Interview: TheRockGroup’s partner Elfrieke van Galen talks about her first 100 days as a member of the Supervisory Board at the Schiphol Group.
Since April 2021, Elfrieke van Galen has been a member the supervisory board at the Schipol Group. For the magazine Management Scope, Willem Christiaan van Manen (partner at Deloitte) interviewed her on her first 100 days as part of the supervisory board.
This short interview was originally published in Dutch in Management Scope edition 09 2021, as part of their regular column ‘Komen & Gaan’ (Coming & Going). Read the original interview here, authored by Angelo van Leemput.
How did you experience the first 100 days?
‘As interesting and very pleasant. Due to COVID, it was of course a strange period, with an online application and online introductory meetings, which were also extremely welcoming. I was appointed without actually seeing anyone who I was going to work with in person. Fortunately, I was able to catch up in the months that followed.”
Why do you think you were the ideal candidate for this role at Schiphol?
“I am the first member of the Supervisory Board at Schiphol to have been allocated ‘sustainability’ as a separate portfolio. That suits me well. I have extensive experience in the aviation sector, including as a former CEO of KLM Cityhopper/ KLM UK and senior vice president of sustainability at KLM. As founder and partner of TheRockGroup, I subsequently specialized in the transition to a sustainable economy. Schiphol would like to become the most sustainable airport in the world. That they create this portfolio and end up with me says a lot.”
How did you prepare for your new position?
‘Partly by having a lot of conversations. With colleagues from the council, with members of the executive board and with people from the layers. And I also read a lot, for example reports committee meetings from the past. I started to delve even more into the role of international airports in the field of sustainability. What developments are there, what discussions are taking place, what is the opinion of the average citizen about it?’
Have you set a clear goal for yourself?
‘I would like to do my part, without knowing the answers to all the questions. In fact, as a supervisory commissioner I will be asking even more questions. Schiphol has a very ambitious sustainability policy. In the past, for example, Schiphol and KLM were the first to develop the concept of the hub. We now have to use that innovative power from then to come up with such a revolutionary concept again, but then in the field of sustainability. The biggest challenge is to create a truly sustainable aviation sector, with a positive impact on people and the environment, a sector that operates within planetary boundaries. I am convinced that it is possible, for example with all the possibilities in the field of electric flying, with sustainable fuels and with other methods of pricing, in which all externalities are priced in. The latter does not only apply to the aviation sector, of course, but to the entire economy.”
You also provide training to supervisory directors in the field of sustainability. What is your intrinsic motivation for this?
“I really am a missionary in that regard. I think it is very important that all supervisory directors have a basic level of knowledge in the field of sustainability. Sustainability is a theme that you have to take into account in everything these days, in all aspects of the supervisory role: in strategy, in the approval of the annual accounts, in risk management… In fact, in the future of every company.”
When do you consider your supervisory directorship successful?
“I think my supervisory board position would be really successful if we no longer needed the sustainability portfolio within a supervisory board in a while.”