ENGIE employees now growing vegetables

Lunch breaks have just taken on a whole new twist at ENGIE. One lunchtime a week, a shared vegetable garden is now the backdrop for a group of employees to indulge in their new task of – wait for it – growing organic fruit and vegetables.

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The courtyard of the ENGIE Tower in Brussels was a hive of activity on July 25 as Ilina, Florence, Tom and 27 other budding growers, all of them ENGIE employees, officially opened – lo and behold – their vegetable garden!

For several weeks, these volunteers have been spending their lunch breaks getting to grips with techniques for growing organic fruit and vegetables with coaches from Skyfarms, a start-up supported by social entrepreneurs that helps companies turn their rooftop or patio into a vegetable garden. The idea is to give ENGIE Belgium employees the chance to take a refreshing break from their work, enjoy reconnecting with nature, learn new skills, and meet fellow members of staff in a laid-back atmosphere.

Estimated annual production of 120 kg

“Creating this organic vegetable garden was a logical step for us”, indicates Christine Marchal, Chief Human Resources Officer at ENGIE Benelux. “After all, corporate social responsibility is one of our top priorities – and this project, with its spirit of collaboration and togetherness, provides a perfect illustration of our commitment to not only the environment but also the well-being and personal growth of our team members and the support to the most disadvantaged in society.” Yes, that’s right: 50% of the fruit and vegetables produced by the garden each year will be donated to the refugee center ‘Startpunt Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen’, just a stone’s throw away from the ENGIE Tower, in the North District of Brussels.

In all, 11 growing boxes made of recycled wood and 13 geotextile bags have been set up in the ENGIE Tower courtyard. Some 23 species will be grown here, producing an estimated 120 kilos of fruit and vegetables a year. The 30 ENGIE members of staff who volunteered to tend the garden will receive 36 hours’ coaching organised by Skyfarms.

Cultivating living together

However, the new organic vegetable garden is by no means ENGIE’s first foray into initiatives revolving around the environment, nature and biodiversity. Back in 2016, beehives were installed on the company roof , helping nearly 60,000 bees to pollinate millions of flowers each year. Meanwhile, nesting boxes for peregrine falcons have made their appearance on the cooling towers of ENGIE power plants, and wildlife ponds for birds have been created near the Grune wind farm.

And that’s not all: there has also been a series of initiatives to improve well-being at work. These include the NWoW programme, with dynamic workspaces, teleworking and new technologies for teleconferencing, and a dynamic training and internal mobility policy.

“I’ve been working at ENGIE for almost 10 years now”, says Florence Laruelle, “and this shared vegetable garden project is a great opportunity for me to focus on some of the things close to my heart, such as nature and sharing with others, and to enhance my learning process within the company.”

The first crop of vegetables is expected in the next few days. The volunteers are on absolute tenterhooks.

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