Worldwide biological diversity is reducing at an unprecedented rate. According to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, the rate of extinction of species is one thousand times higher that it would be naturally. Faced with this major challenge, Veolia Environnement is developing an approach based on characterisation of the impacts of its activities and integration of management of biodiversity within the environmental management system.
- Characterisation of our impacts
- Urban biodiversity
- Management of biodiversity on our installations
- Importance of biodiversity in our activities
This challenge applies to all of the Group's activities
- Veolia Environnement has adopted a policy of integrating protection of biodiversity on land occupied by its installations at the project design stage, particularly through its approach towards sustainable development.When the Group takes over existing installations, it works in cooperation with its municipal or industrial customers to improve their integration within the natural environment.
- Through its activities, Veolia Environnement is making a positive contribution to the protection of biodiversity by reducing the polluting load affecting ecosystems and taking account of its secondary impacts (residual pollution contained in our waste, consumption of natural resources) that we need to control and reduce.
Protection of biodiversity is included in the commitments made in the company's sustainable development charter.
Characterisation of our impacts
Veolia Environnement R&D is continuing to make progress in evaluating its impacts. In addition to classical physicochemical and bacteriological approaches, the Group has now acquired good expertise of tools for evaluating its releases into aquatic environments, its atmospheric emissions and its products (organic improvements and secondary raw materials). Ecotoxicity tests used for forecasts are complemented by biological tools indicating the condition of the aquatic or land environment. The Group is also working with many university and institutional partners to benefit from the most advanced expertise, particularly in terms of modelling of ecosystems, a discipline that enables us to better understand their complexity and to predict modifications to them.
The development of towns often leads to intensive occupancy of space that leaves little room for nature. However, these urban environments are not necessarily poor in biodiversity and paradoxically, have even become a refuge for many threatened species appearing in the red list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Therefore, an evaluation of urban biodiversity situation is essential to determine appropriate management. The use of tools such as the "green register" , enables players concerned with urban development to adapt their strategies (ecological analysis and list of green space occupancy within a region).
Veolia Environnement is thus interested in the characteristics and functions of urban biodiversity so as to encourage the development of green areas within its sites. Experiments will be carried out on some Veolia Water sites in 2008.
Management of biodiversity on our installations
Our geographic information system (GIS) positions our main installations relative to areas of ecological interest and geo-referenced areas, and already includes more than 1 200 priority installations. The progressive integration of this tool into our environmental information system (used for reporting and environmental audits) will enable its broader use by operational staff.
Since 2005, Veolia Environnement has been implementing actions aimed at increasing awareness of its staff and promoting good practice. The Group deploys a questionnaire to collect quantitative and qualitative information about actions related to biodiversity. The results collected by Veolia Environmental Services from more than 300 installations are useful for evaluating the sensitivity level of operational staff towards this challenge and for identifying actions that can be generalised (writing methodological guides).
The Group is developing a method for systematically evaluating the impact of its priority installations on biodiversity. This method will integrate local characteristics of the natural environment and methods of development and management of the site so as to enable the definition of an adapted action plan and measurement of results obtained through the definition of monitoring indicators. The method will gradually be enriched by the results of R&D work in progress. The Group will define a deployment perimeter in 2008, and implementation objectives for 2011.
Importance of biodiversity in our activities
Every species performs a number of functions that are fundamental for equilibrium of the ecosystem. In doing so, nature performs services that are useful for our activities, for example through the capability of ecosystems to clean water or regulate air quality.
Biodiversity thus contributes to facilitating our work (biological treatments of untreated and waste water, the use of ponds or grassy strips for their self cleaning capability, etc.), and can enable the use of simpler and less expensive treatment processes (water and energy consumption).
Economic applications of ecosystem services
The Orée association, the French Institute of Biodiversity (IFB) and Veolia Environnement initiated a workgroup in 2006 entitled "How to integrate biodiversity into enterprise strategies"; this association is composed of about twenty enterprises, public communities and associations. The objective is to evaluate interdependence between enterprise and biodiversity. A guide on economic tools to be mobilised to benefit from this type of interdependence will be published in 2008.
Veolia Environnement has also initiated cooperation with the economic research laboratory of the University of Columbia, New York (CEMTPP) on the subject of economic applications of ecosystem services.