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Leon de Graaf, Sustainability Advocate


My Job

Short version: I help sustainable frontrunners to advocate for more ambitious EU environment and climate policy, so that their practices become the norm for the rest of their industry.

Bit longer version: Together with my colleagues, I lobby for companies that are a lot further than their competition when it comes to sustainability. I help these “sustainable frontrunners” to advocate for more ambitious EU environment and climate policy. This opens new markets for them, while it also pushes their competitors to become more ambitious themselves.

My Experience

A business and environmental economist by academic background, I’ve worked at BusinessEurope for 4.5 years. Here I was responsible for getting the entire European industry behind the ambition of climate neutrality in early 2019. Since November 2020 I’ve been a sustainability advocate at #SustainablePublicAffairs, where I manage several teams that help frontrunners in heavy industry and power decarbonisation.

My Proudest Achievements

Convincing all relevant policymakers to reform the system of free allocations under the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) in a way that will result in an annual reduction of 9 million free CO2 permits going to polluting iron ore producers, while frontrunner iron ore producers will receive up to 3 million free CO2 permits more per year in the period 2026-2030. And to make sure these free CO2 permits also become available to new breakthrough technologies such as renewable hydrogen. A win-win for the climate and for sustainable business cases. When my team and I intensified the help to our client LKAB (Swedish mining group) on this 3.5 years ago, this was a very geeky and niche subject that virtually no one was working on. I coordinated the efforts to make this issue a cross-industry issue by getting others in the cleantech community involved. Together we managed to convince key EU policymakers at a very early stage of the last EU ETS reform, who then became champions to help defend this issue up until the new “Delegated Regulation on the Free Allocation Rules” that was published in the EU official journal on 4 April 2024.

My Education

  • Master of Science (MSc) in Environmental Economics and Climate Change at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)
  • Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Economics and Business Economics at the University of Groningen

My Languages

Dutch (mother tongue) and English

My Interests outside work

My most fun thing of the year will be that I’m getting married in July (scoop!).

Beyond the typical passions of traveling, cooking and reading, I recently took up a new passion as volunteer at Restless Brussels, which is to stand on Brussels squares such as Plux (Place du Luxembourg) and Chatelain to speak to Expats about the importance to register for the Belgian local elections of 13 October. This is because I personally find it important to make sure the 300,000 or so expats living in Brussels (1/3rd of the potential voter base) to become more involved in the communes in which they live. I also enjoy playing football, fitness during my lunch breaks and listening to podcasts of geopolitics. My final but most challenging passion is to try and attain a basic level of Slovenian, because I want to speak more to the mom of my fiancé.

My Favourite Brussels anecdote

“What we achieve in this life, echoes in eternity!” – Willem Vriesendorp, who may or may not have taken inspiration from The Gladiator movie.

Best in Brussels 2023/24 Report

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