Editorial : Antoine Frérot Chairman and CEO of Veolia

Published in the dossier of May 2020


For several months now, the coronavirus epidemic has thrust us into another human, economic and social reality. With its emergence, time has suddenly accelerated and plunged us into a different world, forcing countries, companies and families to adapt at the drop of a hat.

This has been the case for our Group, which — as governments have taken drastic measures to stop the spread of coronavirus — has geared into action to ensure the continuity of its services and the safety of its employees. As our drinking water supply, sanitation, waste management, and energy services are indispensable for everyday life, they must be delivered, despite the disorganization that illness, lockdown, and the economic downturn may cause in various places.

Beyond the human tragedy and the profound difficulties that it creates, this crisis highlights a number of our Group’s characteristics, starting with its usefulness. Already apparent when things are going smoothly, this trait stands out even more clearly during times of crisis, such as the one we are currently experiencing. Under the exceptional circumstances of this epidemic, our Group’s response has been exceptional: it is working flat out around the clock to maintain the continuity of its essential services. Which is why I would like to thank Veolia’s members of staff for their unwavering efforts and exemplary commitment, especially those who are on the frontline on the ground and are giving their all to keep our facilities running throughout this unprecedented crisis. Our Group’s reaction and sense of service are commensurate with its purpose and values.

This crisis also reveals our Group’s robustness and resilience. Without these qualities, it would not have been able to continue to provide all its vital services. Despite this epidemic’s unexpected appearance, it is holding steady and coping well, meeting the needs of hospitals, communities, economic players, etc. And because this crisis will continue and recovery will be gradual, it has taken a long-term approach to organizing the conditions under which it can stand firm. In the light of the sad number of victims of the epidemic and the relentless pressure of events, given the temporary collapse of economies, it is continuing its activities, bringing new forms of solidarity to light, which are giving renewed hope to our troubled societies.

This multifaceted solidarity on which our Group’s resilience and efficacy are based is the third characteristic thrown into relief by this crisis. Solidarity between the Business Units, solidarity between the headquarters and the Business Units, solidarity between the different divisions at headquarters, solidarity between Veolia and its external partners, to name just a few. These close and intense expressions of solidarity are pursuing a wide variety of aims, such as procuring masks at a time when global demand is exploding, sharing best practices when it comes to staff protection, supporting colleagues in difficulty, preparing for the recovery after the crisis, inventing new offerings to make our clients’ economic recovery easier. These expressions of solidarity are the pride of our Group and a promising sign for its future! It goes without saying that the future will involve renewable energy and recycled waste, digital technologies and the circular economy, but it will also and above all involve solidarity.

Yesterday’s world — in other words, the pre-Covid-19 world — seems a distant memory, yet sooner or later this crisis, which has had a brutal impact on many countries, will come to an end. For this reason, we must not forget the post-crisis world and should already be preparing for coming out of the epidemic. Our aim is to ensure that the economic recovery — for there will be a recovery — takes place under the best possible conditions for Veolia and its stakeholders. In the countries first hit by coronavirus, particularly China, increasing signs that the economy is returning to normal can already be seen.

While the tragedies in terms of health and the environment are tenacious, our Group is even more so. So I wish you all the endurance and courage required to stay on course during the current storm and actively prepare for the post-crisis recovery.

Veolia is mobilized in the face of the COVID-19 epidemic