An economic and social collaboration

The scene at social enterprise bwz is bustling yet sociable, with one colleague focused on repairing digital price labels and another working on pre-installing laptops. Kris Vercruysse, team coordinator for ‘transformation & manipulation’ (part of Colruyt Group’s IT department), is a familiar face, thanks to his regular visits to set up new projects. “The working relationship between Colruyt Group and bwz goes back many years and demonstrates that, rather than being mutually exclusive, economic and social objectives can actually complement each other”, says Kris.

Rewarding work for everyone

Sustainable economic growth is only possible if it is implemented in a socially acceptable manner. As a business, we focus on people; from our employees, partners and stakeholders to society in general. The working relationship between Colruyt Group and social enterprise bwz is aligned with our objective to combine economic growth with sustainable, valuable employment. Bwz provides jobs tailored to 220 people who find it difficult to access the traditional jobs market, including people with mental and physical disabilities.

Kris explains further: “Some people are wheelchair users who are looking for a job that challenges them. Others are more comfortable with repetitive work. The goal is to find the right setting for everyone, so they can get satisfaction from what they do every day and feel that they have made a valuable contribution. Every time I visit bwz, I can see with my own eyes that the employees enjoy working there, which gives me satisfaction in my job as well.”

Working together

The team from Colruyt Group responsible for purchasing, distributing and repairing all the IT equipment is a frequent bwz customer. Team coordinator Kris tells us how the working relationship came into being: “Back in 2007, we installed a new POS system developed in-house by our R&D department in every Colruyt store. We had neither the manpower nor the workspace that we needed for a project of that size, so we asked bwz to pre-assemble the POS systems. That enabled us to implement the roll-out of our in-house system easily and quickly on a large scale.”

Although the IT and retail sectors are changing rapidly, our working relationship with bwz lets us respond flexibly to these challenges; whether the assignments are large or small, one-off or structural. Our working relationship really does mean working together and is a win-win situation for both parties. Bwz helps us to come up with ideas for customised solutions to suit our needs and those of their staff. For example, we’re collaborating to find the best way of printing our identification labels at bwz’s premises to avoid having to transport them.

“Bwz mainly helps us with the inventory and pre-installation of all our IT equipment”, says Kris. “Each of our 17,500 computers, 10,400 PDAs, 9,300 barcode scanners and every other digital device is being given a unique identification number and is recorded in a database. That takes more work than you might think because everything has to be completely unpacked and repacked, of course. Staff at bwz labels all the equipment and handles the pre-installation of software as well as any modification and testing; all in line with the manuals that we prepare.”

Sustainable for society and for the planet

The social side of this partnership also benefits the environment by reducing our ecological footprint. Kris explains: “Whenever we close or renovate a store, we collect all the IT equipment and bwz staff then helps us to check, sort, repair, upgrade and reinstall all the cables, adapters, screens, scanners, digital scales and so on. In other words, we give them a new lease of life, which allows us to reuse more than 80 % of our IT equipment.”

“We’ve now replaced the paper price labels in almost every Colruyt store with digital ones. With more than 240 stores, each with an average of 15,000 labels, the number of faulty ones soon mounts up. If just 1 % of the price labels isn’t working properly, that equates to around 36,000 labels. So it’s worth trying to repair them rather than just throwing them away. Staff at bwz plays an important part in this as well, as they attempt to get them up and running again. We always take the costs and benefits of this into account.” So the working relationship is sustainable on every front; socially, economically and ecologically.

Read more about the IT department of Colruyt Group.

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Together, we create sustainable added value through value-driven craftsmanship in retail.