Despite the coronavirus crisis our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)-strategy remained unchanged in 2020. This strategy, which we charted in 2016, is based on the ISO 26.000 standard. We assume our responsibility as an organisation for the impact of our decisions and activities on society and the environment, for both the positive and negative aspects. We try to strengthen the positive aspects (e.g. a stable and safe .be, .vlaanderen and .brussels domain name zone) as much as possible, and try to prevent the negative aspects (e.g. CO2 emissions) as much as possible. Where this is not possible, we first look for alternatives with less impact or we offset them.
We proceed in a transparent and ethical way and thus contribute to the sustainable development of society. We take into account the expectations of our stakeholders and comply with legal and internationally recognised standards of conduct. We strive to implement sustainability and corporate social responsibility in all aspects of our business operations. We try to inspire our stakeholders and convince them to work on their own sustainability.
The coronavirus crisis has had a major impact on our company -- both on our results and on the way we work. You can read about the impact on our results in our general and financial report. A large part of this CSR report describes the influence that the crisis has had on our way of working. In addition, we provide an overview of the projects with a social impact that we were able to see through and those that we unfortunately could not.
We are really proud of four specific points:
- the measures we took from the first day of the lockdown so that our colleagues could continue to combine work and family;
- the launch of our registrant verification procedure which, for the first time, enables us to increase the security of our .be domain name zone proactively;
- the impact of our "laptops for schools action" via DigitalForYouth.be;
- obtaining the SDG Pioneer label, a recognition of our efforts in recent years by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), CIFAL Flanders and VOKA [Flanders’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry].
We regard the staff of DNS Belgium as one of our most important stakeholders. That is why they have been given their own pillar in our sustainability strategy: Inspiring workplace. On Wednesday, 11 March 2020, we communicated that everyone had to work from home. When the entire country went into lockdown a few days later, we took a number of far-reaching measures immediately to make the combination of work, childcare, home schooling and family possible. For example, everyone was given the opportunity to pick up all the necessary materials at the office so that the home office could be set up in as ideal a way as possible.
For employees with children under eleven, we introduced a 50/50 scheme arrangement so that they could combine caring for their children with their work more easily. As soon as it was possible, we also initiated schemes such as the official coronavirus parental leave.
We monitored the mental well-being of our employees through our own coronavirus surveys and created communication channels specially for that purpose. This enabled us to attune our measures further to their needs. As soon as we were allowed to, we made the office a place where colleagues could meet again in complete safety.
In 2020, the HR strategy that we have charted in recent years continued to apply. We continued to encourage continuous feedback, direct communication and personal growth and training. 35 staff members attended 62 training courses, accounting for 513,5 hours of education and training.
After the first tentative steps were taken in late 2019, we shifted up a gear in 2020 with the introduction of Sociocracy techniques and principles. With this we state the equality of all employees and try to make our decisions 'in consent'. Decisions are taken when none of those present have any reasoned objection to the decision to be made. The purpose of this form of governance is to make decisions more quickly and with broader support. All employees were given the opportunity to sign up for various courses and actively engaged in them. Further steps were also taken in terms of transparency by, inter alia, making the reports of the HR Committee more public.
Leader in Security
Cybersecurity is one of the three strategic focus points of our registry . It is our responsibility that the .be, .vlaanderen and .brussels domain name zones continue to function optimally. Some websites make victims however, consciously or unconsciously, because they are used/misused in phishing attacks, as a fake web shop or as part of another crime. In recent years, we have worked hard to take measures to get these domain names off the air as quickly as possible. We continued these efforts unabated in 2020. For example, we revoked 5227 malicious domain names. These actions are reactive, because the domain name is already active on the Internet at that time. This is because a domain name becomes active immediately after registration.
An ambitious project launched in 2020 will also enable us to take proactive action. Domain names that are selected for verification by the “registrant verification” mechanism on the basis of a number of characteristics will no longer be activated immediately. As a result, they will no longer be automatically included in the zone. We contact the domain name holder and ask them to identify themselves. Only after verification of the identity of the owner are they activated and the registrant can use the domain name.
The basis for this project lies in some R&D projects we carried out in the past years where we experimented with AI & ML. To coordinate these projects better, we opted to free up an employee to streamline our R&D efforts further. He is working with several colleges and universities in our country to that end.
Cybersecurity on the Internet can be increased only by working together with other parties. Our security officer took up his role as co-chair of the CENTR Security working group. Despite the coronavirus crisis, this working group managed to bring together colleagues from different countries -- often from a distance and virtually, but the exchange of ideas and knowledge continued.
We continued to play an active role in various focus groups in the Cyber Security Coalition in Belgium too. In addition, we managed to agree on a notice and action procedure with the Data Protection Authority, just like the N&A which we have had for years with the FPS Economy, which enables us to take domain names offline more quickly. We will try to expand these cooperation protocols further with other government departments in the coming years.
A study conducted by the King Baudouin Foundation has shown that 40% of Belgians are at risk of digital exclusion. This is the reason why we founded DigitalForYouth.be in 2019: to help close the digital gap for young people. In 2020, we supported the organisation with €325,000 and made it possible for several of our colleagues to get involved.
With DigitalForYouth.be, we have had a huge impact for young people who were disconnected from their school during the lockdown because they did not have a laptop. In just 2 months we managed to collect 14,746 used laptops from companies, refurbish them and put them back into use for young people going to school -- a huge operation that succeeded thanks to the support of many companies and organisations.
Collaboration pays off. That is also why we became active in the E-inclusion task force and the BNP Paribas Fortis Digital Inclusion Ecosystem. In Leuven, we were happy to put our expertise at the disposal of "Iedereen digitaal", an e-inclusion initiative of the City of Leuven and various partners from civil society and the business world.
We sponsored the "cyber security challenge", a "capture the flag" competition for cybersecurity students. We also devised some hard-to-crack puzzles and assignments to challenge the knowledge of these students regarding the DNS protocol and cybersecurity.
Unfortunately, we were not able to see some planned actions through because of the coronavirus crisis. The 'technopotty', a mobile cyber security escape room game that we were going to develop in cooperation with Technopolis regrettably did not go ahead nor did one of the two planned capture the flag cyber security challenges.
CO2 footprint 2020
Since the start of our climate programme in 2017, we have had our climate footprint calculated by Ecolife. They produce a report with the climate footprint calculation of the activities of DNS Belgium for 2020. This report is prepared according to Bilan Carbone®, ISO 14064 and the GreenHouseGas (GHG) Protocol. It includes the following scopes:
- scope 1 (direct emissions on site),
- scope 2 (indirect emissions through the use of electricity),
- scope 3 (indirect emissions from purchase, waste and use of products and services, commuting, foreign service trips, ...).
The table below shows the climate footprint by impact category and ISO scope. The total footprint for 2020 amounted to 123 tonnes of CO2-eq, which comes to 3.8 tonnes per FTE or 72 grams of CO2-eq per domain name. The latter corresponds to the direct fuel emissions from just under 475 meters of car travel.
|Iso scope 1||Iso scope 2||Iso Scope 3||Total||%|
|Direct Energy Consumption – buildings||5 tonnes||6 tonnes||0 tonnes||11 tonnes||8,8%|
|Purchases and inputs||1 tonnes||1 tonnes||0,6%|
|Waste processing||0 tonnes||0 tonnes||0,0%|
|Employee mobility||52 tonnes||52 tonnes||42,3%|
|Foreign service transfers||6 tonnes||6 tonnes||4,7%|
|Tangible fixed assets||54 tonnes||54 tonnes||43,5%|
|Total||5 tonnes||6 tonnes||112 tonnes||123 tonnes|
|Per domain name||0,07 kg|
|Per FTE||3,8 tonnes|
The direct energy consumption of the buildings also includes the electricity consumption of data centres (Amazon Web Services (AWS)). Employee mobility includes, in addition to commuting to work, private trips with service vehicles as well as domestic and foreign service trips with cars.
In waste processing, 0.1 tons of CO2 is avoided through energy recovery from the incineration of residual waste (thus avoiding emissions from new electricity generation) and recycling of paper and PMD (thus avoiding emissions from the production of new paper, plastic and metals). There is only a limited carbon footprint from waste disposal due to limited office presence.
Fixed tangible assets have had the lightest immediate decrease due to the coronavirus pandemic, and now constitute the main emission item, at 43.5%. Employee mobility is the second largest contributor to the climate footprint at 42.3%.
Just under half of the climate footprint consists of mobility by car. The goal is to implement a new car policy in 2021 that will commit to a further reduction in this item. In addition, we continue to work on achieving the mobility shift.
In 2020, 17 employees availed themselves of the possibility of leasing a bicycle. For visitors, we introduced the principle that they can obtain Blue bike vouchers if they come by public transport, enabling them to cover the distance between the train station and our office with a rental bike. For all our cycling efforts, we received the silver Cycle Friendly employer award from the Cyclists' Union.
We offset the 123 tonnes of CO2 we produced in 2020 by supporting a gold standard project in Myanmar.
CENTR sustainability project
Within CENTR we worked together with EURid (.Eu), The Swedish Internet Foundation (.se), Afnic (.fr) and CENTR itself to develop a common benchmark and model for registries to calculate their climate footprint. We started by comparing the four models used by registries to calculate their climate footprint. In so doing, we arrived at a common model that is applicable to all of our fellow registries when they want to start calculating their climate footprint. Centr members can have a look at the report. Since its publication, several registries have shown interest in the report and in calculating their climate footprint: A great result.
Dialogue with our stakeholders
A final important aspect of our strategy is the dialogue with and attention to the interests of our stakeholders. As indicated above, the staff of DNS Belgium are one of our most important stakeholder groups. They are therefore also a fully-fledged partner in discussions on all aspects of our company. Anyone can submit ideas through the Idea Committee, which is made up of members of our staff. Such ideas are then tested by this committee for their added value for the company, with due account of the fundamental values of DNS Belgium. If the approved ideas are too big to be implemented immediately as a task, they are transferred to the project committee for further fine tuning. The various pillars of our sustainability strategy are monitored by working groups made up of members of staff. This is also the case for the fiesta committee and the DNS awards team.
A second important stakeholder group is our registrars . They sell the .be, .vlaanderen and .brussels domain names. They have a permanent representative on our board of directors with Bereas, their interest group. We also hold 2 - 3 registrar forums every year. These also continued during the pandemic, albeit online.
Dialogue is engaged in (through the governing body) with the members of our non-profit association, all of whom are organisations that monitor the importance of well-functioning Belgian domain name zones. DNS Belgium has an active and well-functioning governing body. We also continue to invest in good contacts with the various authorities in our country so that we can also take their interests into account in our strategic decisions.