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Femke Groothuis, President, Ex'Tax, The Netherlands

Between 1999 and 2009 Femke Groothuis was Investment Manager at Ex'tent Green Venture Capital, a private fund for green and social investments. The founder of Ex'tent, the late Dutch entrepreneur Eckart Wintzen, had been the first to publish an integrated environmental report, in 1990. As an entrepreneur, Wintzen was fully aware of the steering power of taxes and he noticed that our tax systems focus on high taxes on labour, while leaving environmentally damaging activities untaxed, or even subsidized. High labour taxes, he noted, induce entrepreneurs to employ as few people as possible. As the use of natural resources is hardly taxed, they are used unrestrained. These price signals give rise to unwanted problems such as unemployment and overexploitation of natural resources. In the early 1990s, Wintzen therefore proposed Ex'tax (short for Value Extracted Tax); a shift in taxation from labour to natural resource use. Although budget-neutral for governments, a tax shift fundamentally changes the margins within which businesses and consumers operate. Natural resources are then saved, while human skills and ingenuity can be applied more. The circular economy requires labour-intensive business models, such as repair, recycling and redesign, and Ex'tax therefore is a precondition for developing such a circular, sustainable economy. In 2009 Femke initiated The Ex'tax Project, to continue the legacy of Eckart Wintzen and to create a powerful coalition in favour of growth based on human assets rather than natural resources. The Ex'tax Project has teamed up with tax specialists of Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC to develop a practical policy toolkit and to apply the toolkit to the first case study: The Netherlands. Femke is a political scientist specialized in International Relations and Environment. She has lived, worked and studied in The Netherlands, Italy, Kenya, Vietnam, England and New Zealand.


5.4 What is the business case? Circular economy and the European Semester


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