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New Robeco Foundation aims to help underprivileged children reach their full potential

New Robeco Foundation aims to help underprivileged children reach their full potential

07-05-2018 | Interview

Robeco launches a new initiative: the Robeco Foundation. An interview with CEO Gilbert Van Hassel on contributing to the talent of underprivileged children through education.

Speed read

  • Robeco Foundation set up to promote equal opportunities for children
  • Rotterdam digital skills program kicks off
  • Objectives align with UN Sustainable Development Goals

What is the exact purpose of this foundation?

“The mission of the Robeco Foundation is to invest in talent development for children through education. The underlying goal of this mission is to create equal opportunities for children who start out in life at a disadvantage. The foundation will support local development initiatives with a real impact in cities where Robeco has a presence, starting in Rotterdam and successively expanding to other cities around the world.”

“The Robeco Foundation’s first program will be the Rotterdam digital skills program, which aims to prepare children for a world that is becoming increasingly digital. All activities and projects aimed at promoting equal opportunities for underprivileged children and linked to the digitization theme may be eligible for funding. The initiatives funded by the Robeco Foundation will support the regular school curriculum.”

Where did the idea for the Robeco Foundation originate?

“We asked a select group of millennials in our company to come up with new ideas that would serve local communities and at the same time underpin Robeco’s image as ESG leader. We asked for these ideas to extend beyond mere monetization and to include, for instance, encouragement for our employees to take part in volunteer work. Most of the task group’s ideas centered around education, children and poverty.”

Robeco wishes to encourage talent, support it and help young kids to make the most of their abilities.

“We talked to representatives of the municipality of Rotterdam – the city in which Robeco was founded and has been established for almost 90 years – to ensure that this focus of our attention would meet a real need. We were told that in this city alone a staggering 28,000 children live in poverty; 12,000 of them have done so for four or more consecutive years. This prompted us to set up the Robeco Foundation to contribute to the talent development of underprivileged children through education.”

Could you elaborate on the Rotterdam digital skills program?

“Digital skills are essential to fully participate in society today. To develop these skills, young children are dependent on their parents’ willingness and financial capacity to support them. On top of this, schools often do not have the proper resources to help kids reach their full potential in this area. One of our own millennials pointed out in his proposal that 70% of parents of children attending a specific high school in Rotterdam cannot afford to purchase a laptop for their children.”

“We inquired at several other schools and they corroborated this finding. During our talks with the municipal representatives from Rotterdam, we learned that many children lack the skills necessary to prepare them for a society that is increasingly based on digital knowledge. This is where the Robeco Foundation’s first program, the Rotterdam digital skills program that is about to be launched, originated.”

Gilbert van Hassel

“The program will offer support to primary and secondary schools in Rotterdam for activities aimed at improving the digital skills of financially disadvantaged children. Support from the Robeco Foundation may take the form of hardware (e.g., iPads) or software (e.g., online courses). We will also engage our own employees to give guest lectures or conduct school visits to our company’s head office.”

“Different schools have different needs, so we aim to offer solutions that are tailored to the specific needs of schools applying for project support. We believe the program can have a true impact in the city and our cooperation with the municipality of Rotterdam will be ongoing to show our long-term commitment.”

How does this fit in with Robeco?

“We call ourselves The Investment Engineers because analytical skills are deeply entrenched in Robeco’s DNA. Our employees combine human logic, reasoning and thoroughness with the latest digital tooling to create proprietary models that help us improve our understanding of the complexities of the modern world. These skills enable us to steer clear of unnecessary risks, building client solutions that stand the test of time.”

“At the same time, these skills help us challenge existing wisdom, laying the foundation for constant innovation in asset management. Our people are highly skilled and trained to capacity to deliver this service. At the same time, we are aware that there are equally talented people who are not in a position to benefit fully from their talent. In our view it is therefore very important for Robeco, as a global player in the investment industry, to underline our commitment to the local community.”

How does this link up to Robeco’s ambitions regarding sustainability?

“Robeco is one of the signatories of the Dutch SDG Investing Agenda and is committed to contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) formulated by the United Nations (UN). According to the UN, these goals aim to ‘make the world a better place in 2030’. We believe that the SDGs are drivers for positive change around the globe. The objectives of the Robeco Foundation align with SDG #1 – An end to poverty, and SDG #4 – Quality education.”

“Robeco has a longstanding tradition of supporting sustainable growth via our activities in the field of investment, engagement and active ownership. We want to match this business focus with our social commitment activities in the communities where Robeco has a presence. In establishing the Robeco Foundation, we are taking our social awareness activities to the next level by actively investing in local educational programs aimed at supporting financially disadvantaged children.”

Robeco Foundation
Robeco Foundation
Investing in talent development for children through education
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