Joint interview with Jean-Louis Chaussade and Frédérique Raoult

How does your Sustainable Development Policy support SUEZ ENVIRONNEMENT’s priorities?

Jean-Louis Chaussade: Sustainable development is changing our activities and making the treatment of waste a key component of the circular economy. I am thinking primarily of the waste-to-energy recovery process that we are introducing at all of our incinerators in the United Kingdom, which now produce energy. I am also thinking about the biogas that we extract from our landfills, or even about the 2 million metric tons or so of alternative fuels that we produce every year. Where the treatment of materials is concerned, SUEZ environnement now knows how to manage so-called secondary raw materials, like scrap iron, steel, paper, recycled paper, wood, and plastic. All these new activities contribute to making SUEZ environnement a company that belongs to the sustainable economy. I have discussed waste at length; I could have talked about water. The challenges are similar, namely how to supply a growing global population, an expanding agricultural sector, and an increasingly demanding industrial sector. We are thus a member of the United Nations Global Compact and are committed to its principles. All of SUEZ environnement’s technologies, expertise and new solutions are key to sustainable development.

Frédérique Raoult: One of our sustainable development strategy’s main objectives is to foster dialog with our stakeholders. This approach influences our models, notably with regards to our contracts. For instance, we launched a major initiative with our stakeholders and customers in France based on dialog that resulted in the Contract for Water Health. This document completely changed our contractual relationships with our customers and introduced a new form of governance.


What are the primary environmental goals of your new Roadmap?

J.-L. C.: The focal point of our Sustainable Development Policy is to improve the way in which we listen to our customers. Historically, we were more focused on local authorities and public sector customers than on end-users. Nowadays, modern techniques like smart metering and the ongoing dialog offered by new communication technologies enable us to become closer to consumers. In addition, customers in many countries, including France, have expressed a desire to gain a better understanding of our activities. This assumes greater transparency and more discussions, which means that dialog with stakeholders has become a key point of our policies. What is fundamental for us is to be attunedto our customers.


What about strengthening social and societal components of sustainable development?

J.-L. C.: These two components are becoming increasingly important. This is especially true for all diversity related topics. One of our priorities, which also makes sense from a business standpoint, is to build a group that mirrors society, both in France and in the other countries where we operate. This is why we launched the Diversity Program to ensure equality between men and women and also to guarantee access to a steady employment for people with disabilities and for senior workers. The aim is to smash all the glass ceilings that prevent minorities from rising to positions of responsibility, even though they have the talent required. This extremely ambitious program is being rolled out over a three-year period and aims to obtain the diversity certification delivered by AFNOR. Obviously, we will then have to prove that we are maintaining the standards that justify this certification level year after year. In a few words, this is what I expect from our diversity plans, which we have been developing since 2008.

F. R.: SUEZ environnement is also heavily involved in issues relating to inclusion through employment. For instance, the creation of “La Maison pour Rebondir” has enabled the long-term unemployed to return to professional activity. We should also mention employees’ involvement in the November 2013 food bank collection campaign. They collected the equivalent of 400,000 meals in one weekend. Lastly, the SUEZ environnement Initiatives Fund dedicates €4 million to water access programs, as well as to inclusion and employment programs every year.


How is SUEZ ENVIRONNEMENT’s Sustainable Development Policy a factor for innovation and differentiation?

J.-L. C.: The Sustainable Development Policy is a tremendous driver for changing the company. Our activities are undergoing rapid changes in both the Water and Waste sectors, and there is no transformation without innovation. In the Water sector, we are developing new technologies like desalination or the re-use of wastewater; we are also designing the solutions of the future for identifying and eliminating water losses in the networks. In the Waste sector, new technologies are helping to turn raw materials from end-of-life products into secondary raw materials, including recycled paper, scrap iron that is turned back into steel, and wood that is re-used to make furniture or for insulation purposes. We are also seeking to give plastic a second life, to produce fuel, and to manufacture water bottles, as well as to produce biogas that will be injected into heating networks. 

In other words, innovation and sustainable development are two virtually equivalent terms. At SUEZ environnement, we cannot imagine one without the other.