Interview with Tony Veer (The Box)

Before Article

foto van Roel WeverWhen I thought of circularity, tin packaging was not the first thing that sprung to mind. That’s different now after my interview with Tony Veer, the cheerful owner of The Box. The Box supplies tin packaging for the upper segment, such as herb cans, coffee cans, promotional packaging and storage cans such as biscuit tins. The Box is not only market leader in the Benelux with regard to standard and stock tins, they also supply brands such as Mentos, Kiwi and La Place.

Tin packaging

Immediately after the first contact with director and owner Tony Veer, I became enthusiastic about his company and the product: tin packaging. What’s so exciting and sustainable about that, you would think? But as so often, behind every business there is an entrepreneur with a special narrative. And in this case an entrepreneur with a drive to make the world a little better every day.

Tin is one of the most recyclable packaging materials

Tin is made of steel and is melted using large amounts of energy. That doesn’t sound very sustainable. However, because 96% of tin in the Netherlands is fished from waste with magnets and can be reused indefinitely for other packaging or products, no new raw materials are needed for these products. This makes tin one of the most recyclable packaging materials at present.

For me, the advantages of tin are so logical that I sometimes forget how relevant the sustainability of this product is.

 

– Tony Veer, director and owner of The Box

Tin contributes in 4 ways to limiting the use of raw materials and CO2:

  1. Ninety-six percent of tin is separated from waste and can be recycled indefinitely.
  2. As a result of the better packaging (air- and light-tight), food stays in good condition for longer and there is less food waste.
  3. The packaging is used within a household for a long period instead of being thrown away (think of coffee and biscuit tins that last a long time).
  4. Thanks to new techniques, up to 30% less material is needed for the same packaging compared with 10 years ago.

From sustainable packaging to sustainable business premises

The Box goes further than just the production of sustainable packaging materials. The office building is now almost energy-neutral. The Box building was designed by the staff themselves in 2009. “The municipality imposed several conditions that I wouldn’t have come up with myself, such as a type of crate system to collect rainwater. This reduces the load on the sewer system. The contractor also gave us some opportunities to make things more sustainable, which I hadn’t thought of myself”, says Veer. A few years later CFP, in collaboration with the Municipality of Apeldoorn, advised on the possibilities of making the building more sustainable. “On this basis, we focused on measures such as LED lighting and heat recovery. We wouldn’t have thought of that ourselves either and we certainly couldn’t substantiate it with a positive business case.”

External influences are important in the drive towards sustainability

The external influence of a builder, contractor or municipality therefore appears to be important in the drive towards sustainability. Tony answers in the affirmative: “That’s right, as an entrepreneur you focus primarily on the location and function of the building for the primary process of the business. Workstations for employees and the appearance of the building are important. Expert advice gives you a broader view.”

The raw materials of The Box products – in this case tin – can be recycled indefinitely. That’s very interesting. Because if your building is almost energy-neutral and your product can be reused indefinitely, then you’re a green entrepreneur in my opinion.

 

– Roel Wever, partner at CFP Green Buildings

Kantoor van The BoxDaughters’ studies inspire Tony to take a critical look at company’s footprint

I believe Tony is a real sustainable entrepreneur. But has it always been the case? “No, quite frankly, as an entrepreneur you’re first and foremost engaged in business. Sustainability is something that in the old days you had to be able to afford.” But what’s the situation now then? “Since my daughters have been studying and their programme involves discussions about the carbon footprint of tourists, we have started discussing this at home too. That inspires me to take a critical look at my own business and footprint. I also exchange ideas with other entrepreneurs and with my tax consultant. I gain a lot of inspiration from sparring with fellow entrepreneurs.”

A sustainable business with sustainable relationships

In my conversation with Tony, I conclude that not only the products and the building are sustainable at The Box. There is a great deal of focus on sustainable relationships. Can you tell us about that? “Long-lasting relationships are very valuable to me. I am talking about relationships with employees who have worked here for a long time, customers with whom we have been working for more than 10 years and our suppliers. That’s a sustainable business for me.” In the few meetings I had with Tony and the company, the character of a family business is clearly evident. Tony took over the company at the time with the help of his father. When his father died last year, that was a severe shock for Tony. “But I’m someone who always looks ahead and I said to myself, ‘pick yourself up and get on with it’ and that’s the mentality of this company.”

Looking ahead

And looking ahead is precisely what he’s doing. “In my job, I want to enjoy my work every day, together with my colleagues. I want to continue to develop myself and the company. In this respect, I see that my development and the development of the company come together. Just like now: I am focusing more on online possibilities, partly because of COVID-19, which has reduced physical contact. But also online marketing, which I am studying more closely and using it to challenge myself. As regards the product, I see that the position in packaging in the upper segment is very strong, partly due to its sustainable character.”

Opportunities for circularity

To complete the circle, tin cans should actually be able to be reused again and again for the same product, or we should avoid them being thrown away. “I still see many opportunities for growth and new applications for our products.” For example, refilling a coffee tin or tea box with granola or oatmeal. That saves a lot of packaging material and the products stay good for longer. And the tin is reused over and over again. For the retailer, this often means customers coming back again. In short, a nice business case to think about.”

Building without mains gas

And for the building, what possible steps for further sustainability are planned? “I’m now looking into installing PV panels on the roof or making the roof surface available to other companies in the area. But I’m particularly taken with CFP’s suggestion that – in addition to the office – it’s also possible to run the warehouse without mains gas. I’d like to investigate that further.”

Roel Wever, CFP Green Buildings