Part 2: “We are working on public issues, from a business perspective.”

As was mentioned already, after your return from postings all over the world you also successfully pursued a successful career at the Ministry in The Hague. What was your incentive to move on to Philips in 2014?

You have to understand that the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been going through a modernization process. This brought with it a much greater focus on Economic Diplomacy. Although this sector has always been part of our work, the overall focus of the whole ministry is now placed much more on enhancing the growth of the Dutch economy.

In order to be successful in economic diplomacy, I appreciated gaining experience in the international private sector. Approximately at the same time of this reform process, Philips decided that it’s European Affairs Office in Brussels should be enhanced. My name must have been suggested to Philips and I was invited for an interview at the Eindhoven High Tech Campus. At the end of that conversation my interlocutor stood up and said: “Well Jean-Pierre, I’d like to hire you.” I was positively surprised and responded that I first wanted to finish some projects at the Ministry and that I wanted a guarantee to return to the Ministry. After all, behind me lay 19 years of work with wonderful colleagues, content and fascinating postings. I did not want to throw all that away rashly. I did get that guarantee, and so I eventually came to Philips.

What I really appreciate about my current work for Phillips, is working on public issues from the private sector. When I was posted to the UN in New York from 2006 and 2010 the awareness was growing that in order to tackle global problems and achieve sustainability, there was a great need for public-private cooperation, with efforts from both Governments and corporate actors. This conviction has only been reaffirmed during my time at Philips now. I am convinced that there are a lot of ways that one can make the world a better place: for example by being a Diplomat, by working in the EU and the UN or by working for an international NGO. And you can also do that through working for some companies.

What we are trying to do in Brussels is working on public issues, from the private sector and with the interests of Philips in mind. Doing well by doing good. A huge, globally active company like Philips often has more implementing power than a Member State, or even the EU as a whole.

What are those issues?

We focus on Health and Healthcare, Sustainability, Development and Trade issues.

With regards to sustainability, Philips is trying to move from linear economic thinking (produce-consume-dispose) towards a circular economy where our products are living longer, are refurbished, remanufactured, re-serviced, reused and recycled. That way we can safe resources, the environment is spared the impact of more trash and more energy consumption, and the consumer has to pay less.

Excuse me, Mr Kempeneers but if we put it into concrete terms does a longer lifespan for products not mean lower sales for Philips?

Let me give you an example. CT and MRI Scanners belong to the most valuable devices Philips produces. Their production and refurbishment involves a lot of handwork. To simply throw such a device away after a few years would mean an enormous waste. That is why we collect all the scanners we sell worldwide after a few years, service and refurbish them, and sell them again at a lower price. The same is done with other appliances. Especially with a generation that is less focused on ownership, such systems will be of enormous relevance in the future. It is a paradigm shift moving from an ownership economy to a pay for what you use economy.

Next to Health and Healthcare, we are of course concerned about trade policies at the European level. At the moment the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is one of our main priorities, and also other Free Trade Agreements between the EU and third States, as well as market access and WTO affairs are important for us as a globally active company.

My main tasks lie with trade promotion and I supervise the other areas. So as you can see, although we are a business, we are dealing with issues of public importance.

Click for the continuation of the interview

Part I / Part III / Part IV / Part V

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