B.I.G. hosts ninth edition of Global Innovation Days


Three days of bright minds sharing inspiration on a sustainable and innovative future. That was the promise on a sunny Monday morning when Innovation Director Pol Lombaert kicked off the Global Innovation Days at Aarova - a social enterprise that works together with B.I.G. - in Oudenaarde. A promise that was kept. Three days of internal and external speakers hosting interactive sessions surely sparked many new ideas for an engaged audience of people from all over our B.I.G. workforce.

Moderator and Innovation Director Pol Lombaert is firmly convinced on the why of these Innovation Days. “We want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem, and that means that we need to innovate to shape our sustainable future. And innovation is also about cooperation. It’s about sharing information and methods, for which this event is an excellent platform.” Because sustainability is so high on the B.I.G. agenda, Sustainability Director Clara Carelli took center stage for the first presentation of the day, starting with a clear call-up to every one of her new colleagues: “Our sustainability team is small, but then again, it isn’t. In our vision, there are 5.000 people working on sustainability at B.I.G.” Carelli wasn’t there to take a victory lap. She knows we have a long way to go, but is convinced about our #Route2030 and our Zero Footprint, which she described at length. She also believes that small improvements for the many make a large impact on sustainability.

At B.I.G., Innovation isn’t a solo project. Internal and external cooperation is central to reaping the biggest rewards. On that topic, Sophie Vandewalle, Quincy Nollet and Lei Kare Hindersland shared some insights. “Innovation projects with external partners are usually more successful. Those partners range from Academic institutions to smaller businesses or specialist institutions, and all have one thing in common: they are aimed at becoming a more sustainable company. We also like to have active partnerships, because those leverage innovation the most.”

Innovation Days atmosphere

When we say Innovation is valued highly at B.I.G., that is a message shared from top to bottom. CEO Pol Deturck took his time to attend presentations, but also took to the stage to have an informal conversation with the audience. “The most important challenge for B.I.G. is simple: Culture eats strategy for breakfast. We must enforce our company culture, challenge and talk to each other. We also have to increase the speed with which we are evolving, so we can capitalize on the many excellent initiatives that are being deployed.” Lastly, Deturck also hammered on the importance of focus. “If you want to win in the world, you need to be among the world’s best. If you for example want to go into the business of recycling, you can’t build that business yourself. You can’t compete with the intelligence the big guns in this business have. So in order to excel there, you need to work on either mergers and acquisitions, or on partnerships.” His hopes for the future were also clear: In 5 years, I hope we will have achieved a culture of collaboration at B.I.G., I hope we will be a value-adding business that starts at the needs of customers, working with partners in open networks that protect innovation.”

Innovation Days 2022

Of course, when we value partnerships and external parties, those need to be represented at an event like this as well. Both Bruno Wattenbergh from EY and Rudy Moenaert from TIAS School for Business and Society gave keynotes at the Innovation Days. Both are seeing a changing world. “The time of pushing a product is over. We are in the pull-mode now. Products are dead, companies must offer solutions”, said Wattenbergh. “The world has become a B2B2C world”, added Moenaert.

The closing remarks came from Pol Lombaert. “The future's looking good. There are always some clouds, but without clouds, there would be no need for innovation. And innovation starts with being safe, it starts with caring for and connecting with people. As Rudy Moenaert said, innovation is all about change that creates value. But constant change is difficult. When you leave here, don’t forget what you’ve taken away from this. Make sure that you keep on innovating. Don’t look for reasons why it won’t work, find reasons why it will."

Innovation Days Bruno Wattenbergh