An Interview with Peter Oosterveer

13 April 2022

The Lovinklaan Foundation spoke with Peter Oosterveer, CEO of Arcadis, about Lovinklaan’s role within Arcadis, diving deep into its impact on Arcadis employees and its contribution towards the company’s long-term development.

What is Lovinklaan’s role within Arcadis?

Lovinklaan has a unique role within Arcadis. They are our major shareholder – owning almost 20% of the company – but their role goes way beyond that of a “normal” shareholder. Lovinklaan directly reinvests its dividends back into Arcadians, holds our senior leadership accountable, and runs programs to directly benefit employees. Arcadis and Lovinklaan are mutually reliant upon each other to thrive.

How does Lovinklaan contribute to making Arcadis a transparent, accountable, and successful company?

As with any major shareholder, Lovinklaan is responsible for formally questioning Arcadis’ results. They are different to “standard” shareholders, though, as the Board of Lovinklaan is comprised entirely of Arcadis employees, who know what’s going on inside the company. In this way, Lovinklaan acts as an employee-led steering force for Arcadis, offering objective, constructive insights combined with layers of company knowledge.

Lovinklaan also acts as a sounding board for Arcadis, and vice versa. If they hear of anything that could impact their mission or the continuity of Arcadis, they reach out to me immediately. This is where their in-company insights really come to the forefront; we often have informal conversations with the Board of Lovinklaan about strategy or growth opportunities – of course all within the boundaries of the applicable governance rules – and their point of view is invaluable.

The foundation’s major shareholder position also helps protect Arcadis from potential hostile takeover situations (when one company attempts to take over another company against the wishes of the latter company’s management).  This is primarily because a large number of shares are owned by Lovinklaan. A potential bidder will think twice before starting a takeover process when substantial holdings are in the hands of friendly parties like the foundation.

How does Lovinklaan positively impact employees?

Besides their role as a shareholder, Lovinklaan also runs several great programs for employees. For example, Expedition DNA, supported by and co-developed with Lovinklaan, has massively helped Arcadians to advance in their career. Thanks to Lovinklaan’s investment in this program, 60% of Arcadis employees have so far voluntarily taken up a digital skills training course in their own time, advancing their individual digital capabilities and, in turn, those of the company.

Lovinklaan also always seeks to align its activities with Arcadians’ wishes. For example, they recently conducted a survey to determine whether their programs meet employees’ needs. Using the results, they will now improve their programs and launch new initiatives with the dividend they receive from Arcadis. In this way, they are the only shareholder that actively re-invests in Arcadis employees and therefore in the long-term success of Arcadis.

Does Lovinklaan benefit anyone outside Arcadis?

Yes certainly! Lovinklaan also runs programs to benefit Arcadis’ stakeholders, notably communities on the ground. The Shelter program, a partnership between Arcadis and UN-Habitat, is one such example. Aimed at improving citizens’ quality of life in rapidly growing cities around the world, Shelter offers Arcadians the chance to share their expertise beyond the company and create solutions to some of the world’s most pressing urban challenges. Lovinklaan has supported Shelter by funding Arcadians to go on more than 100 technical missions in Asia, Africa, and Latin America since 2010.

The Local Sparks program also encourages Arcadians to think about how they can make an impact within their local communities by providing opportunities to contribute or lead social projects. The program offers Arcadians the unique opportunity to receive funding for their community initiatives through the Local Sparks Accelerator and Challenge programs.

How do you see Lovinklaan developing in the future?

At the moment, 81% of Arcadians know about Lovinklaan – I would love to see that number rise to 100%. I think everyone should know about how well established Lovinklaan is, and the importance of the foundation within Arcadis. Ultimately, I hope that one day, every publicly traded company will have a shareholder like Lovinklaan – the world would be a much better place for it!