‘Sustainability is in our genes’

Published on 07 January 2019

The Van Gils brothers are the greatest ambassadors of the car dismantling sector in the Haaglanden region. With their company Van Gils Automotive based in Nootdorp, Patrick and Sacha van Gils show how salvage yards from the past are presently operating with socially responsible business practices.


Tekst Arjen van der Sar

The nomination for the Haaglanden 2019 Entrepreneurship Prize cast the spotlight on Patrick and Sacha van Gils who jointly manage the family-run firm Van Gils Automotive. And not for the first time. In 2014, the company that is a major player in the sale of used parts, won the award for the most pioneering company in Nootdorp.

“We’re definitely pioneering,” said Patrick, laughing. Then he added more seriously: “We’re trying to lead the way in a sector which plays a significant role in reused and recycled cars and parts. We also try to do everything we can in a good and responsible manner – we try to run our business in a sustainable manner, in all senses. We manifest ourselves through this and clearly people are noticing. Even if we had not won the Haaglanden 2019 Entrepreneurship Prize, the nomination alone speaks volumes about the way we think and work. That’s a good feeling.”

Treating the environment responsibly

How do the Van Gils use responsible business practices in their company that has existed for 47 years? It all begins with working cleanly and tidily. The nomination mentions that the core business of the firm consists of ‘dismantling vehicles using modern SEDA equipment, so there is no risk of contamination to the environment.’

“An important and revealing element in the nomination,” said Patrick, “is that we have organised our operations in such a way that the living environment is also central over the long term. This begins with the equipment we use. We only use the highest quality equipment to limit any risk of harming the environment as much as possible.”

Sustainable practices in work processes

At Van Gills Automotive, this translates into the business processes and work instructions for the people dismantling the cars. “We’d prefer that someone properly dismantles one car in a day, than incompletely dismantle two cars in a rush and leave a lot of clutter behind. We also think it’s our responsibility to let people get on with their work well and pleasantly, with a low chance of sick leave. Our attitude towards socially responsible business practices is reflected in our work placements for people with a disadvantage on the labour market. In principle, we do not gain anything out of this, but we enjoy giving something back to society. In this way, we contribute to the education of young people, which incidentally we do with pleasure, and create a good image of our sector.

Changing the image of the sector

Patrick van Gils likes to see himself and his brother as ambassadors for the modern recycling sector. “We’ve been working for years on changing the image of our sector, to put the idea of the old-fashioned salvage yard that just tinkers around in the past. Our new location in Nootdorp is spic and span, and we handle things professionally because we are very aware of our role in recycling and reuse. This is our place in the circular economy.”

The entrepreneur from Nootdorp emphatically feels that he is a partner for car firms, dealers and governments. “We’re a link in the chain, a supplier that offers an important product, namely a used part that is a fully-fledged alternative to a new part. This is an alternative that is increasingly becoming more logical. We’re doing everything we can to change the image of used car parts for good in this region. I’m a firm believer that used is becoming the new standard. It’s cheaper and smarter – we can’t keep extracting raw materials from the ground for ever.”

92 percent environmental impact

Patrick reels off figures to support his vision. “We had a study carried out, and I tell everyone who wants to listen. Anyone who damages their car door and chooses to replace it with a ‘used’ product will easily save 85 percent of CO2. According to calculations we had carried out by KPMG using the Environment Impact Calculator, this choice has a positive environmental impact of 92 percent. The figures are clear.”

Van Gils emphatically adds conditions for his company. “In our view, used should be equivalent to new, and should come with at least a one-year guarantee. If there is any doubt about a used part, we dispose of it so we don’t take any risks. In this way, we are continually building support for ‘used’ parts among car companies and individuals.”

It is a vision that has caught the attention and is valued by businesses in Haaglanden and local and regional government bodies. “We’re really getting this vision across everywhere. That is why it was not coincidence that they came to us to take part in a working group that will not only make our Heron Business Park energy neutral over time, but that will also make it energy positive using among other things ‘super batteries’. And mark my words, that will happen.”