MEAN WELL and do good

“It’s in our company name – we have good intentions,” says Snow Lee, MEAN WELL Europe’s HR Manager. “We don’t only want to generate revenue, but do good for our clients, suppliers and society.”

In 2020, MEAN WELL expanded its CSR strategy, which had a strong focus on charity events for people with a disability or elderly citizens, by allocating 3% of its global fourth-quarter revenue to supporting economic recovery post-Covid-19.

In 2021 the company took the next step and decided to bring a more significant contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals. And it’s now on a mission to find the right avenues for doing so and to convince others to join in. 

“Some customers have been with us for 30 years. We want to have the same type of long-term partnerships also to influence society for the better,” Lee adds. 

Connecting to Amsterdam’s impact entrepreneurs

Lee reached out to the City of Amstelveen, where MEAN WELL Europe is headquartered, to learn about inclusive and sustainable enterprises in Amstelveen and the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area (AMA). Amstelveen is a partner of amsterdam inbusiness, the AMA’s official foreign investment agency.

Marike Geertsma, Senior Manager Foreign Investments Fashion & Creative Industries at amsterdam inbusiness, connected Lee to the Amsterdam Impact team. “MEAN WELL is a great example of an international business firmly rooted in the AMA and proactively working on CSR activities,” says Geertsma.

“Amsterdam Impact is well-organised and has many connections to local impact enterprises. We had productive conversations to narrow down a wide range of suggestions that met our needs. And the team put in loads of effort to facilitate introductions to entrepreneurs,” says Lee. 

MEAN WELL aimed to sponsor enterprises that focus on helping vulnerable people with fewer opportunities, on promoting culture and education, and on promoting the environment. 

“We tried to match the activities we sponsored to the SDGs and were in contact with the entrepreneurs to see if there was a match,” Lee explains.

Here are the enterprises and activities MEAN WELL chose to sponsor: 

  • Fawaka Entrepreneurship School, which teaches impact entrepreneurship to primary-school children, held workshops at Amstelveen shelters and a summer school in Amsterdam Noord.  

  • Tridkingdom (Taiwan), which creates entrepreneurship-focuses educational programmes for children, will use the funding for its 2022 charity event.

  • Fun Forest, a climbing forest that provides training and employment to young people with a distance to the labour market, offered a fun day in nature to over 500 children affected by socio-economic deprivation. 

  • Impact Hub Amsterdam, part of the global Impact Hub network of impact-makers and innovators, will take MEAN WELL on an impact bike tour that showcases local enterprises that contribute to various Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  

  • Oma’s Soep, which combats loneliness in older people and food waste by working with the elderly to make soups from surplus vegetables, organised a Soup-at-Home day, during which volunteers deliver fresh soup to a hundred lonely elderly people. 

  • Plastic Whale fishes plastic waste from Amsterdam’s canals and uses it to create design objects. MEAN WELL purchased a team plastic fishing expedition and sponsored educational activities on fighting plastic pollution. 

Making a difference through CSR

For some of the enterprises, MEAN WELL’s financial support helped generate new products and collaboration opportunities. “The sponsorship gave us a boost and we turned the activity into a real product: Impact Climbing Tickets,” says David Balhuizen, Fun Forest’s director. 

These special tickets are dedicated to helping vulnerable kids “get out of their heads and into their bodies”, as Balhuizen puts it. When a company purchases Impact Climbing Tickets, half of the costs are covered by the company and half by Fun Forest.

“Child poverty is an unseen problem. We want to bring kids to our park to get a great experience and create more jobs for young people with a distance to the labour market,” he explains.

To reach these kids, Amsterdam Impact connected Fun Forest to relevant organisations. “This is the most tangible success. “Egon [Amsterdam Impact’s ecosystem liaison] tried to think outside the box and he’s done a great job,” says Balhuizen. 

The impact learning curve

“This is also a learning process for us. We didn’t want to just sponsor impact-driven initiatives, but to also get our colleagues involved,” says Lee. 

By joining, for instance, Impact Hub’s SDG tour or the Plastic Whale fishing expedition, she believes MEAN WELL employees can experience the impact goals of other socially responsible businesses and social enterprises. 

“Companies can look for impact enterprises on their own, but it’s important to contact organisations with resources and connections. Maybe there are areas you have missed,” says Lee. “Keep your options open to make the most impact,” she advises.

What can Amsterdam Impact do for your company

“Financially supporting social enterprise activities is just one of the many ways to increase your societal impact as a company,” says Ellen Oetelmans, Amsterdam Impact’s programme manager. 

Other ways include gaining a B Corp or Economy for the Common Good certification with Amsterdam Impact’s Building Better Business programme and focusing on responsible procurement by joining the Buy Social network and matching events.

“Solving our societal challenges needs everyone on board. If you would like to put impact at the core of your business model, we would love to hear from you,” Oetelmans concludes. 

Does your (international) company want to explore working with Amsterdam-based impact entrepreneurs to achieve your CSR goals? Please get in touch with the Amsterdam Impact team and check out these 6 ideas for incorporating CSR principles into your daily business practice.