Environmental conservation and retraining go hand in hand in Veolia’s “observer” scheme

Creating a new job that promotes both an environmentally friendly approach and a return
to work: this is the idea put forward to Veolia by employees on the ground to support several
of their colleagues unable to resume their original position after health problems. The
initiative has been in place since 2016 in Cartagena in northern Colombia, where the Group
manages urban cleaning services. It received Veolia’s 2019 HR Initiative Award in the “Social
responsibility, diversity and cohesion” category.
Published in the dossier of July 2019

The “environmental observers” in figures

7 observers are active in 20 localities
15 training workshops have been organized for their benefit
80 environmental awareness-raising workshops have been offered for the local communities
600 plants have been sown since the launch of the initiative
93% of residents appreciate the observers’ role and 87% are satisfied with the collection point upkeep and the positive impact on their neighborhood.

Following a long-term and often debilitating illness, it is not always easy for employees to return to work. Companies must therefore adapt or even innovate if they do not want to lose this talent.

At Veolia in Colombia, the position of “environmental observer” was thus created for cases of this kind. After a medical checkup by doctors, staff members highly attached to the Group and keen to invest in the environment are trained for their new position. Their responsibilities include improving waste collection points and eliminating illegal waste dumping, along with cleaning up green spaces, particularly by raising awareness among visitors and local residents. They learn how to sort waste at source and teach others about it, and receive advice in how to maintain plots of land and sow plants there.

Each working within a given scope, the “observers” put their training into practice to establish a new environmental culture among those living directly beside these green spaces.

Thanks to discussions with residents and their concrete actions, areas such as Manzanillo Park, where waste had been accumulating for years, have now been given a new lease of life. “Veolia has had a very positive impact in this park: the green spaces have been rehabilitated thanks to the plants sown and the local residents made aware of the importance of disposing of their waste, not on the ground but in the bins provided to this end,” explains María Del Carmen Barco, a Cartagena resident.

And this has also given a new lease of life to the “observers,” offering them the opportunity to start over in a sympathetic framework that gives them the daily satisfaction of seeing how their actions positively impact their environment.