“As leaders in sustainability
we are stimulators of innovation”

Will a fantastic 2023 be followed by an equally impressive 2024 for LCL Data Centers? “Growth is happening either way”, says Laurens van Reijen, “but this year we are making extra efforts to make our organisation more robust and sustainable. By speaking to our stakeholders and constantly raising the bar for each other, we gain new insights that fuel innovation – both in them and in us. You don’t write a successful sustainability story on an island.”

Which (sustainable) investments are scheduled?

Laurens van Reijen: “Generating our own green energy is high on the agenda. Our ambition remains to generate 40 percent of what our data centers consume ourselves – and that is not a utopian goal. Of course, there is already our solar park in Gembloux, but we need to take further steps and explore win-win scenarios with various parties. A farmer from Brussels contacted us, for example. He wants to invest in solar panels, but they would generate too much electricity for his own needs. Would LCL be interested in becoming a permanent buyer of his surplus energy? Of course, because we continuously use the same amount of electricity (base load) and can always absorb it in our data centers. By agreeing to a power purchase agreement – an insured offtake – for the next 20 years with an external partner like this, the bank will come through with financing. That is how we pave the way for a sustainable investment. We are the leverage.”

 “LCL is favourable to installing additional solar parks instead of taking over existing ones, because we aim for a real increase in renewable energy sources. This requires additional investments. Not only in solar energy, but also in wind energy. Among other things, we are in talks with Princess Elisabeth Island, an offshore wind farm where we are looking into the possibility of using their green energy.”

LCL not only invests in green energy, but also in the growth of its core activities.

“Indeed, construction of the further development in Aalst (LCL Brussels-West) is in full swing, while in Diegem (LCL Brussels-North) the foundations are being laid for the new data center, which will eventually have five building layers. That should be up and running at the end of 2025.”

New Data Center in Aalst
Further development of LCL Brussels-West

Which market trends have you noticed that could have an impact in 2024?

“The breakthrough of artificial intelligence (AI) is a fact. When you realise how many new applications pop up almost daily: impressive. When it comes to sustainability, AI can play a big role in developing new models to, for example, improve the water management of our rivers. AI will bring a lot of innovations in many domains, but that is levelled out by an enormous need for power. Training an AI model costs huge amounts of money and power. As a data center, we will have to investigate other ways of dealing with that impact. Conversations with our suppliers show that liquid cooling, where water cools the processors, is silently becoming a reality.”

“And once again, it turns out that continuously surveying our stakeholders yields insights that have a beneficial effect on innovation. Euroheat & Power, the association of heat networks in Europe, sees the same potential we do in harnessing the hot water from liquid cooling in data centers to feed heat networks. At Aalst, we already have connections for a possible heat coupler so that we can release heat to a heat network. In the design of the data center, we are already anticipating the future.”

2024 is the first year where LCL appears at the start with a board of directors. What can we expect?

“For 20 years, I was the board of directors and I had to get along with the person who looks back at me in the mirror every day. (laughs) Now that LCL is growing, has more employees, more investments, it is wise to install a board of directors, that brings additional expertise to the table and thinks critically with us. At the moment, there are three members aside from myself, three major assets. Ingrid Daerden has a financial background and vast knowledge of real estate. Els Demeester, who is also chairwoman, has extensive experience in multinationals as a former CEO. André Autrand looks at things with a longer-term perspective. In 2024, I want to strengthen the board with three more experts to bring in additional knowledge around AI, energy, and IT.”

“The management team is also expanding with Nicolas Coppee. Installing a board of directors and strengthening the management team should not only deepen our knowledge, but also make our organisation more robust.”

With a second sustainability report on the horizon (June 2024) and an EcoVadis Gold certificate under its belt, sustainability is getting more and more embedded in LCL’s strategy and operations. What are those efforts yielding?   

“We have always been a leader when it comes to sustainability. Publishing a sustainability report, for example, is not legally required for LCL, yet we felt it was a necessity. Because we carry sustainability in our hearts, but also because it’s important to be known that way in our industry. New or existing customers, potential new employees, suppliers… question our efforts more and more often. It undeniably has a commercial impact, but also lives within our company. EcoVadis confirms that we are definitely on the right track when it comes to ESG, but also shows where we can still improve. The work is never complete.”

“One of the things we want to examine is our procurement policy. We buy decentralised, which has the great advantage that we can act quickly. The downside is that we do not assess our suppliers on their sustainability as much as we should. We need to find a new balance there, without ending up with a central procurement policy that is more difficult to handle. EcoVadis also allows us to retrieve the scores of our trading partners – and, if necessary, to start the conversation to make improvements. That too is an engine for innovation: by questioning and challenging each other, you encourage each other to do more to improve our society. Sustainable innovation does not happen on your own island, you must work together to achieve it.”

Share on: