Who are these people who consciously choose to work in the pension industry? What do they do there all day for your pension? And what do they like about their work? We take you behind the scenes. Loek Dalmeijer is a Group Sustainability Officer. “We can show even more clearly what our social impact is.”
How and when did you end up at APG?
“I joined APG three years ago, in the middle of the Covid pandemic. Before that I worked for the municipality of Amsterdam and energy supplier Eneco. And before that, five years at Achmea insurance. Sustainability is the common thread here. It was very interesting, for example, to witness the transition to driving electric cars from the perspective of an insurer. However, I felt that things were not moving fast enough - and that not enough attention was being given to it. Just before I left, a huge hailstorm raged across the country, smashing Achmea’s annual profits in one day. Then suddenly came the realization that the sustainability agenda is broader than just showing your social responsibility: it also affects the core of companies. But I had already figured out that the financial sector was moving too slowly in this area and decided never to work there again.”
After being at APG for three years, he said…
“When the opportunity at APG presented itself, I looked critically at the organization and read up on it. With the size of the organization, the number of participants our funds serve and the amounts we invest on their behalf, you can make a real impact. In addition, the world had also changed: there are more laws and regulations and it is becoming increasingly tangible how we, as a system player in the financial sector, should and can take responsibility. That’s when I took up the challenge and started working as a Group Sustainability Officer.”
What exactly do you do as a Group Sustainability Officer?
“Even before APG’s current strategy was launched several years ago, the organization was increasingly asking itself the question: would we actually invest in APG if we could? The answer then was ‘no’. There were about 30 hard points on which we were not transparent, inclusive or sustainable enough. So, sustainability was given a prominent place in our organization’s strategy. When I arrived here, many of those points had already been addressed. But to make the organization completely sustainable, you need someone to orchestrate that. And so that’s what I do. In practice, that means encouraging business units to look at how they can concretely contribute to that sustainability - and being transparent about it. From procurement and facility services to reporting and asset management. Sometimes this is very simple and I am more of a coach, but with other departments I go further; then I really have to challenge them to demonstrate exactly what their impact is.”
Does your job require you to be an idealist?
“Yes, I think it helps if you feel the urgency. For me, that started during my studies. We were one of the first batch of business administration students - in a long time - to ask: Is it just about making short-term profits? Instead, I wanted to know how, as a company, you maintain your long-term relevance and how you create value for all stakeholders - not just shareholders. When Al Gore came out with his ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ (an influential documentary on global warming, ed.) in 2006, that really hit me. I showed that film to a lot of people. Especially when you’re fresh out of college, you’re still a little naive. You think: I’m going to change the world now. I was preaching that for a few years. And at a certain point, people around me got pretty fed up with it.”
What is it about your job that appeals to you?
“For me, it’s about the intellectual challenge. You can sit back with all the sustainability dilemmas and think: they have to solve it. But then I think: we are those ‘they’. We are the people who can and must solve it. And that can be done from different positions. I like contributing to that. Precisely by connecting people and departments and getting the conversation about sustainability going.”
How do people respond when you tell them you work in the pension sector?
“Conversations about my work are often simplified to, for example, our client ABP’s choice regarding whether or not to get away from fossil fuel. When exchanging views, it’s always good to have a beer or a glass of wine. I like the fact that it’s then immediately about the content of social transitions. And about the difference we can make. So I’m really proud that I work at APG. I simply wouldn’t work here if I wasn’t.”
And what is it that you’re proud of?
“When it comes to our sustainability policy: we have really made a lot of strides there, in a short time. We are in the big league, so to speak. We can now rightly say that we ourselves are doing what we expect our investments to do: we practice what we preach. And, of course, we are not there yet, but we have already shown great things. Plus, APG is simply a good employer. I have young children and organizing everything around them can be quite tough. But the freedom we have in our work-life balance is really great. I am proud to work for an employer that takes its employees seriously in this and facilitates it.”
Any points for improvement?
“That freedom to work partly from home also has a downside: I sometimes miss the enthusiasm of working together in the office. And physically seeing each other - and other departments - in our work. That’s something we can still work on.”