A brewery works for sustainability goals along with Fontys students

Photo credit: Rabauw

Sustainability has always been a complex topic that requires creativity and partnerships to co-create solutions. And that is exactly what happens at Fontys Innovation Hub: Circular Transition. Gijs Verhagen, the founder of Rabauw – one of the work field partners at Circular Transition, shares his thoughts about the partnership and the role of businesses in sustainable development.

A brewery where no talent is wasted

It all started nearly five years ago when Gijs and his friends founded the social enterprise Rabauw – a combination of their passion and vision: brewing beer and offering needy or disadvantaged young people a better future and a workplace. Rabauw means “outsider people” and the name speaks for itself; the beer here is brewed together with ‘Rabauwers’, as Rabauw describes on their website: “people for whom life is not only an adventure but also a challenge”.

From day one, Rabauw has been focusing on reducing inequalities in the workplace and providing decent work inspired by the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In 2022, they welcomed 64 Rabauwers and successfully sent 16 of them to the regular workplace, and 5 people were back to school. Together with the goal to increase the number of Rabauwers in 2023 to 75, the company would also like to continuously make progress in environmental aspects. Therefore, they decided to seek advice from the creative minds of university students.

Handshake for a win-win partnership

The social enterprise based in Gemert and Eindhoven has been in collaboration with Fontys Circular Transition since September 2022. When asked about the reason behind this partnership, the founder of Rabauw shared with Eindhoven News, “We know that working with young, smart people always help to get new insights to solve the problem, especially with a complex topic like sustainability. As a social enterprise, Rabauw wants to go hand in hand with students in making changes to society”, said Gijs. After the first semester of working together, it did show that Fontys students’ work has helped Rabauw find out new aspects in their sustainability journey. In fact, some business-related advice, for example, asking for a subsidy on water or a framework on steps to be more sustainable, has been taken into practice by Rabauw already.

A sustainable production process is the next challenge for Rabauw. And this year, Gijs and his colleagues want to provide hands-on experience for students from Innovation Hub on the three main pillars of Rabauw: operation, employees, and communication. A team of Fontys graduating students in Eindhoven aims to help the brewery and the beer pub move closer to some of the primary and secondary sustainable goals, such as responsible consumption and production or quality education. The project keeps students engaged in the sustainability topic in general as well as provides them with knowledge about the circular economy within the beer industry. While working with Rabauw, they get to know how used grain residue (which is called brewers’ spent grain) not only can be used for animal feed but also transformed into new, edible products for customers, such as bread, syrup, or even vinegar.

The right direction

The representative of Rabauw acknowledges that our planet Earth is facing a lot of problems, especially climate change. It is hard for the government to change people’s behaviour as a whole. But enterprises can play an important role in it by positively influencing their communities as a brand. It could start with a group of customers, but a small impact is still an impact. From his point of view, if companies take more action on innovative and environmental issues and get students involved as well, eventually, all problems can be solved. From his background as a Business Administration student and the founder of a social enterprise, Gijs wants to send the younger generation a message: Be wise in choosing your future company to work for. Think of sustainable development in every step you make and think beyond short-term profits.

For Eindhoven News: Hang Vu

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