Veolia - Resourcing the world

Business in the Community's Responsible Business of the Year, Winner, 2016

Resource management company Veolia's services benefit the UK population through recycling collection and delivery, water treatment and management, low carbon and renewable heat and electricity, and by providing new materials to industry.

What the judges said

  • Veolia’s journey to becoming a circular and resource efficient company is hugely ambitious – not only does Veolia want to change the way they do business, but the way the world works. Through working collaboratively with customers, communities and competitors, Veolia can transform their business while having an impact beyond its own operations.
  • An innovative approach to responsible business and the circular economy is integrated throughout Veolia – being responsible is embedded at the heart of the organisation and drives both its commercial strategy and its people’s behaviour at every level.
  • Transformation requires brave leadership, and Veolia demonstrated that the drive for responsible business comes from the very top. Estelle clearly lives and breathes responsible business, and thanks to her energy and passion, Veolia has pioneered new circular ways of working.

Three tips from Veolia

  • Think big and be brave. Businesses can have a great environmental and social impact on communities of the future.
  • Collaboration is fundamental to success. We can’t achieve great things without the help from other organisations, industries and individuals.
  • The right employees are vital. Diversity will lead to innovation, it’s also essential for each of our employees to be on board and engaged for us to achieve our vision. You need to take everyone with you on your journey.

VeoliaOverview

Veolia is working towards a low carbon, circular economy to address three long term megatrends: rising population, resource scarcity and volatility and climate change impact.  The company's new core business strategy, ‘Resourcing the World’, is focused on creating green products and energy through innovative solutions. 

From disposable to sustainable

The company believes that there is untapped potential in alternative energy and heat sources, in particular energy generated from waste. To help make the switch from a use-and-discard approach to consumption to a use-and-recover approach, Veolia: 

  • Manufactures innovative green products and energy. The company has moved from treating water, waste and energy in silos to become one of the UK's resource management leaders, actively engaging employees in the new strategy. For example: the company's Innovation Forum empowers employees from anywhere in the business to submit ideas. 2,000 employees have been involved so far. 

  • Supports customers and suppliers to reduce their carbon impact by providing solutions for the most complex challenges they face. For example, it has provided expertise to help Clarks create a sustainable packaging standard.

  • Researches the benefits and challenges of the circular economy, in collaboration with universities including the London School of Economics and Imperial College, University of London. Research with Imperial, for example, revealed that a circular economy could contribute £29bn to UK GDP and create 175,000 jobs.

  • Works with NGOs and charities to increase social impact and support their workforce. Examples include a two-year partnership with FoodCycle to tackle food waste and social isolation, and working with BlueSky and the Armed Forces Covenant to employ ex-offenders and support ex-service personnel transition to civilian careers.

  • Influences government and decision makers around energy and the economy. For example, Veolia played a key role at COP21, regularly provides evidence for House of Commons Select Committees, and meets with MPs, regulators (e.g. Environment Agency) and policy makers (e.g. DEFRA).

Communicating key messages and engaging employees

Veolia uses a circular dialogue method to encourage collaboration across the business. The company has invested in engaging employees in the 'Resourcing the World' strategy, through roadshows, videos, and other internal communications. Fifty ‘change leaders’ and 350 senior managers have been trained to cascade Veolia's messages about sustainability, helping to create 14,000 brand ambassadors.

Measuring and sharing progress

Veolia has set ambitious, publicly available sustainability targets linked to employee remuneration. Business success is measured by the added social and environmental value the company generates, as well as financial value. The company's annual report is developed using feedback from stakeholders via an annual survey to ensure that the most relevant and appropriate measures are reported on. The report is then independently audited to ensure transparency, and made available in different formats (such as a storybook, PDF, microsite, highlights wall) to engage different stakeholder groups.

Environmental impact and financial value

By developing and delivering innovative water, waste and energy management solutions, Veolia is strengthening the sustainable development of industries, businesses and communities. As well as having a positive social and environmental impact, it generates financial value for the company. UK profits increased by 7.69% from £209.9m in 2014 to £225.9m in 2015. The transformation was started by late CEO Jean-Dominique Mallet (appointed 2007) and accelerated by Executive Vice-President, Estelle Brachlianoff (appointed 2012).

What the Chair of the Judging panel said:

"Transformation requires brave leadership and the CEO of Veolia clearly lives and breathes responsible business with an energy and passion that is not only transforming the business, but the entire sector. Their approach to responsible business has shaped their new business model and drives both the way their people behave and their commercial strategy resulting in a 7.69% increase in UK profits from 2014 to 2015.” - Duncan Tait, Director and Corporate Executive Officer, Fujitsu

What Veolia's CEO said:

“We firmly believe that being responsible is not just the right thing to do, it is the best thing to do – people want to buy from, work and partner with socially responsible businesses. At Veolia we have gone through transformational change to address the challenges of the future, adapting our business model in order to contribute to the circular economy through closed loop solutions, prioritising the employment of disadvantaged people and reducing our carbon emissions. As well as helping the environment, this is having a positive impact on our bottom line.” - Estelle Brachlianoff