Co-constructing the benchmark company for ecological transformation

Veolia has set its sights high: over the next four years, the leading environmental services company is looking to become a gold standard company for ecological transformation. This ambition is commensurate with the unprecedented global — environmental, climate, and most recently health — crises that are shaking up the early 21st century. To achieve this ambition, in 2019 the Group adopted a purpose — to contribute to human progress to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all — that pervades everything that the Group does, imperceptibly taking on its full meaning and power. Guided by this “compass,” Veolia has drawn up its new strategic plan for the next four years: IMPACT 2023.
Published in the dossier of May 2020

Veolia presented its new strategic plan IMPACT 2023 on February 28. This roadmap is based on solid pillars, arising from the transformation implemented by the Group over the past eight years. Veolia finishes this cycle posting 2019 results that are significantly higher, driven in particular by the growth of the Group’s new business lines and the savings made during the previous two plans (2012-2015, 2016-2019).

Maximum positive impact

IMPACT 2023’s key priority is striving for maximum positive impact, whether social, societal, commercial, environmental or financial. This priority goes hand in hand with distinct choices regarding the sectors of activity, with a strong acceleration of those with a high eco-friendly impact.

Collective “inspiration”

Distinguished by a powerful co-construction approach, IMPACT 2023 was born of a novel consultation and discussion initiative across the Group’s entire ecosystem, starting with its staff. “Almost two years have passed between the impetus given by Antoine Frérot to consider the post-2016-2019 plan, involving as many members of staff as possible, and the presentation of the IMPACT 2023 program,” points out Jean- Christophe Taret, Veolia’s Senior Vice-President, Strategy. Back in 2018, the Group initiated the collaborative thinking process “Inspire,” with a view to developing a keen understanding of the issues it would have to face in the years to come and gathering suggestions from staff in terms of priorities for action. Veolia thus successively turned to several hundred internal “talents,” followed by 500 senior executives from all the areas and Business Units, and finally Veolia’s Executive Committee. Following this highly instructive step, the Group undertook a detailed review of its business portfolio, from which three types of policies for implementation emerged: business lines to be aggressively accelerated, those to be optimized while pursuing measured growth, and finally those to be slowed down or stopped.

2019 was devoted to drawing up the strategic plan per se and a detailed costing of its ambitions.

“IMPACT 2023 is a plan that aims to have a unifying effect,” summarizes Jean-Christophe Taret. “While creating a clear framework, it is based on feedback and suggestions from the ground, which revealed strong support from the members of staff consulted for the initiative along with Veolia’s mission to ‘Resource the world,’ as well as the high standards of excellence that this mission demands. Incidentally, this enthusiasm can also be seen in the Group’s employee engagement rate, which was 85% in 2019.”

Multifaceted and quantified performance

Veolia’s purpose

While it wishes to continue to deliver a solid financial performance, the Group is also committed to reaching ambitious performance levels for the other components of its ecosystem. On the strength of the discussions carried out when drafting the text of its purpose between 2018 and 2019, Veolia has thus defined 18 multifaceted performance indicators (cf. diagram) in the light of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and with regard to its five main stakeholders: shareholders, employees, clients, the planet, and society. This commitment is leading it to apply the same standards of excellence to each of them, all five being equally important in its eyes. “This leaves us no room for error,” admits Jean-Christophe Taret. These indicators, assessed by an independent body each year, will also be used to determine the variable share of compensation for the Group’s senior executives. Enriched through consultation with Veolia’s “Critical Friends” (See the article), debated by the Executive Committee and approved by the Board of Directors, the performance scoreboard reflects the plan’s ambitions: it will be used to steer its execution.

“At the end of the day, we wanted to construct a plan that would speak to everyone,” explains Jean-Christophe Taret, “a plan that our staff and our external stakeholders would find meaningful and with which they could identify. We really built it with our own hands, our heart and soul, our culture. It is inspiring, because the issues that the Group is looking to meet (especially climate and pollution) are clearly identified. And extremely important.”

18 multifaceted performance indicators

Guided by its purpose, Veolia has made a public commitment to 18 concrete performance indicators, which cover the five dimensions of its performance on behalf of its stakeholders.

 

Aligned with the entities

To successfully implement the plan on the ground, the newly created Business Support and Performance division plays a control tower and support role, both to identify impactful initiatives and measure the extent to which Veolia is able to replicate them.

“We work on behalf of the entities (BUs) to make the Group’s strategy possible and secure its execution for maximum impact,” states Pierre Ribaute, Business Support and Performance Director at Veolia. “All the Group’s experts are not necessarily in our division, but they are in our BUs and we know where to find them on the ground and create connections,” he emphasizes.

On a day-to-day basis, the division will assist the business community in every dimension — commerce, technical aspects, scientific expertise, performance, operations — and work proactively with the BUs as much as possible.

“With each of them, we are jointly going to identify the priority themes for its 2023 trajectory, then decide on the subjects on which to work together,” he states.

Once the themes have been defined, it is a question of indicating what supports the BU will need. For example, if a BU is aiming to enter the hazardous waste market, the division’s responsibility is to make it a success by lining up all the best resources available.
“Based on the business model, we are going to concretely look at how to generate value by analyzing the Group’s main feedback on entering the waste market in such and such a country or area,” explains Pierre Ribaute. “That’s how we will be able to guarantee our clients that Veolia is locally deploying the best of its know-how and all its power to deliver a high-quality service.”

Innovation and collective intelligence

The strategic plan also aims to accelerate innovation, all the better to carry out the Group’s mission and once again make a maximum impact. “We are going to make the Group’s human and geographical footprint a leverage for innovation,” explains Olivier Brousse, EVP Strategy and Innovation at Veolia. Each member of staff — wherever they are in the world — can contribute new ideas and solutions that can create value. The idea is to connect this intelligence to have a real international radar when it comes to innovation. Veolia’s presence in 75 countries also makes it a privileged partner for the giants in their sector (petrochemicals, agri-food industry, etc.) and therefore places it in direct contact with the major problems to be solved. Accordingly, six major global challenges1 for today and tomorrow have been chosen in IMPACT 2023 to harness the teams’ creativity and give free rein to innovation. Their selection is based both on the importance that they hold for the future of the planet and its inhabitants and on what Veolia employees’ skills and imagination can contribute in terms of highly differentiating and highly effective ideas to offer concrete and operational solutions.

“We are explorers and must find a balance between existing business lines and those to be invented, between our five stakeholders, and between periods of growth and crisis, such as the Covid-19 situation, while staying on course with our purpose, which is our compass,” states Olivier Brousse.

From usefulness to the benchmark

While the epidemic linked to the novel Coronavirus, Covid-19, spreads rapidly worldwide, Veolia is mobilizing and strengthening its organization on an international scale to ensure the continuity of its essential services: drinking water, sanitation, waste treatment, energy, disinfecting buildings and facilities, etc. All these vital activities must continue to function even — and especially! — in the event of a epidemic.

“More than ever, civil society is worried and lacking points of reference,” adds Olivier Brousse.

Yet Veolia, which has been identified as a key worker in the UK (and an Opérateur d’Importance Vitale in France), is one of these points of reference and has made health one of its major themes for innovation.

“Along with food and air quality, the health issue — and the coronavirus epidemic is accelerating the urgency of it — calls for new solutions on the part of Veolia,” Olivier Brousse reminds us. “If we are able to show that our purpose and the impact created by the 18 indicators in our strategic plan can withstand and offer solutions to this historic crisis, then the Group will come out of it as one of the specialists in these societal problems. A reference point in the storm. Of course, a major effort is required from each of us, but it is on a par with our responsibility as a company.”

1. Health and new pollutants; adapting to climate change; new material loops; food and environment; new energy services; new digital offerings.