At the beginning of 2023, I became self-employed and also a member of the Happy Planet Professionals (HPP). This is an association of socially conscious independent professionals. Comparable to MVO Nederland, but for self-employed people and small entrepreneurs with a maximum of 5 people.

HPP’s mission is to encourage each other to do business more sustainably. As an HPP member, you commit to three promises: taking steps every year to do business more sustainably and propagating this, inspiring and helping others to do this as well, and contributing to HPP’s objectives in a way that suits you. In addition, HPP encourages its members to write an annual review about what you have done and what your plans are for next year. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are used as a framework for this.

Annual plan review process

The review process consists of a number of steps in which you discuss the annual plan with another member to brainstorm and gain inspiration, complete the annual plan yourself, discuss the annual plan and have it assessed. If the annual plan has been approved, you will receive a certificate. I recently created my first CSR annual plan. For someone who is professionally involved in sustainability reporting, I found it educational and fun to do.

I first mapped out my ‘value chain’. For a company whose activities are mainly about applying knowledge and processing information, this is fairly clear. I then checked for each SDG whether I have an impact on it, in a positive or negative sense. This is how I discovered that my work fully aligns with target 12.6 ‘Encourage companies, especially large and transnational companies, to adopt sustainable practices and integrate sustainability information into their reporting cycle’. My negative impact is mainly on energy consumption. In my work I can look for solutions to limit this, for example by using links in emails instead of sending documents.

Impact of annual plans

Making such an annual plan is not mandatory. Of course, every member can also take steps to do business more sustainably without an annual plan. No annual plan is required for this. Drawing up an annual plan motivates you to think seriously about your concrete contribution to ‘a happy planet’ and setting goals helps you really take action. If you put that on paper and discuss it with others, it becomes something that others can come back to. It provides insight, focus and is less optional. Just like with the CSRD, which asks companies to be transparent in their ambition and goals in the field of sustainability.

The Netherlands currently has more than 2.1 million companies, of which 1.7 million are self-employed. There are no requirements for self-employed people to be transparent about their impact on people and the climate. A very large group of people who can have an influence every day and make a difference. Not in money, but in the advice, services and products they provide. I think that drawing up a ‘proportional’ CSR annual plan for the self-employed can help increase the movement towards socially conscious self-employed professionals. Especially if this is done in the manner described in the HPP step-by-step plan, which involves creating awareness and inspiring.

If you are a self-employed entrepreneur and you consider sustainable entrepreneurship important, register with Happy Planet Professionals.