Together with HU University of Applied Sciences, a group of small and medium businesses from Utrechtse Heuvelrug - the rural area to the east of Utrecht - has been looking for answers to the question of how they can help to sustain their particular environment and position themselves as a green economic region.
Goals and approach
Pure green natural beauty - that is what entrepreneurs see when they look out of the window in Utrechtse Heuvelrug. They have been reflecting on how they can help sustain their particular local environment and position themselves as a green economic region. Companies and organizations in the Utrechtse Heuvelrug region have launched all kinds sustainable initiatives, but a unifying element was always missing. The idea of the 'green economy' had no regional dimension.
In fact, Utrechtse Heuvelrug has only been a municipality since the reorganization of local government in 2006. The name ‘Utrechtse Heuvelrug’ came from the government, but it was never given a specific remit. For this reason, the project team went in search of an umbrella, something that could embody the uniqueness of this area and that would inspire entrepreneurs with the energy to take action together. Two aspects were particularly important in doing this: the activities should produce something, and they should be sustainable.
The Marketing, Market Research and Innovation and Co-design research groups at HU University of Applied Sciences, Wageningen University (Environmental Systems Analysis Group) and the University of Amsterdam (Strategy & Marketing Group) have helped entrepreneurs to address the question of how to distinguish themselves as a green region.
Together, we came up with a brand that everyone recognizes and is used by a large number of innovative projects. Examples of these projects include the sale of local ‘fair trade’ products, taps for ‘Heuvelrug Water’ and the Sustainable Street: sustainable renovation and insulation carried out by local construction companies. The business community has chosen to Go Green in Utrechtse Heuvelrug: Utrechtse Heuvelrug Duurzaam Doen! There is an exclamation mark to emphasize the activity of the entrepreneurs. The logo shows immediately what it is all about: the word 'duurzaam' (‘sustainable’) stands out clearly, the colour green represents the main idea behind the project, and the figure symbolizes the entrepreneurs.
During the discussions, the entrepreneurs expressed their long-term ambition to become one of the three most sustainable economic areas. The brand ‘Utrechtse Heuvelrug Duurzaam Doen!’ can play an important role in this. To achieve these green ambitions, it will be necessary for companies to come up with new initiatives that are more clustered. This will attract entrepreneurs who want to participate and spur them on. The business associations that took part in the Green Economy project set up the Utrechtse Heuvelrug Duurzaam Doen foundation in March 2014. This foundation will focus on communication (increasing awareness of the brand and projects among business owners and residents), mobilization and commitment (networking, relationship management, knowledge), results and launching, financing and supporting (new) projects.
The booklet Groene Economie op de Utrechtse Heuvelrug (‘Green Economy in Utrechtse Heuvelrug’) provides a retrospective on the research project and an impression of the innovation project.
Hogeschool Utrecht University of Applied Sciences, Marketing, Market Research and Innovation research group; Hogeschool Utrecht University of Applied Sciences Co-design research group, Wageningen University (Environmental Systems Analysis Group); the University of Amsterdam (Strategy & Marketing Group); and a group of entrepreneurs from Utrechtse Heuvelrug.
Innovation Alliance Foundation (RAAK SMEs),