, investments are still often focused on the short term. We need to change that: from purely financially driven investments to investments for the long term. This is only possible if investors take their social responsibility seriously and are prepared to commit to long-term goals. As a long-term investor, we at Rabobank deploy part of our capital to drive social change. Just as APG does with its pension participants' assets for its affiliated funds.”