When veolia Commits to Fighting global Warming

Reducing its own greenhouse gas emissions,
developing the circular economy, helping its clients
make energy savings… Veolia is taking concrete action
to limit climate change. The Group also helps local
authorities and industries to adapt to the consequences
of this change: greater water scarcity, extreme climate
episodes, and flooding.
Published in the dossier of February 2019

Everyone must play their part in the fight against climate change, especially companies. “We implement solutions to help our clients lower their greenhouse gas emissions and thus limit their climate impact,” states Patrick Labat, Veolia’s Executive Vice-President, Northern Europe Zone.

In concrete terms, Veolia helps combat climate changes via several levers of action. First of all, by promoting a circular economy to limit the exploitation of resources and therefore reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Secondly, by taking methane – the second GHG after CO2 – into account. Finally, Veolia wants to see the emergence of a real carbon price, in order to put a price on pollution to promote low-carbon solutions. “We must ensure that recycled products are not in competition with virgin products depending on erratic oil prices,” explains Pierre Victoria, Veolia’s Director of Sustainable Development. “Putting a price on CO2 emissions would lead to more stable prices, which would consequently make recycled products more acceptable, and allow us to organize recycling channels better.” Groupe SEB, Veolia and Eco-systèmes have therefore developed the first partnership creating a complete circular economy loop for small electrical appliances. The waste is collected by Eco-systèmes and then recovered by Veolia in the form of recycled raw materials, which are finally collected by SEB to produce new appliances sold in stores.

Acting in key sectors

Energy and waste management are two key sectors for action. “According to the International Energy Agency, energy needs are set to grow by 30% between 2017 and 2040,” says Patrick Labat . “Our energy-saving services are therefore crucial. We can act on energy efficiency, especially through cogeneration, which allows more energy to be produced from the same amount of primary energy. We can also improve heat distribution networks and even use them for energy storage to better match production to demand.” The best way is also to use the energy most available locally: Veolia produces energy from olive stones for a Renault plant February 2019 P LANET in Morocco (which makes it the first carbon-neutral car factory in the world), from coffee grounds for a soluble coffee production plant in the Netherlands, and even from poultry litter instead of the coal previously used to produce electricity in North Carolina (United States). In Pècs, Hungary, a boiler has switched from coal to a mix of gas and wood and (local) straw, which has drastically reduced its CO2 emissions. In Basel, Switzerland, Novartis’ non-recyclable solvents are recovered as energy: the heat recovered supplies a 100,000-m2 shopping mall and a neighboring tertiary building, a perfect cityindustry loop.

Taking avoided emissions into account

When a company like Veolia submits a report to extrafinancial rating agencies, it must document the greenhouse gas emissions generated within its own scope. This is known as scope 1. But that’s not all. The company must also declare the upstream and downstream emissions for its own activities (scope 2). Progress can be made in this area by working with suppliers and clients. Last but not least, scope 3 concerns greenhouse gas emissions that are not directly linked to the products and services sold by the company, such as employee commuting. However, avoided emissions are not reported at any point. For example, manufacturing double glazing consumes more energy than producing single glazing, so it is reported as a polluting emission for the company that produces this double glazing. However, these insulating products are good for the environment and even mandatory for any new construction. “We would like these avoided emissions to be taken into account during reporting,” states Alice Peyrard, Veolia’s Director, Climate Change Commitment. “We must, of course, discuss to decide what we report and to whom we attribute it, but this is an important consideration in valuing services working toward a low-carbon economy.”

Capturing waste heat

Recovering waste heat is another way to save energy and limit carbon emissions. Certain industries produce heat that they cannot consume. However, it can be captured and used: Veolia does precisely this in Brunswick, Germany, where the heat generated by a data center powers the city’s district heating, and in Poznan, Poland, where the heat from the Volkswagen plant is reused to heat thirty municipal buildings. “By using waste heat, we make 100% energy savings, as this heat is lost otherwise,” points out Patrick Labat.

Taking energy saving even further means totally changing how the company works. Rather than being a supplier, it must offer an energy-saving service.

“In energy performance contracts, we make a commitment regarding the savings made by our client, with whom we share the profits achieved,” explains Patrick Labat. “This motivates both parties and therefore encourages the client to change their habits and consume less.”

Accordingly, in Košice, Slovakia, Veolia has enabled schools to lower their energy consumption by 20%, supplementing its standard service provisions with a major awareness-raising campaign among pupils.
With regard to methane capture, the best way is to recover the gas given off by landfills and use it to heat cities or industries or produce electricity. In Woodlawn, Australia, Veolia recovers the methane from Sydney residents’ waste to power the region’s heat and electricity network. In Plessis-Gassot near Paris, the methane produced by food waste powers the town’s district heating. However, this involves incentivizing regulations and the nearby presence of clients for this heat.

Working alongside cities and industry

I n addition to actions implemented to limit climate change, it is also necessary to help cities and industry adapt to the consequences of this change. Within the framework of the 100 Resilient Cities partnership, Veolia and the reinsurer Swiss Re are supporting New Orleans (United States), the first city in the world to put in place a resilience strategy for its critical facilities. In Copenhagen, Denmark, the Group – via its subsidiary Krüger A/S in collaboration with the national meteorological institute – has developed a realtime management and control system for wastewater facilities to protect against flooding. Finally, Veolia promotes wastewater reuse to limit water stress. In Durban, South Africa, municipal wastewater is treated by Veolia and reused by industry. An active player in the fight against climate change, Veolia must also be exemplary when it comes to its own CO2 emissions. “When we own facilities, it is our responsibility to reduce our impacts as much as possible,” observes Pierre Victoria. “When the responsibility is shared with a manufacturer, we must foster a dialogue to agree on the greenhouse gas reduction process. Finally, when we buy a product, we are also responsible for the product’s impact. We must therefore think about reducing this impact with our suppliers.” What more can be done? Perhaps calculating avoided emissions (see above). Because everything that helps fight climate change should be encouraged.


1,5 °C : is the global temperature rise that must not be exceeded if the impact of climate change is to be minimized. This is the finding of the IPPC’s experts after analyzing over 6,000 scientific publications.
0 (zéro) net emissions by 2050: if we want to stabilize the climate at +1.5°C, we must emit less CO2 than we take in by 2050.
5,5 °Chotter by 2100 if we do nothing to lower our greenhouse gas emissions. The consequences would be catastrophic.