Interview with Jan Van Geet, CEO of VGP and founder of the Foundation
The VGP Foundation was founded in 2019 following the initiative of the VGP Group. It is the Founders’ aim to use the proceeds of the Foundation’s assets to fund projects that support children and young people, preserve and create biospheres for endangered species, and protect European cultural assets.
Mr Van Geet, when you announced your company’s annual results for 2018, you announced the creation of your own foundation. What prompted you to take this step?
As a European developer, operator and owner of high-quality logistics and commercial real estate, VGP is in constant competition. Our customers and shareholders are entitled to always expect our company to operate effectively and cost-consciously. We are happy to meet this challenge daily. As a European company, we also feel the responsibility to give something back to society, regardless of the contribution we already make as a company in the context of our daily activities.
As VGP, you could also directly promote social or cultural matters – why a foundation, and where will its focus lie?
It should be the aim of the Foundation to be able to act in complete freedom and independently of VGP’s operative business and to be involved in projects which it considers important. We want to set priorities and define concrete project work that will enable us to give something back to society. Employees will also get the opportunity to suggest projects that should be supported. Therefore, the Board of the Foundation will not only be made up of members of the VGP-family but also of external experts. This is to ensure a strict separation between VGP’s commercial activities and those of the Foundation.
The Foundation will focus on three main areas: We want to support children and young people whose education could otherwise not be guaranteed. This is very important to us. Another topic will be the preservation and creation of biospheres for endangered species. VGP builds a lot on the outskirts of cities or in industrial areas, and the protection of nature is very important to us. For this reason, we would like to support the creation of nature conservation zones beyond that which VGP already does within the framework of the activities required by law and support various animals and plants to be protected throughout Europe. Especially smaller species, which otherwise do not receive much attention.
The protection of European cultural assets will also become a priority. The reference to Europe results from my personal fascination with European history and from my daily work on various projects spread across Europe. We would like to invest in the common European heritage. Here we are currently in discovery phase and are still considering which projects we would like to support. We could imagine, for example, building a small museum or supporting the restoration of interesting buildings. Cost-cutting measures in European cities and municipalities often affect cultural institutions. As citizens, we feel a responsibility towards society and should not leave it to the state or local authorities alone to sustain culture. Cultural heritage is not only buildings, but also music societies, art galleries, etc..
How does the Foundation finance itself?
Every year about 1-2% of the annual profit of VGPs should flow into the Foundation. The starting capital will be drawn from the annual result for 2019. So, it’s a mixture between me, people from VGP and external people. We will do this without compensation.
What funding opportunities will the Foundation have? How large will the Foundation’s assets be?
Last year, VGP’s profit was 120 million euros. That would be a starting capital of approximately 2.4 million euros (at 2%). We would like to put a similar amount into the Foundation every year. Nevertheless, this is of course only possible if the company is doing well economically.
What does the management structure of the Foundation look like?
The Board will be independent of VGP and will also consist of external experts who will contribute their subject expertise to the Board.
When will the Foundation start its work? When can you tell us more?
The legal entity will be established within the next few months. If the annual budget is confi rmed, the Foundation will start its work at the beginning of 2020. One to three projects will already be selected this year so that they can be implemented quickly next year.