How Athlon engages employees on the CSR strategy and activates purpose along the way

Athlon on CSR and purpose

Athlon CSR – Athlon is part of Daimler AG and one of the biggest mobility providers in the Netherlands, managing one hundred thousand cars. Athlon Netherlands is actively engaged in reducing its CO2 footprint and focuses on 4 SDGs: Sustainable cities & communities, responsible consumption & production, climate action and partnerships for the goals.

The organization takes reducing its impact on climate change serious. We talked to Alexander Heijkamp, Athlon Netherlands CSR director, who has been in charge of sustainability strategy since two and a half years. He details how Athlon facilitates behavioral change with both a global and local impact.

It’s all about lowering thresholds and leveraging success stories.

Alexander Heijkamp, CSR Director Athlon Nederland

Embedding impact in the core business

In Alexanders view, CSR has clearly moved beyond the tree-hugging image that surrounded the field about a decade ago. In fact, CSR is core business now. It’s about deciding who you want to be and how you want to be seen.

“To really embed purpose in the organization, you have to be able to feel it, experience it, and act on it. We believe in a future where we can connect relevant stakeholders throughout and beyond our supply chain to form sustainable and impactful partnerships. And we have an important role to play in the global goals of developing new ways of mobility, and decreasing emissions. This is why ‘sustainability’ is now one of our core values.“

Athlon Netherlands takes on an active role in this by not simply donating its way out of their negative footprint. Athlon activates its customers and employees to make an impact with all of the stakeholders.

Educating customers on sustainable buying behavior

Alexander collaborates closely with many of Athlon’s departments, and feels it’s crucial for a CSR director to speak the language of all stakeholders. Alexander says: “Using jargon to try and impress people just doesn’t work. Some of my most important advocates are sales colleagues. How do I convince them to implement sustainability into their daily jobs? Well; they want to sell.

So I showed them how sustainability is changing buying behavior globally. First I helped them think about the consequences of that. Then, I helped them to tell our sustainability story with reports and examples of how we make positive impact.”

“Sometimes I feel like a missionary, preaching sustainability and impact.“

One important aspect of Athlon’s strategy is a five-step sustainability model. The model actively helps customers to become more consciously competent about the climate impact of their buying decisions. Alexander: “The first and most important question in this model is: do you really have to travel today? It might sound counterintuitive for a mobility provider to ask this question, but this really is our way of standing out and putting our money where our mouth is.”

Besides Athlon’s focus on giving sustainability advice to customers, Alexander emphasizes the importance of employee involvement in the company’s sustainability your CSR strategy.


Athlon employees can spend two days a year at full pay to take of for volunteering for organizations that they personally feel connected to. For organizations it’s wise to incorporate CSR in corporate or personal KPIs, and when someone is unsure about what to spend their volunteering time on, please make it possible (s)he can donate these volunteering hours to other colleagues who do.

According to Alexander, everybody wants to play their part in contributing positively to their environment. “But you have to lower thresholds and give people perspective to act when you want to transform their intention into behavior.” Activating people and enabling them to create social impact has quickly become a core pillar of Athlon’s CSR strategy.

“The term social impact has really exploded over the last years internally, which led to our collaboration with GoodUp.”

To encourage the use of the company wide opportunity of volunteering hours, Alexander asked the entire executive team to act as an example. For example, our Managing Director and Commercial Director has been teaching kids in local schools about road safety, leaving a hugely positive personal impression on all of them.

Athlon employees now provide job application courses to intermediate vocational education students and language courses for kids with learning disabilities. They also facilitate school trips and are currently building digital courses on mobility.

Why Athlon partners with GoodUp

Alexander is convinced that the positive energy that is released when people make social impact, is universal and contagious. Because of this belief, one of Athlon’s impact goals is to engage all 500 employees working in the Almere office in volunteering activities on a yearly basis by 2025.This is why we decided to implement GoodUp’s purpose activation platform.

“I used to manage our volunteering efforts manually. I used to be GoodUp myself, so to speak. But with increasing numbers of volunteers, this quickly became a time consuming task. I just thought ‘I can do SO MUCH MORE’, but I’m going to need a platform to make that work.’ It’s simply impossible to scale up our volunteering efforts without proper tooling.”

The platform that GoodUp set up for Athlon collects all of our volunteering projects and shows them in an attractive way to employees. People can pick and choose what they want to contribute to OR set up their own initiative to help a good cause they care for. Alexander: “I can’t imagine a lower threshold for volunteering participation. The platform helps me to scale our social impact mission and reach my goal of engaging all of our employees.”

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