Nick van Heesewijk on why and how he started The Corekees Foundation
– By Kees Rottinghuis
Nick van Heesewijk started The Corekees Foundation, a foundation that sells trees for the production of green, renewable diesel. It might be a game-changer;
“We can have the best of both worlds, in terms of making the planet greener and (financial) returns. It took a lot of time and effort to get here. Although everyday got more challenging, it also became more fun. Now we just want to share our message and enthusiasm.”
“When we arrived, I was stunned”
June 2018, a small Brazilian fishing village – Porto Murtinho – half in the jungle and half on the bank of the Rio Paraguay. The idea of Corekees was born. Nick was visiting the tree reforestation site Investancia, founded by his uncle (Marcel van Heesewijk) in Paraguay.
“I knew what the bigger picture was and what they were doing but when we arrived I was stunned. It was such a well-oiled machine and everything was thought through. The people working there were really inspiring. We toured the plantations by plane, boat and on horseback, it was quite the adventure. One way or another, I had to do something with this.”
The goal of Investancia and The Corekees Foundation is to plant trees, which absorb CO2 and simultaneously generate decent profits for their clients. Only 20 trees are needed to neutralize the environmental footprint of 11,400 kilometers by car, 16 hours by plane or 475 steaks or hamburgers.
“Everybody should be able to buy a tree
and compensate their emission”
The tree at issue is the called the ‘Pongamia Pinnata’ tree. It produces nuts, from which crude oil will be crushed. Corekees’ clients buy their trees for 20 years and receive the yearly harvesting profits. Marcel van Heesewijk started Investancia in 2013 but only serves institutional investors and that is where Corekees comes in. “Everybody should be able to buy some trees, compensate their emissions and get decent returns at the same time, not only the investors with deep pockets.”
LIFE BEFORE THE TREES
Before starting Corekees, the 27-year-old Nick studied both Marketing and Information Sciences in Groningen before becoming a marketing consultant at DMA Institute and later at VE Interactive. “I have been wanting to start my own company for the last ten years. When the plan of Corekees came to mind, I simply couldn’t wait. I was aware of the urgency of climate change since high school, but I got the bigger picture when I went to study in Groningen. If we don’t act, it can go wrong quite badly. Although we are the first generation that feels the impact of climate change, we are also the last that can do something about it. It is up to us to solve the problem. That is why we think this is the perfect timing for The Corekees Foundation as our generation is becoming more and more aware of the consequences of climate change.”
“Although we are the first generation to
feel the impact of climate change,
we are also the last that can do something about it”
Nick has a positive outlook on tackling climate change. “Corekees has the potential to make a significant difference. The world really gets greener from our trees. For me that is comforting. We are not claiming that Corekees can save the planet on its own but an entity, which needs and wants to grow, can really make a mark, more than a non-profit organization. We are not dependent on charity. Our clients do profit financially whilst absorbing CO2 simultaneously. Corekees can be a real game changer, it is up to us to convince everyone.”
The Corekees Foundation makes sure all the trees are planted, maintained, harvested, the nuts pressed and the crude oil sold to the bigger oil companies. Each year, participants receive the profits from the oil. A big advantage of the green diesel made by Corekees is that the plantation doesn’t come at the expense of land for food production, a common problem for biofuels. The trees are planted in previously deforested areas, which have been laying waste for at least a decade. The land is simultaneously used for cattle grazing. Nick understands that it might sound a bit complicated. “We are not selling newspapers; it takes some time to comprehend the full extend our business model. People need time to process it but once they understand, they share our enthusiasm. That really drives us. We can have the best of both worlds, in terms of making the planet greener and financial returns. I believe that this combination is what can make a difference”.
“The only person who fitted
those three criteria was my cousin Tamar”
Nick had the plan for Corekees but he knew he couldn’t run it all by himself. “I needed somebody I could trust 100%, someone who had the skills I lacked and somebody who would be just as enthusiastic. The only person who fitted those three criteria was my cousin Tamar.” Tamar van Heesewijk was working at KPMG’s Corporate Finance at the time and quit her job for the adventures of a start-up. “When I asked Tamar, she had to think about it, do her research, like any good CFO would. She was quickly as into it as I am and joined. Our vision is the same, which results in quick decisions, but our opposite skillsets also ensure the creativity that a company like ours needs.”
The Corekees Foundation is now up and running but it took Nick and Tamar some time to get there. “To start a company with the quality and transparency we had in mind is complicated. I would have loved to start immediately and tell everybody about Corekees but when you start a company, everything has to be spot-on. Especially since we have the responsibility of taking care of people’s hard-earned money. Now it is up to us to share our story and to get as many trees in the ground as possible.”
Inspecting a young Pongamia tree