PM Webinar: the roadmap to make the Netherlands a leader in sustainable industry

In early April, the government published its plans to make the industry more sustainable. These include binding agreements with the 10 to 20 largest CO2 emitters in the Netherlands. The cabinet also wants ambitious CO2 targets for the remaining industry. To this end, the government wants to extend the energy saving obligation for companies.

However, this will require adjustments to various preconditions by the government. These include access to infrastructure, affordable and sustainable energy, financing, laws and regulations, support for R&D and the availability of skilled personnel. At the same time, standards are also being tightened, for example, to reduce other emissions – with an eye to the living environment.

We will discuss the sustainability of the industry with VVD MP Erik Haverkort and Martijn Broekhof of VNCI. They will give their vision and will be happy to discuss this with you.

The webinar will take place on Thursday, June 23 from 2:00 pm to 3:30 pm. You can register via secretariaat@publicmatters.nl

Public Matters celebrates 20 years of existence in Nieuwspoort

Public Matters celebrated its lustrum at the Nieuwspoort Press Centre in The Hague. For twenty years Public Matters has strived to contribute to the profession of public affairs and a lasting relationship between government and business. A milestone that continues to taste for more.

In honor of our Lustrum, and the profession of public affairs, we have compiled a lustrum book based on interviews with various experts from politics, business and civil society. In the interviews they give their vision on the profession and various trends in the public affairs landscape are discussed. Here are some interviews with Morgan Cauvin (Match Group), Ilse Kaandorp (VGM NL), Maarten Verboom (Stichting Dedicon), Wendy de Wild (Koninklijke NVRD) and Niels Arntz (Temper). Minister Ernst Kuipers of Health, Welfare and Sport officially accepted the book.

Based on this anniversary book, we talked about the trends in the relationship between advocates and policymakers in an interactive panel discussion. In a discussion moderated by Thomas van Zijl (BNR), four panelists shared their views on various trends: Caelesta Braun (Professor of Public Governance & Civil Society, Leiden University), Erik Ziengs (entrepreneur and former Member of Parliament), Moni Wiltenburg (Head of Government Affairs, Dow NL) and Pieter Couwenbergh (journalist, Financieel Dagblad).

The discussion began with the question of whether good lobbying will survive in a politically fragmented landscape, to which the audience largely agreed. The topic of transparency generated a lively discussion about what valuable and effective standards for transparency could or should look like. Finally, we talked about the current status of trust between policymakers and advocates, and how the modus operandi in the public affairs profession is constantly changing.

 

We look back on an interesting and beautiful celebration with all those present, and hope to be of value in The Hague and Brussels in the years to come with the same expertise, creativity and focus on results.

Integrity in public administration

In recent weeks the Dutch media have paid a great deal of attention to the app traffic between Minister Hugo de Jonge (former minister of health) and Sywert van Lienden about the purchase of mouth masks. As a result of the revelations of de Volkskrant, the integrity of administrators was extensively discussed in the Netherlands, from parliament to talk show tables. This fits in with a broader discussion on political integrity and integrity of public administration in the Netherlands, including in the House of Representatives. A committee debate on integrity in public administration was held on 10 March, there was a written consultation on the interests of members of government on 8 April and just before the Easter weekend a two-minute debate was held following the aforementioned committee debate on integrity in public administration.

A good time to take stock.

GRECO

In 2019, the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO), the corruption watchdog of the Council of Europe, examined the Dutch integrity systems for members of government based on 7 indicators. Conclusion: the Dutch system was assessed as substandard. Of the 8 countries studied, none scored a red tick on all 7 points – except for the Netherlands. Worse than countries like Poland, Malta and North Macedonia.

Based on the findings, GRECO made 8 concrete recommendations to the Netherlands. In an evaluation report published in 2021, the corruption watchdog concluded on the implementation of the recommendations that the Netherlands was still doing far too little to promote integrity and counter corruption among politicians and top officials; “We regret that no tangible progress has been made on any of our recommendations,” GRECO said.

Naturally, this scathing assessment provided fodder for discussion again in the House of Representatives, which led to a cautious first step in late 2021: the cabinet came up with an integrity policy for former ministers. This policy consists of a broadening of the already existing lobbying ban, the introduction of the so-called revolving door ban and a cooling-off period for members of government with mandatory advice from an independent committee. Although an important and much-needed first step, there were still plenty of comments to be made about the (feasibility of the) proposals.

Toothless tiger

There are still questions about this in the Lower House too, as became apparent during the Integrity Committee debate on public administration last month. Despite the appreciation expressed to Hanke Bruins Slot (CDA, Home Affairs) for her prioritization of the integrity theme, the debate was dominated by a number of recognizable points of criticism and concern. The main criticism: the measures in their current form leave too much room for discussion and interpretation, and due to the lack of sanctions they have virtually no clout. It is therefore a nice gesture, but at the same time a toothless tiger.

Take, for example, the lobbying and revolving door ban. According to members of the committee, both measures are still too non-committal and not sufficiently enforceable. This means that compliance is still largely based on the ministers’ own responsibility – and let GRECO identify that as precisely the vulnerable point of the Dutch system. In addition, with both measures, the Secretary General of the relevant ministry has the option to grant the former minister exemption from a ban. Given that the minister and the SG have worked together intensively and often have a good personal relationship, the potential inconvenience of this construction is evident, in the Committee’s view, and this waiver construction is therefore undesirable.

In addition, the mandatory cooling-off period, during which former members of government are obliged to seek advice from an independent committee for a period of two years before accepting a follow-up position, raises questions. Here, too, there is no sanction, which makes the ‘obligation’ nothing more than an urgent recommendation. The Cabinet’s response to concerns about the non-commitment expressed by the House of Representatives: ‘…one possibility is to publish the advice if a former member of government fails to follow the advice of the independent advisory panel. Ideally, however, it should not come to that: after all, the intention is that a former member of government should follow the advice of the independent panel.’

Finally, following GRECO’s advice, work is being done on a code of conduct for ministers. The Chamber calls this “a nice gesture”, but without consequences it is nothing more than an empty shell. During the debate, a large part of the committee therefore asked for the code of conduct to be sanctioned (legally or otherwise). Anyone who reads in the current Handbook for Government Officials that “the use of a private email account for work-related purposes is strongly discouraged” and has spent the past few weeks reading the

New talents join Team Public Matters

Public Matters expands with two new Account Executives: Katja Salzer Levi and Valérie Mendes de León.

About Katja

Katja studied European Studies at the University of Amsterdam. She also completed a minor in Political Science at Grenoble Institute of Political Studies, and did an internship at ABN AMRO Mees Pierson. After her bachelor she obtained a master’s degree in Political Science at the Free University of Amsterdam, and completed the Traineeship at Public Matters. Both Katja and Public Matters were very pleased with her Traineeship and we are therefore pleased to welcome her as an Account Executive. Katja will be focusing on the transport and tech sector in particular.

About Valérie

Valérie received her master’s degree in International Politics from Leiden University. She previously worked for the Province of South Holland as a project manager for digitalization. Valerie already has some experience in the Public Affairs profession through previous internships and at the Young Climate Movement. At Public Matters, Valérie will be advising clients in various sectors, including tech and climate.

We are very happy with our new colleagues and wish them all the best in their new positions!

EU reaches agreement on Digital Markets Act (DMA)

Last night, Thursday 24 March, the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union and the European Commission reached an provisional agreement on the EU Digital Markets Act (DMA). After a record legislative journey of only 15 months, this effectively ends the trilogue negotiations – some technical details are still being worked out at official level.

We have previously written about the substantive debates in Brussels here and here. What are the results of the negotiations, how to proceed with enforcement, and what is the timeline from now on?

 

Big Tech curbed

The DMA shifts the focus of combating abuse of market power in the digital economy from an ex-post approach via antitrust cases at EU or Member State level, to ex-ante regulation, including a list of do’s and don’ts for so-called gatekeepers in the tech sector. Gatekeepers are companies with a market capitalisation of at least €75 billion or annual turnover of €7.5 billion, and at least 45 million monthly users.

The DMA will have a significant impact on the market power of the big tech companies, as soon as the legislation has been adopted. Users will be allowed to remove pre-installed apps, gatekeepers will no longer be allowed to favour or ‘rank’ their own services when searching for them and app stores will have to allow alternative payment options for consumers. In addition, messaging services such as Telegram, Whatsapp and iMessage should be able to interoperate and communicate with each other.

Companies that fail to comply with the obligations can be fined up to 10 percent of the worldwide annual revenues. In case of repeated violations, this can increase to 20 percent and the Commission can even prevent the company from acquisition efforts.

 

Effective enforcement

Throughout the negotiation process, the need for effective enforcement became an increasingly common refrain in Brussels. A solid legal text is one thing, but if companies and organisations cannot be held to the letter and spirit of that text, it’s toothless. During trilogue negotiations, therefore, extra attention was paid to the provisions that addressed enforcement.

In the end, it was decided that the European Commission will have the central role in enforcement. The Directorate-General for Competition (DG COMP) is already investigating how it can (re)structure its internal organisation to carry out this task. It is also likely that new Commission employees will have to be hired specifically for the enforcement of the DMA. MEP Schwab, rapporteur for the EP, even suggested that the Commission should hire people from national competition authorities.

In the Netherlands, the Personal Data Authority, the Consumer and Market Authority, the Media Authority and the Financial Markets Authority took a shot across the bow by establishing the Digital Regulation Cooperation Platform (SDT). This cooperation must, among other things, facilitate the enforcement of the DMA, but also of the DSA and the Data Act.

Time will tell to what extent the relevant national and EU authorities will be able to properly enforce the DMA.

 

Timeline

Now that the political negotiations are over, a formal process of enactment, translation and legalisation will commence. The DMA is expected to enter into force in October, but the main new obligations (Art. 5 and 6) will only become effective in 2023, allowing companies to take preparatory measures. The timeline (as expected):

April/May Confirmation of provisional agreement by Council and IMCO (internal market) committee in European Parliament
September Plenary vote by the European Parliament
September/October Publication of the DMA in the EU Official Journal
October Entry into force of the DMA, 20 days after publication
April 2023 Provisions of the DMA become effectively applicable, 6 months after entry into force

Public Matters advises companies and other organisations that are active in the tech sector, or which are impacted by the DMA, DSA and other tech related legislation. See this page for more information.

Saying goodbye to gas – is the war in Ukraine accelerating Europe’s energy transition?

The war in Ukraine is above all a humanitarian disaster that many in Europe no longer thought possible. In addition to major geopolitical consequences, there are also severe economic consequences. In the Netherlands, you only have to drive to the petrol station or look at your energy bill and it quickly becomes painfully clear how much Europe has become (too) dependent on Russia in essential markets. The great dependence on gas from Russia is now resulting in rocketing energy prices and a market that is operating at the limits of its capacity. Uncertainty and instability dominate the international market and, as a result, the discussion about energy dependence and the energy transition is rapidly intensifying at every possible level.

Russian gas as elephant in the room

There has been longstanding discussion within the EU about the large gas imports from Russia, and the dependence that the West has created as a result. Yet dependence on Russian gas has only increased in recent years. In the Netherlands, around 15 to 20% of the gas supply comes from Russia, and across Europe as much as 45% by 2021. The problem with this was always obvious – yet Russian gas often proved to be the painful elephant in the room.

The consistent choice of Russian gas is in line with the longstanding, deliberate policy of promoting economic interdependence between the EU and Russia. Wandel durch Handel, was the idea in Europe: if we trade intensively, mutual dependence grows and peace in Europe is guaranteed. However, this peace has proven to be a utopia; moreover, in an extensive analysis, the Volkskrant describes that Russia was happy to watch Europe tie a hand on its back with the growing interdependence. On the other hand, economic dependence has also made Russia more vulnerable; with the massive import of gas from Russia, the West is a major financier of the Russian treasury. Russia is the third-largest oil producer in the world: energy – overwhelmingly in the form of oil and gas – accounts for 60% of exports and 40% of Moscow’s treasury.

Severe sanctions

The invasion of Ukraine marks a historic turning point in international relations. The West realizes that a new era has begun, and that trade and cooperation with Russia is no longer justifiable, reliable, or desirable at this time. This is resulting in massive sanctions that Russia has not seen before. As such, it became clear last week that Western countries are working on the toughest possible sanction against Russia: stopping the import of oil and gas. The US led the way with an immediate ban on Russian oil, gas and coal. The UK will also stop importing gas and oil this year.

For the EU, this is still a step too far; it simply depends too heavily on Russian gas. Yet here too, a shift is taking place. Last week the European Commission presented a plan to reduce the dependence on Russian gas by two-thirds by the end of this year. According to the plan, called REPowerEU, the EU can do without Russian gas before 2030 by diversifying gas supplies and accelerating the promotion of renewable energy. In the Netherlands, too, the government has been called upon by means of a widely supported motion in Parliament to come up with a plan that would allow the Netherlands to become independent of Russian gas as soon as possible.

Highest gear

It is evident that the current crisis has the potential to accelerate the European energy transition. In the short term, there is a need to look for reliable gas suppliers and to build up and obligate gas reserves. The future, however, is sustainable; in the EU’s hyperambitious REPowerEU plan Frans Timmermans leaves no room for doubt: “let’s dash into renewable energy at lightning speed”. The aim of the brand new plan is to switch to sustainable energy sources like wind, sun, hydrogen and biogas (especially bio-ethane) in the highest gear. In addition, massive efforts must be made to save energy and the import of hydrogen must provide a major contribution. The European Commission is thus stepping up the pace of the earlier Green Deal plans and the Fit-for-55 objectives. In this way Europe’s energy supply must become autonomous, resilient and above all sustainable in record time.

The disconnection of Russian gas is also currently a hot topic in the Netherlands. The House of Representatives has called on the government by means of a motion to draw up a plan to reduce energy dependence on Russia as quickly as possible. In addition, the topic has been discussed in plenary debates, a roundtable and a special Commission debate is scheduled soon. However, the urgency is perhaps best reflected in the strong support from the Groningers for further opening the gas tap in the province in order to be less dependent on Russian gas. For years, gas production in Groningen has been one of the most sensitive issues in the country; the reaction of the Groningers therefore clearly reflects the sentiment in the Netherlands – we are also done with Russian gas here.

Energy transition – cheaper than ever?

In the space of two weeks, the energy market has changed fundamentally. Olof van der Gaag, chairman of the Dutch Sustainable Energy Association (NVDE), remarked during a roundtable discussion last week in the Dutch House of Representatives on Russian gas that a situation that was unthinkable until recently has now occurred: fossil energy has become unprecedentedly expensive and renewable energy is suddenly the cheaper and more reliable alternative.

As a result, the market dynamics are changing significantly. The current situation leads to strong sustainable incentives: for consumers it has become almost a necessity to make energy saving a high priority and to make the switch to cheaper green electricity, and for producers this in turn leads to strong incentives to produce green electricity. The conclusion, according to van der Gaag, is that the energy transition could well be ‘cheaper’ than we had ever imagined. Simply because renewable energy and energy savings are cheaper than continuing along the current route, which many previously thought would be the other way around.

Looking ahead in the Netherlands

On March 22, the committee for Economic Affairs and Climate (EZK) will meet for a special committee debate on the security of our gas supply. The short-term measures that will be discussed include stricter regulations for gas storage facilities, extra supplies of LNG and extra gas production in the Netherlands. In addition, in May the government will present a plan to accelerate energy transition in the longer term and how this can be financed. If the ambitious targets are to be achieved and the pace of change accelerated, all hends will have to be on deck.

The government has a key role to play in accelerating the energy transition. During the aforementioned roundtable, almost all of the invited parties stressed that the government should take the lead: regulate and facilitate, was the request. So one thing is certain – the government should optimally enable the market to facilitate the energy transition as quickly and effectively as possible.

Photo by Magda Ehlers via Pexels

UPDATE DUTCH POLITICS: local parties big winners of municipal elections

  • On March 14, 15 and 16, the Netherlands went to vote for the municipal elections. Taking place exactly one year after the last national elections, these elections can be seen as a first benchmark for the newly formed coalition. But have they survived the test?
  • Since the national elections in the beginning of last year, a lot has happened. In addition to the ongoing pandemic we witnessed the longest formation period in Dutch history – which led to a lot of criticism – saw the housing crisis reach new heights, and are now dealing with the situation in Ukraine. All these events might have impacted the election results to some extent.
  • Prior to the elections, voter turnout was expected to be slightly lower than the previous local elections, posibly due to the war in Ukraine. In the past weeks this led to less media coverage than in other election years. On the other hand, the polls were open for three days this year, in order to manage the crowds with regards to COVID. This in turn was expected to have a positive effect on voter turnout. In the end, of the 13,6 million eligible voters, ultimately 50,3% showed up to the polls, which is historically low. During the last local elections in 2018 voter turnout was 54,1%.
  • The conclusion of these municipal elections is that once again, local parties are the big winners. In the last election in 2018, they already received 28.6% of the votes, this year they have secured 36,5%. Coalition parties VVD (Liberal Conservatives) & CDA (Christian Democrats) turned out to be the biggest national-level parties operating at local level, but they’ve also lost seats to the locals. For example, in 2018 they both got over 13% of the vote, this time it’s 11,5% (VVD) and 11,2% (CDA). A minor victory was seen, among others, by PvdA (Labour), which did particularly well in the capital Amsterdam and became the largest party there.
  • The preliminary results of the municipal elections can be found in the table below. In this table, the results of national parties are compared to the results of last national elections (March 2021). It’s good to note that although the table does not include local parties – as they cannot be compared to number of seats in parliament – they are still to be considered the “big winners”. The table shows how the national political parties performed in these local elections.
  • Most national parties remain fairly stable. A small gain is visible for the PvdA (Labour), especially in Amsterdam, the PvdD (Animal Party), FVD (Right-wing Eurosceptics), SGP (Christian Conservatives), BIJ1 (Left-wing), Volt (Pro-European), JA21 (Conservatives) and Belang van Nederland of Wybren Haga (Conservatives). A loss is in sight for PVV (Freedom Party), GroenLinks (Green Left), ChristenUnie (Christian), 50PLUS (Elderly party).
Percentage Number of seats
Exitpolls Parliament Difference Exitpolls Parliament Difference
VVD / Liberal Conservatives 18,1 22,7 -4,6 27 34 -7
CDA / Christian Democrats 17,6 9,3 8,3 26 14 12
PVV / Freedom Party 1,4 11,4 -10 2 17 -15
D66 / Liberal Democrats 13,5 16 -2,5 20 24 -4
GroenLinks / Green Left 13,1 5,3 7,8 20 8 12
SP / Socialists 4,3 6 -1,7 6 9 -3
PvdA / Labour 12,1 6 6,1 18 9 9
CU / Christian 6,1 3,3 2,8 9 5 4
PvdD / Animal party 3 4 -1 5 6 -1
SGP / Christian Conservatives 3,6 2 1,6 5 3 2
DENK / Multicultural 1,6 2 -0,4 2 3 -1
FvD / Right-wing Eurosceptics 1,7 3,3 -1,6 3 5 -2
Volt / Pro-European 1,1 2 -0,9 2 3 -1
JA21 / Conservatives 0,4 2 -1,6 1 3 -2
Other 2,4 4,7 -2,3 4 7 -3
Total 100 100 150 150

 

Looking back: a dialogue on lobbying in the Slovenian Parliament

Last Friday Pieter Walraven (Managing Partner) attended a session called ‘Professionalization of legal lobbying’ at the Parliament of Slovenia. Together with, amongst others, Mihael Cigler (Slovenia), Markus Eder (Austria), Dominik Meier (Germany) and Dominique Reber (Switzerland), he discussed the experiences with lobbying regulation in other countries, including the Netherlands.

“We discussed the importance of defining lobby/lobbyist. Especially in countries where a register has been introduced, ambiguities and wrong expectations arise if the definition is not properly determined and discussed. In Germany, a broad definition was chosen, but some parties were excluded. These include churches and trade unions, even though these organisations also promote their interests.

Dominique Reber emphasised the importance of giving all interested parties room to make their voices heard. In Switzerland, referendums play an important role in this. In the Netherlands, when legislation and regulations are drawn up, we see more attention for consultations and for making transparent the parties that have been consulted.

I myself reflected on the importance of a counterbalance. There has been a lot of talk about this in the Netherlands over the past year, and rightly so. The session in Slovenia reminded me that there is still a lot of work to be done. In the Netherlands, for instance, 17.4 million inhabitants are represented by only 150 MPs (1 in 116,000) divided over 20 political groups. Compared to many other EU countries, this is absurdly low. Given the amount and complexity of the challenges, I regularly wonder how policymakers can adequately supervise the national administration with these limited resources. The central government has also been scaled down in relative terms in recent years, with the result that much sector-specific knowledge has disappeared from ministries. This also makes the dialogue with that sector more difficult.

So I fully support the focus on strengthening countervailing power. But it takes time to realise this. For lobbyists, the lack of knowledge is by nature an opportunity. However, it is much more than that. It is an extra responsibility for everyone who represents interests. It means they have to deal responsibly with the difference in knowledge, be transparent about interests and be prepared to tell the whole story.

This brings me to a point that I consider crucial in public affairs: mutual understanding. A good advocate must be able to empathise with the person on the other side of the table. That means insight and understanding of that person’s context, agenda and perspectives for action. And taking these into account instead of just looking after one’s own interests. In the geopolitical arena, too, we are regularly confronted with the importance of mutual understanding. Those who invest in mutual understanding lay the foundations for a dialogue.

A structural dialogue on lobbying is currently lacking in the Netherlands. In the past year, however, lobbying has been discussed more in the House of Representatives, partly due to incidents. For this reason, would it not be a good idea to organise an annual round-table discussion and debate on lobbying? That would do much to raise awareness among both policymakers and the public. It would also ensure that lobbying rules and (voluntary) codes of conduct become more alive and receive broader support. I hope that people will get a better understanding of how lobbying takes place in the Netherlands. Maybe some prejudices will be confirmed, but people will see that the majority of lobbyists contribute to the public debate in a healthy way.”

Public Matters welcomes six new colleagues.

Public Matters recently welcomed a number of new colleagues. Sander van Golberdinge started as Senior Director, Bart Hendriks as Account Executive and former Trainee Judith ter Kuile returned as Account Executive. Public Matters is also pleased to welcome three new Trainees, namely Wouter Nelen, Paul Schrama and Stefan Ruiter.

About Sander, Bart and Judith

Sander worked as Senior Public Affairs Manager at Grodan and was previously Director at Detailhandel Nederland. Before that, he was a policy advisor for the Dutch government and a member of staff for the VVD (Conservative Liberals). At Public Matters, Sander will mainly focus on industry, agriculture and chemistry.

Bart obtained his Master’s degree in Management of the Public Sector with a specialisation in Public Affairs at Leiden University and did an internship at another public affairs consultancy. Bart also has experience in teaching and training at the Jonge democraten (youth branch of D66, Liberal Democrats) . At Public Matters, Bart will be advising clients in various sectors, including healthcare.

Judith has a bachelor’s degree in International Business from the University of Groningen and a minor in International Politics and Economics from Mexico Autonomous Institute of Technology (ITAM). She then completed her master’s in Strategic Management at the Erasmus University and spent the past year as a Trainee at Public Matters, where she focused on energy and climate.

About Wouter, Paul and Stefan

Wouter is following the master programme Political Science with a specialisation in Dutch politics. Previously, he did an internship at the public affairs department of the municipality of Leiden and was campaign coordinator for Volt Leiden in the 2021 Dutch parliamentary elections. At Public Matters, Wouter will be working with clients in the field of tech and the healthcare sector.

Paul obtained a bachelor’s degree in political science and a minor in journalism at Leiden University. He is currently following the master programme Public Sector Management – Public Affairs at the same university and did a public affairs internship at the Dutch Startup Association: a trade association for start-up and scale-up companies in the Netherlands. At Public Matters, Paul will mainly focus on supporting clients in the field of real estate, tourism and transport.

Stefan completed his bachelor’s degree in political science at Leiden University. He is active in the CDA (Christian Democrats) in Leiden and last year he was the national secretary of the national CDA youth branch (CDJA). As Trainee at Public Matters, Stefan will mainly be working with clients in the field of energy and climate.

We are pleased that these new colleagues are joining Public Matters and wish them success in their new positions!

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto via Pexels

A conversation with Niels Arntz – co-founder of Temper

As part of the 20th anniversary of Public Matters, we have developed a book which includes interviews with various interviews with professionals, entrepreneurs and experts from the public affairs sector. In the interviews they provide their views on lobbying and public affairs trends. The book will soon be presented, but in the meantime we will share several interviews via this website.

For this interview, we spoke with Niels Arntz, co-founder of Temper.

Temper is an online platform for self-employed people looking for jobs to earn extra income in hospitality, retail, logistics and charity. The online platform breaks down barriers in the labour market, but in a Dutch way. Instead of the Sillicon Valley credo move fast and break things, he looks for added value in and with the Dutch consensus decision-making system (Polder model).

Why does Temper provoke societal political discussion?

Temper is a platform for self-employed people who are looking for jobs such as in hospitality, retail, logistics and recently also in healthcare. The first version went live on the first day of 2016. It turned out to be a hit. More and more people want to work this way, where they have the initiative. I used to work in the hospitality industry. If I wanted time off, it was never really possible. With Temper, we turn this around, and place the initiative with the worker. He or she decides whether he or she wants to work. That was the world upside down. The hot issue here is that we work with self-employed people.

In the beginning, you’re pretty much in your own bubble. It’s great to grow, with 10 to 15 per cent more hours worked through the platform every month. The first time I was thrust out of that bubble was during a debate evening. I found myself in a room with 200 labour lawyers, tax consultants and temping agencies, in one of those arena settings. In my naivety, I talked about Temper’s early success and the hundred new users a day. When I told them how good things were at our company, they almost razed me to the ground. At one point, I didn’t know what to say anymore. This was at the end of 2017. Then I realised: there is a lot of dissent. I wasn’t aware of that. That immediately shows the naivety, which was also good for something, because otherwise we might never have started. That moment has been an ass-kicking in my Temper career, which I now look back on with a smile.

What is your experience with politicians and policymakers in setting up a new business?

It is quite diverse. It’s a huge journey to set up a company like this with everything that comes with it. From the start, we want to do things differently from the platforms that have come over from Sillicon Valley. I don’t want to be the party that first sets the country on fire and then maybe helps to put it out. We are a Dutch company, so that makes us quite likeable as a platform. That also has everything to do with the fact that we said from the start: we want to do this the right way and be part of the solution.

We have been proactive towards trade unions and that has resulted in cooperation with them, and we have also gone to the Tax and Customs Administration ourselves, we have entered into dialogue with members of parliament and with the Ministry of Social Affairs and that of Finance.

Our starting point is that if we want to be a sustainable part of the labour market in the Netherlands, we must also want to give something back. Then we must also ensure that the needs of the Netherlands as a whole are met. If that is your starting point, you create value. Because it’s either create value or get value out of it. Many people and companies are – often unconsciously – busy getting value out of something. But if you are busy adding value, the chance of success is much greater. Our stakeholders therefore feel that the intention is good – even if they look at it differently – and that we are looking for a win-win situation. That helps a lot. It also creates a bond of trust, which is important if we are to have any influence. You have to create a bond of trust by being vulnerable. You do that by being transparent and by giving insight. For example, we have given access to our data about 2020. That will help politicians and civil servants.

Your company is coming out of a difficult period. Can you describe it?

We started with three and the road to the ideal team has been quite turbulent. The company changes rapidly, so do the people and the team and the skills required. It was a struggle. In addition, internally we had different views on the definition of success. Will this be the new way of working or supplementary to how things are now? That is quite a difference. In the first years, it did not receive so much attention, but as we progressed, it became more important. Then came the corona crisis and that was mindblowing for us. You are constantly growing for years. We had one hundred and fifty employees. Then came the pandemic, we had some challenges in the team and we had to lay off half of the people, because 95% of the turnover was gone. From one day to the next. We had no wayout. Then we were sued by the union. That explains why we were idle, because we were shaved. We also received a visit from the Inspectorate of Social Affairs. Many external developments meant that we had to mark time. To slow down and ask ourselves the question: how do we create value again?

Many developments from outside meant that we had to sit still for a while and wait for it to blow over. We had to think: what are we going to do, how do we create value again? It was sometimes unreal to experience, but you quickly embrace it. Now that business is doing well again, it is easier to find resignation. You also urged me not to become cynical. That is what often happens in this world.

How does your culture compare to the culture of your stakeholders?

That is an insane difference. Temper is a digital space. At Temper, you can go on holiday whenever you want. I don’t care if you take your kids to school or go to the gym in the middle of the day. Do your thing. Those are my personal values: freedom, flexibility, autonomy. And I see that reflected in the culture of Temper, and also in the culture of people who work through Temper.

Our sloganwas: what can we do today to make a difference tomorrow. That changes over time. When we went up to 100 employees, it was quite difficult to work that way. Because the more you grow, the more processes you create, so things slow down. But MPs also have a fast pace. I wonder how much they can get done with all those compulsory meetings and when you see how much they are living. What is your job, at the end of the day: getting things done or meeting how you get things done?

But anyway, that’s how it works. Another report, another meeting. The question is always: which way will it go, and how will it affect Temper’s business? But most of all: how will it affect all tens of thousands of users who work via platforms? But even if the political processes are slow: you still have influence, and things are still moving in the right direction. That works well for me. I also notice that politicians are very pragmatic and understand that people who work via our platform do so on the side. They are supplementary earners in a very specific phase of their lives and they make a conscious choice.

Politicians are good at expanding the horizon. Policy officers and civil servants are very good at narrowing in. Sometimes that enlarges an issue. Take the concept of platform work, for example. In 2020, that was 6.9% of the total labour market. And then a controversial report comes out from the major banks which states that it will grow to 80% of the total labour market. If you, as a civil servant, take that out and make it representative for the whole sector, you get a distorted picture. As a civil servant, I would write all kinds of alarming proposals to curb this.

It is easier to build a relationship when you don’t need anything from anyone. Just getting acquainted without needing anything. Those are the skills that are very important. You need curiosity. You have to ask the question: how can I contribute to your success? Then people look at me: is he really saying that? But in the end, it works. I know that those people and Temper are the better for it.

‘What can we do today to make a difference tomorrow’

What is your experience of media portrayal and influence on politics?

Platforms are hot and happening. Everyone has an opinion about them. Journalists love to write about them. There is always something special to highlight: a collaboration with the trade union, for example, or a model agreement that has been approved by the tax authorities. There is always an opposing party who writes a flaming argument about why platforms are bad. And then there are questions in parliament. We have been through this three times now. This is a nice dynamic and illustrates that politicians have little time and are whispered to by stakeholders, sometimes through the media. I then find it sometimes a circus, how the answer process proceeds. Ultimately, you keep the circle going. Everyone is busy, so maybe we should be a bit more pragmatic with our time.

It does affect things I want to achieve: the model agreement of the Tax and Customs Administration has been delayed by Parliamentary questions. Maybe that is the objective of those who have whispered those questions, I don’t know. In any case, we proactively inform politicians and civil servants whether there is a possible negative or positive piece in the newspaper. I don’t always get a reaction to that, but then you hear later that they were glad to know about it. That’s how you build up the relationship of trust again.

What can politics learn from a company like Temper?

We provide insight into the new generation of workers. Ministries also need this knowledge. We are happy to offer it. We are very user focused. We only build something if the user really needs it. Politics should also be user-focused. They are representatives of the people. The question is what a round of parliamentary questions contributes. That is the perspective we offer them. It is nice to have politicians meet Temper workers during working visits. Then you really get an insight into what drives someone. Then they can see and hear it with their own eyes and ears. Prioritising and being user-focused are lessons I would like to teach politicians.