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New in our counry: Nature membership for companies

Bijgewerkt op: 28 jun. 2023

A Nature membership as sort of company bonus or extra for employees: it is possible for the first time in our country. In analogy with, say, a company fitness membership, employees thus get the chance several times a year to immerse themselves in the most unspoiled nature in our region and to do something impactful with it. HR and Wellbeing specialist Attentia is the first company to “take a membership” and consciously offer its employees nature experiences. It's a new concept, for which the Hoge Kempen National Park and Forest Fwd, sustainability specialist for companies, are joining forces.



In the UK, in Canada or in Japan, companies have long been focusing on nature to boost the well-being of their employees. In Flanders too, things like "forest baths" are slowly gaining ground, but the initiators behind the Nature memberships wanted to fully adapt their offer to the "down-to-earth" Flemish business world. That is why they opted for an approach that is as rational as possible, where employees can regularly explore our region's most beautiful nature for inspiration under the guidance of rangers. Or to work on their well-being, learn something new, or simply as a kind of teambuilding.


Companies taking a Nature membership take their employees to the Hoge Kempen National Park, the only national park in our country covering more than 12,000 hectares, equivalent to the area of 20,000 football pitches.


"You could compare our membership formula to a fitness membership, but with a lot more impact and social added value," explain Frank Missoul and Dajo Hermans of Forest Fwd, a company that involves companies in nature creation and initiates sustainable projects. "Giving back something socially useful, that is the direction that an increasing number of companies want or need to take in 2023. With our memberships, we offer an answer to that, in a very concrete and professional way."


On the road with rangers

Rangers will take the "subscribers" on tours several times a year. Thereby, they will have the choice between five types of nature experiences: from a true "deep dive" into hidden nature to a scientific tour on climate change. Furthermore, it is also about making an effective impact: every company that subscribes automatically contributes to one of the many nature projects in the National Park, such as restoring biodiversity.

"Companies are looking for ways to make sustainability as tangible as possible," says Ignace Schops, director of the Hoge Kempen National Park. "These Nature memberships already prove that economy and ecology can perfectly be combined. If you want to make a local impact as a company, this is the answer. You could obviously support initiatives on the other side of the world, but why not start locally and in such a way that your people are really involved?"


Minister Demir: "Our nature as a major asset"

Schops is not only the driving force behind the National Park, a few years ago he was also awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize, say the Green Nobel Prize. He is the only Belgian to be part of Al Gore's Climate Leadership Corps. For Schops, it is clear: in the coming years, an increasing number of companies will make the link with local nature.


"Every euro a company invests in our own local nature generates ten euros for our society. For example, think of retailers flourishing more or house prices rising in the neighbourhood. This is how you, as a company, can have a positive impact on the environment."


Flemish Minister for Environment Zuhal Demir also very much welcomes the initiative: "Our nature in Flanders, and in Limburg, is a major asset. We all crave enough accessible nature and forest areas to relax and exercise or play sports. From Flanders, we are doing what is needed: more than 1,000 hectares of forest were added during this legislature, even net extra forest. That is historic! I'm glad companies are jumping on that bandwagon. Not only nature greatly benefits from this, but by extension all Flemish people."



Rangers will take the "subscribers" on tours several times a year. Thereby, they will have the choice between five types of nature experiences: from a true "deep dive" into hidden nature to a scientific tour on climate change. Furthermore, it is also about making an effective impact: every company that subscribes automatically contributes to one of the many nature projects in the National Park, such as restoring biodiversity.

"Companies are looking for ways to make sustainability as tangible as possible," says Ignace Schops, director of the Hoge Kempen National Park. "These Nature memberships already prove that economy and ecology can perfectly be combined. If you want to make a local impact as a company, this is the answer. You could obviously support initiatives on the other side of the world, but why not start locally and in such a way that your people are really involved?"


Minister Demir: "Our nature as a major asset"


Schops is not only the driving force behind the National Park, a few years ago he was also awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize, say the Green Nobel Prize. He is the only Belgian to be part of Al Gore's Climate Leadership Corps. For Schops, it is clear: in the coming years, an increasing number of companies will make the link with local nature.


"Every euro a company invests in our own local nature generates ten euros for our society. For example, think of retailers flourishing more or house prices rising in the neighbourhood. This is how you, as a company, can have a positive impact on the environment."


Flemish Minister for Environment Zuhal Demir also very much welcomes the initiative: "Our nature in Flanders, and in Limburg, is a major asset. We all crave enough accessible nature and forest areas to relax and exercise or play sports. From Flanders, we are doing what is needed: more than 1,000 hectares of forest were added during this legislature, even net extra forest. That is historic! I'm glad companies are jumping on that bandwagon. Not only nature greatly benefits from this, but by extension all Flemish people."


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