Alumni in the spotlight: Michiel Binnard May 09, 2017
Michiel Binnard graduated as Master of Transportation Sciences in 2015. Barely one and a half year later, he already outlined the transport policy concerning commuter traffic at the Colruyt Group. “It is a privilege to work at a company which has ‘sustainability’ in its genes”, said Michiel Binnard. We fired several questions at him regarding his career as a student and his current professional career.
When 450-km-long traffic jams are no longer an exception on working days, the importance of offering and improving alternatives for commuter traffic is more than once indicated. Colruyt Group recognizes the urgency and looks for efficient ways to stimulate co-workers to travel to work sustainably and thus to tackle congestion. “Some of our offered solutions are very common and well known, others are brand new. However, it is important that each measure triggers a triple win: a win for the company, our co-workers and for the society in general”, said alumnus Michiel Binnard who helped to outline the transport policy at Colruyt Group. The company invested among others in company bicycles, public transport, folding bikes, carpooling and … an office bus.
“The office bus looks like a regular bus, but is equipped as a normal workplace. There is wifi, a coffee machine, a cloakroom, a printer and a toilet. Each workday, at 7:30 a.m. sharp, the bus takes Colruyt’s office workers and executives from Gentbrugge to the headquarters in Halle. The bus returns to Gentbrugge at 4:15 p.m. The hours spent on the bus are considered official working hours.” From September 2016, Colruyt’s office bus ran a six months trial period and turned out to be successful. “The bus had an average seat occupancy of over 80 percent. 96 percent of all participants declared themselves willing to continue taking the bus after the trial period. Our co-workers saved 32,2 tons of CO2 when travelling together.” Colruyt Group has decided to extend the pilot project by two years.
In his job, Michiel is committed to apply and improve the policy. “I critically screen the company's policy, propose changes or receive questions and ideas from co-workers, trade unions or the management. When Cru, the luxury food market of Colruyt Group, established a new plant in the middle of Ghent, Cru asked me to outline a couple of ideal commuter routes. The plant was the first shop located in a city centre, where there are no parking spaces in front of the building. Cru is not familiar with the city shop-concept. I take up every idea and question, and discuss it in close consultation with other internal departments such as HR, IT and administration. Within Colruyt Group, we love to experiment and a choice is often made in favour of sustainability. In a large company, a small measure can already have a tremendous impact on a personal as well as a social level. However, sustainability and economic gain should be perfectly reconcilable.”
Michiel Binnard does not take major decisions by himself, but he advises the management in their decisions. He has been immediately entrusted with this large responsibility. “I just graduated and I was immediately given the task of making real choices: to take the decisions about the way policy should be interpreted, to give advice to highly experienced colleagues, etc. They relied on my expertise, which was a nice feeling!”
By the way: graduation… Let’s look back on the Ba/Ma Transportation Sciences
According to alumnus Michiel Binnard, the topic of the Ba/Ma Transportation Sciences is its major asset. Michiel explains: “Traffic and transportation are such current topics that it is impossible not to apply them to things you see in the street scene or in the daily news. This definitely proofs the relevance of the study domain. The Ba/Ma Transportation Sciences meticulously focuses on this: the theory has to be put into practice in the framework of interim assignments and presentations. This causes extra work, but it is definitely worth it.”
The lectures of Joram Langbroek are still fresh in the memory. “Although the subject matter was quite difficult, he explained it incredibly clearly by using role plays and absurd presentations. But the professor I admire the most, was Willy Miermans. He taught Verkeerskunde I and Verkeerskunde II during my studies. I bet every bachelor student had an ‘aha’-moment during his lectures. He shaped our vision on transportation like a real, inspiring transportation preacher would do.”
Born and raised in Leuven, studying at Hasselt University
“I was born and raised in Leuven, but decided to pursue my studies in Hasselt. This was not the most obvious decision, but I didn’t regret it for a second. You won’t find the cosiness of Hasselt University at any other, larger university.” Recently, the small scale of Hasselt University was rewarded with a nice 15th place in the World’s Best Small Universities ranking of TimesHigherEducation.com.
Does Michiel have some advice for the current students Transportation Sciences and the generations likely to follow? “Engage yourself! During my studies, I have been engaged in the student association Commeatus and I was association coordinator for one year at StuRa, the student council of Hasselt University. Besides the fun moments you experience, you also acquire skills that make you stronger as a person and as a professional carrying out your job: working together, organizing and building a network. My employer picked me not only because of my diploma, but also for my extracurricular engagements. Your engagements are an indispensable addition to your diploma.”