Tom Vroemen

Managing Director of CrowdAboutNow

CrowdAboutNow allows everyone to turn into an investor by permitting him or her to make small investments (averaging €500) in SMEs. This initiative is now the most important crowd funding platform in the area of sustainability in the Netherlands. CrowdAboutNow helps entrepreneurs position themselves to obtain capital, ambassadorial power and support from their most important stakeholders: clients, the community, and fans. Where necessary, anyone can assume the role of banks and investment companies and take the fate of society into their own hands. Vroemen is 52nd in Trouw’s Top 100 list of the most ‘sustainable’ Dutch people and has been working with BAM in various contracts since 2008.

What should the priorities of a sustainable enterprise be?

‘In terms of sustainability and green practices, everyone always thinks of the environment first. However, this too narrow view stands in the way of the transition to a more sustainable society.
In my mind, sustainability will work best if new business models are developed. Sustainability starts with a more social and society-minded approach by all stakeholders. We have been far too dependent on institutional guardians, such as government authorities and banks. Now we see entrepreneurs popping up all over the place under the pressure of the crisis – not the traditional project developers, but residents who initiate projects as self-built housing groups. They are freelancers who set up a ‘broodfonds’ to fund temporary occupational disability.’

‘It is interesting that in a country such as the UK, sustainability has been defined in a broader term for quite some time, referring to more than just environmental issues. The local involvement – community relations – is an essential aspect.’

How might the construction industry contribute to a more sustainable society?

‘Entrepreneurs are at the mercy of society as regards whether they succeed or not. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about: a company has to offer added value to society. They can’t just offer commercial and technical solutions to institutional clients; they must keep in mind that the end user needs to experience the solution too. A park can create this experience, or a community centre ... or something else that the people can relate to, something they have an association with. They don’t get this feeling from an office block ...’