Corporate social responsibility

Ackermans & van Haaren wants to develop and grow its activities in a sustainable way, with respect for people and society, with transparent reporting and communication, and an eye for financial balances. Our new baseline, ‘Partners for sustainable growth’, confirms this ambition and sets the trend for the future even more clearly.

Ackermans & van Haaren considers the family values of the founding families, who are still closely involved in the company, to be of paramount importance. Elements such as continuity, ethical entrepreneurship, long-term thinking, the creation of value through growth, working with partners and mutual respect have consequently been the main drivers of the group’s policies for many decades. As ‘Partners for sustainable growth’ we will build further on these foundations together with our stakeholders.


Ackermans & van Haaren as a partner

Our baseline, ‘Partners for sustainable growth’, is founded on these four pillars:


A partnership with our participations

We strongly believe in a lasting relationship with our participations. Over the years, our group has grown from a dredging group into an industrial group with a diversified portfolio in four strategic segments. In our investment policy we also take global trends into account, such as global warming and population ageing. In this respect, we extended our group in 2009 with a stake in Anima Care, and in 2016 we added a small stake in OncoDNA.

Our long-term investment horizon gives our group companies the time to formulate and implement their own long-term strategy. In practice, this means for our main participations in each of the four strategic segments an average annual growth of the shareholders' equity over the last ten years (2006-2016) of:

  • 15.3% at DEME,
  • 12.5% at Bank J.Van Breda & C° and Delen Investments,
  • 14.7% in the 'Real Estate & Senior Care’ segment,
  • • 12.5% at Sipef.

We expect our group companies to invest in innovation and in the development of their activities with respect for people and society. Together we look at the trends, on a global scale where relevant, so that we can be a partner by making the strategic decisions on the board of directors. More information can be found in the section on corporate social responsibility at our participations.

We attend all meetings of the boards of directors and audit committees of the group companies and, where necessary, we offer support in major operational challenges. For this purpose, we have assigned one or more investment manager(s) to each of our group companies. They form a stable contact between the participations and the group.

We regularly bring together representatives of our group companies to discuss a common topic, which can be anything from purchasing or human resources policy to awareness and prevention of fraud. In this way, we endeavour to increase the knowledge of every person in our group and to promote the exchange of best practices. Once a year we organize our 'AvH Event', where the management teams of our group companies get an update on the group’s strategy and are asked to think about a (new) challenge presented by a keynote speaker, for example on the subject of digitization or HR.

A partner for our shareholders

Ever since we were founded as a partnership between Hendrik Willem Ackermans and Nicolaas van Haaren, we have sought to be a good partner for our shareholders and for our group companies. With our transparent communication and reporting we want to justify the confidence that our shareholders have in us. This is one of the nine principles from our Corporate Governance Charter, which is also available on our website.

Over the last 10 years, the average annual growth of our equity amounts to 6.9%, which is a steady growth over time. The dividend followed the same trend, with an average annual growth of 5.9%. Over that same period, the market value of the AvH share increased by an average 7.7% per year. Consequently, the average annual value creation for the shareholder (share and dividend) amounted to 8.9%. By comparison, the Bel All-Share index decreased on average by 0.7% per year over that same period.

Employees as partners

People play a crucial role in the successful implementation of any corporate strategy, within both Ackermans & van Haaren and the group companies. One of the priorities is, therefore, to attract and retain talented people with complementary skills and experience. AvH is also actively involved in the selection of upper-level management in its participations.

The group makes no distinction whatsoever in terms of gender, religious beliefs, ethnic origin or sexual orientation in the employee regulations, selection and promotion policies, or evaluation systems. The group also prohibits all forms of discrimination in recruitment and promotion.

Rules of conduct in financial transactions are set out in the 'Corporate Governance Charter', and must be observed by all our staff and members of the board of directors.

We can count on a stable team of 30 employees at the head office, who have an average length of service of 18 years. This team is in constant touch with the group companies. This guarantees longterm continuity of cooperation.

In 2016, the size of the board of directors was increased to 10 members, of whom three women and seven men. The average length of service is 14 years. The members of our board of directors map out the long-term strategy of the group. The executive committee meets every two weeks to translate this strategy into the daily management.


A partner in the society

For many years now, Ackermans & van Haaren has supported certain scientific and socio-cultural projects which, where possible, are linked to the Antwerp region. The aim is to build with the partners a sustainable relationship, which is evaluated at regular intervals. In 2016, AvH supported, among others, the following institutions, organizations and projects to a total amount of approx. 300,000 euros:


  • de Duve Institute (
  • Insead Innovator Prize (
  • Institute of Tropical Medicine (
  • KU Leuven Doctoral Student (
  • Itinera (


  • Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp (
  • Middelheim Museum Antwerp (
  • estival van Vlaanderen (
  • Mayer van den Bergh Museum (
  • Le Concert Olympique (
  • Europalia (


  • Hoger Wal (via Koning Boudewijnstichting) (
  • Lucia (
  • Monnikenheide (
  • Community of Sant’ Egidio (
  • SOS Children’s Villages (
  • Belgo-Indian Village Reconstruction Organisation (
  • Point Urbain (

Corporate social responsibility at our participations

Our new baseline pursues development and growth of activities in a sustainable way, with respect for people and society. All our group companies have subscribed to this objective. Below we give some inspiring examples in our four strategic segments. We want to express our sincere gratitude for the dedication and effort of every person who has made a contribution, however big or small, to this corporate social responsibility in one of our group companies during the past year. Only together can we give shape and expression to this great concept.


The increasing demand for responsible and ethical management also manifests itself in an extra dimension as far as innovation is concerned, both technologically and in respect of services and products on offer. It no longer suffices to merely develop new applications; their impact on society must also be taken into account.

In 2016, DEME and Royal IHC together won the ‘DPC Innovation Award’ for the first LNG-powered dredgers. These awards are given to the most innovative and forward-looking projects in the dredging and port industries. The trailing suction hopper dredgers 'Minerva' and 'Scheldt River', which are built by Royal IHC, will be the first dredgers in the world with dual fuel engines and able to run entirely on LNG. Both dredgers will receive a Green Passport and a Clean Design Notation. They meet the strictest international emission standards.

In 2016, DEME began construction of a number of state-of-the-art vessels, including several world firsts, that will join the fleet this year. In its concern to save the future of the planet, DEME invests in dual fuel vessels which are fitted with engines that run on diesel or on LNG while reducing carbon emissions and virtually eliminating all NOx, SOx and particulate emissions. Once this investment programme has been completed, DEME will be one of the very few fleet owners to use this technology on such a large scale. Those investments amply surpass the legal requirements, and all the vessels of DEME (such as Minerva, Scheldt River, Apollo, Blanew, Gulliver) will be awarded a Green Passport and a Clean Design certificate.

DEME’s showpiece of 2016 is the 'Living Stone', the first green multipurpose vessel. This dual fuel vessel has a heat recovery system, and its spent oil is biodegradable. This vessel combines green technology with an impressive cargo capacity of 12,500 tonnes and a deck area of 3,000 m². It will be deployed on its first assignment in the second quarter of 2017, on the Hornsea Project One wind farm off the Yorkshire coast. In 2017, DEME will proudly present another addition to its fleet: 'Bonny River', a dual fuel trailing suction hopper dredger whose special design of hull makes it ideally suited for coastal protection works; its optimized fuel consumption also helps to reduce the carbon footprint.

DEME is preparing for the future by investing in 'Spartacus' and 'Orion'. With a cutting capacity of 9,000 kW, the cutter suction dredger 'Spartacus' will be the most powerful of its kind in the world. It will have 50% more capacity than DEME’s existing cutter suction dredgers, which are already giants in their own right. Its enormous cutting capacity will enable it to cut harder types of soil at speeds that were not possible before. This means that the cutter suction dredger will be able to handle the work without having to rely on the use of dynamite and blasting. The 'Spartacus' will be able to dredge down to a depth of 45 metres, whereas the current limit on the market is 35 metres. Its high fuel autonomy and accommodation capacity make it ideally suited to operate in very remote locations with limited infrastructure. It will be fitted with powerful dredge pumps with an astounding 26,000 kW capacity. The planned new vessel will also be more comfortable for the crew, as the deckhouse will rest on air cushions to minimize vibrations. The vessel also has a large on-board workshop to repair cutter heads. Another giant in which DEME is investing is the 'Orion', which will be deployed primarily on the offshore wind market. The 210-metre-long vessel for offshore construction work will be equipped with a crane with an unparalleled lifting capacity. The 'Orion' has an extraordinary transport capacity and is capable of carrying several very large and heavy monopiles and transition pieces in one shipment. The two vessels will be delivered in 2019.

Innovation plays an increasingly important role in the construction industry too. The companies of the CFE group are very much aware of that, and invest in large-scale training programmes in BIM (Building Information Model) and Lean. CFE Bouw Vlaanderen has tested the BIM approach in the field and has developed a novel and highly positive formula from it, called BlueBeam. BlueBeam makes it possible to work digitally and in real time, and also simplifies several processes.

Sipef is working together with New Britain Palm Oil on the development of high-yield F1 hybrid oil palms that should lead to significant yield and productivity improvements for the palm oil industry worldwide, and for farming in general. An F1 hybrid variety is the first generation offspring of two distinct and genetically uniform parents, each with identical sets of chromosomes. This technology has the potential to substantially increase the palm oil yield per unit area compared with the conventional method.


Sustainable investment

Investments must also take into account the challenges of our society. Investments are considered from a sustainability perspective: do they mean an improvement for people or the environment, and are they ethically sound? Our products must also be developed in a sound way.

In recent years renewable energy has become an increasingly important element of Ackermans & van Haaren’s strategy. Many group companies have invested in, and developed, renewable energy, energy savings or co-generation. Most group companies have also incorporated environmentally friendly initiatives into their existing activities and day to day operations.

DEME’s focus on being in the vanguard of blue energy is exemplified by its involvement in MeyGen, the groundbreaking tidal energy project in Scotland of Tidal Power Scotland, in which DEME acquired an interest in April 2016. This project will be the first tidal energy plant with multiple turbines in the world that will be connected to the public power grid. DEME’s subsidiary GeoSea was awarded the installation contract for Phase 1A of MeyGen, a challenging project for which the jack-up vessel 'Neptune' was deployed. MeyGen 1A represents a capacity of 6 MW, with an Atlantis turbine of 1.5 MW and three Andritz Hammerfest turbines of 1.5 MW. GeoSea is enthusiastic about the application of its worldwide leading expertise in this fascinating and groundbreaking project. GeoSea is now working on the preparation of the second phase of 6 MW of MeyGen, which will be executed in 2018.

DEME is also involved in two other tidal energy projects, the West Islay Tidal Energy Park in Scotland (30 MW) and Fair Head in Northern Ireland (100 MW). These projects are developed in collaboration with local partners.

Sipef continues to invest in the reduction of biogas emissions. Five of the eight processing plants are now equipped with methane capture installations to comply with the standards for green energy certification in Europe. In North Sumatra, a high-tech composting plant was completed that will be able to process all the empty fruit bunches (EFB) and liquid waste from the extraction mill, improve the soil structure of the oldest oil palm plantations, and diminish the use of chemical fertilizers. In Bengkulu, the installation for the production of electricity from methane gas was completed, so that, as soon as the Indonesian government is ready for it, the first supply of power to the public grid can be initiated; this is an important step for both Sipef and the local authority.

To conserve the environment, Sipef pursues an ecological and responsible agricultural policy in accordance with the principles and criteria of the 'Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil’ (RSPO). It encompasses a whole number of environmental and social topics such as transparency, compliance with legal standards, good agricultural policy, sustainable development of land, and a constant pursuit of perfection. The group is guided in this matter by the ‘Sipef Responsible Plantations Policy’, an overarching group policy on sustainability that is supported by various more specific policies. The aim is to guarantee the long-term positive effects of the activities in four areas: responsible social practices, responsible plantation and processing management, responsible development of new operations, and full traceability. The banana plantations Plantations J. Eglin in Ivory Coast and the Cibuni tea plantation in Indonesia were certified in 2016 by the 'Rainforest Alliance'.

Delen Private Bank has an additional social impact by the investment choices it makes every day. In that connection, the bank subscribes to the ‘Principles for Responsible Investment’ endorsed by the United Nations, thereby confirming its commitment to responsible investment. In this respect, Delen works together with fund manager Capfi Delen Asset Management (Cadelam), a subsidiary of Delen Private Bank. Together they see to it that the investments comply with the basic principles that have been defined. Considerable importance is attached to the cautious nature of the investment philosophy, which is typified as dynamic due diligence. Here, too, emphasis is on simplicity and common sense with a long-term view.

At Bank J.Van Breda & Co, compliance is an independent function that monitors and promotes compliance with the rules relating to integrity in banking. The integrity policy prioritizes the following areas: money laundering prevention, anti-abuse of tax arrangements, transactions in financial instruments, insider trading, price manipulation, privacy law, duty of discretion, ethical codes etc.

Leasinvest Real Estate strives for a ‘BREEAM In-Use Excellent’ rating for the redevelopment of the Treesquare and Montoyer office buildings in Brussels. For the Monnet office building in Luxembourg, a ‘BREEAM Refurbishment Excellent’ rating is expected based on the application that was submitted in February 2016. Where possible, energy saving measures are taken to make the buildings more sustainable and energy-efficient. The roof of the Frun retail park in Asten for instance, which was acquired in 2016, was fitted with solar panels to maximize the sustainability of the retail park. More than 0.500 GKWh green energy is now generated each year, resulting in a 400-tonne reduction in carbon emissions.

The building projects of CFE, too, keep the environment in mind. The group has constructed several passive buildings: the 'De Vonck' school in Knokke (MBG), a crèche with wooden framework in Laken, the ‘Les Trèfles’ school in Anderlecht (CFE Brabant), the ‘Laiterie’, a cafeteria situated in a listed park in Schaarbeek (Leloup Entreprises Générales), and the Green Wall building for IFAPME in Gembloux (Druart). Many projects have won, or will win, the 'BREEAM Very Good' or 'BREEAM Excellent' certification. Examples include the large Docks Bruxsel complex (BPC), the Promenada project (CFE Polska) and the Kons and Glesener buildings in Luxembourg (CLE). Several other projects developed by BPI (Edengreen, Greenhill, G4S, Differdange, Kiem, Route d’Esch) also received, or will receive, sustainability certificates.

Finally, AvH and CFE increased their stake in Green Offshore to 100% in 2016. The group has interests in several offshore wind farm projects, such as Rentel, off the Ostend coast, which will supply renewable energy to some 285,000 households.


Human resources policy

The AvH group aims to keep its workforce of 21,165 employees (through its stake in the group companies) motivated and committed. Training and education are important aspects for all employees to further develop their talent and, hence, contribute to the group’s success. Some group companies run their own training centres, others use external organizations. Safety is an important aspect too.

In several countries, DEME has been accoladed as employer of choice. The initiatives underlying this success include ‘People@DEME’ and ‘Time To’. The ‘People@DEME’ platform gives every employee access to a personal development matrix, which offers an insight into his duties and responsibilities and presents various training opportunities. Besides compulsory training programmes, it offers non-binding suggestions for career development. 2016 also saw the launch of the new ‘Time To’ assessment platform, which helps staff members and managers to assess their performance, skills and development needs. The system also provides DEME with a valuable database of skills to ensure that the right specialists are assigned to the projects.

The Van Laere group wants to project itself as one of the most advanced companies in the area of safety, vitality/health, environment, quality and customer focus. To achieve this, a dynamic care system has been introduced that is integrated in the general policy of the company. This care system defines all the principles to comply with laws and regulations, to achieve maximum internal and external customer satisfaction, and to pursue a continuous improvement of safety, health, environmental and quality matters. To give visual expression to this message, a logo is used that regularly comes up in training sessions or on posters. In this way, the company endeavours to instil a safety and quality reflex in employees, to further increase their safety awareness, and to prevent accidents, incidents and costs of failure.

Bank J.Van Breda & Co attaches great importance to its human resources policy and is committed as an employer to the following aspects: freedom, scope and equal opportunity for maximum personal development; a pragmatic approach; integrity, team spirit and pleasure; clear goals; appreciation of professionalism and dedication; room to fail, learn and start again; professional and, where necessary, private coaching; open and direct communication; bidirectional performance appraisal; and work for everyone who contributes wholeheartedly to the accomplishment of this corporate mission.

Anima Care stands for quality. It combines a pleasant living and working environment with a high quality of service. Anima Care focuses on the continuous improvement of its working methods and operating systems, and pays special heed to the selection, coaching and development of its staff, who put the quality vision and values of Anima Care into practice day after day. The staff are continuously coached and are regularly given in-service training so that they can grow in their job and become ready to take on greater responsibility. Using well thought-out and clearly defined processes, the teams are encouraged to work more efficiently so that more time remains for what really counts: high-quality care for the residents.

In order to optimize the management of its plantations, Sipef devotes a great deal of attention to the agricultural and managerial training of the local workforce. The group’s policy in the agricultural, technical, environmental and general areas is set out in manuals containing practical guidelines on how to pursue this policy. Proper application is taught in training sessions. The group sees to it that all employees can work in a healthy and safe environment.

In society

Obviously, stakeholders of a company include more than employees, customers and suppliers. Businesses are part of society and influence, and are influenced by, many groups and individuals. Most group companies give structural support to projects in their neighbourhood or projects that are linked to their activities.

DEME has for the second time won the ‘Entrepreneur for Entrepreneurs Trophy’ as most sustainable company 2016. DEME earned this accolade primarily with a sustainable dredging project on the Congo River. Although DEME has dredged the Congo River on a regular basis since 1989, the group decided to look for a more sustainable solution. A toll system was introduced for ships that use the Congo River, in order to generate the necessary resources to permanently maintain the depth of the river and prevent silting. The public-private partnership also organizes the training of 40 young Congolese operators. The training programme includes a four-year course at the Antwerp Maritime Academy. After a preparatory year in Congo, the first two students have arrived in Belgium to commence their studies.

Sipef has its own Indonesian foundation through which it has in the last few years made a long-term contribution to conservation in that country. It runs a small organization which protects two beaches on the south coast of Sumatra where endangered turtles lay their eggs, and actively protects more than 12,000 ha of endangered woods next to Kerinci Seblat National Park. Sipef works closely together with the local population to stop poaching and illegal tree felling. The group also intends to replant woodlands as part of a 60-year agreement with the government.

Each year, Delen Private Bank selects a number of initiatives which it supports financially as part of its social commitment. Preference is shown for small-scale projects that genuinely and sympathetically pursue a social, educational or artistic purpose.

Bank J.Van Breda & C° is well aware of its social responsibility. Although it deals with successful entrepreneurs and liberal professionals on a daily basis, it realizes that success does not come easy. That is why it gives structural support to two social initiatives with which its clients also feel close affinity. These organizations are less well known to the general public and therefore find it more difficult to secure funding. Its support goes to 'Entrepreneurs Without Borders' and 'Doctors Without Vacation'.

Every year, Leasinvest Real Estate evaluates new opportunities and starts up new initiatives. In 2016, they included Cliniclowns, vzw De Zwaluw, managed by the King Baudouin Foundation, Oscare Children’s Burns Fund, and 'Doctors Without Borders'.