Blog24 January 2019
On 1 January Bianca Nijhof took up the position of Managing Director of NWP. She is a passionate and successful leader in sustainability with an extensive network across business, governmental organisations, knowledge institutions and NGOs. And she will fully use it in her new role for the benefit of the Dutch water sector. Get to know her in her first NWP blog.
“I worked at Arcadis for 10 years, most recently as Global Sustainability Program Manager. Before that, I was at Alterra Wageningen University & Research, now Wageningen Environmental Research. Over the years, water has always been one of the crosscutting themes in my work. For example, it was always a red thread in the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, a global, CEO-led organisation of over 200 leading businesses working together to accelerate the transition to a sustainable world. Arcadis is one of its members and has a three-part objective: making knowledge available; showing commitment; and influencing the international agenda. And, at least as important, it also contributes solutions and wins contracts. It is precisely through demonstrating your expertise and dedication that you can create trust among clients and tempt them to work with you.
All the objectives are mutually reinforcing and that, in my opinion, characterises the position and value of NWP. We need to make the connection.
Last week, the World Economic Forum published its Global Risk Report 2019. For the third year in a row environmental risks top its risk landscape. And with increasing urban migration, the example of the vulnerability of cities in the report is very real. ‘Fight or flight’ is the meaningful title of the chapter on sea level rise. Cities can do a lot to limit risks and the Netherlands is presented as an impressive example of how it can be done. To quote the report, 'The Netherlands is at the forefront of coastal adaptation'. This is then followed by a few pages of great advertising for our Dutch water sector. A lot of people read the report, which makes me very happy. The report echoes my objectives – to bring organisations and people together by making the connection between strategy and concrete solutions, and between urgent global themes and the substantive knowledge we have to offer.
I trained as a landscape ecologist and have spent many years working on sustainability, natural capital and the circular economy. Once again, water plays a leading role which goes beyond drinking water and waste water. Water overlaps so many areas such as agriculture, energy and finance. Each of these, and other sectors too, needs to put more effort into searching each other out and cooperating with each other. This premise is central to the fantastic event that we are working on now, the Amsterdam International Water Week in November of this year.
I attended the AIWW Summit in Rotterdam last year. It gave a very promising taste of what it can offer the international water community. At the same time, given the interconnected nature of various sectors, we are taking an umbrella view. We are actively seeking cooperation. Last week I had the opportunity to deliver a speech and chair a panel during the annual Sustainable Development in the Food & Beverage Industry Summit in Amsterdam. There too, the responses clearly showed the key role of water in the industry and the added value that NWP can offer. Many players from outside the water world want to engage with us. It is great to make these connections so that we can help get things moving and achieve more results.
There may be global opportunities, but we should not be a megalomaniac. NWP understands that much of our sector is made up of small companies. As niche players, they can be the missing link for a winning proposal on the other side of the world or closer to home. We want to work with them as well, and create and capitalize on opportunities in the countries around us. This is the basis of our new Europe strategy. We have an eye for the demands and aspirations across the full breadth of the water sector.
To generate more opportunities abroad, the public and private sectors and knowledge institutes and NGOs must join forces. The International Water Ambition defined by three Ministries a few years ago also takes this direction. The International Water Ambition is currently being updated and NWP is at the table to bring about connections between its different stakeholders and members. I am confident that together we will achieve an inspiring new International Water Ambition.
Together we stand stronger, especially at important occasions and on important platforms. I joined NWP three weeks ago so am still in the learning and experiencing process. I am thoroughly enjoying it. I am curious by nature and I want to learn what is happening and the drive behind people and organisations. I then want to use what I learn into those strategic bodies. So my personal promise to the sector is that we will continue to reach out to you to find out more about your ideas, your plans, your expertise, your wishes and your solutions. The more we know, the more we can do for you!"