When Angela Cooney had an epiphany that her future lay in sustainability, she googled ‘the largest environmental company in Australia.’ She found Veolia and gave us a call. Four weeks later, she was on the payroll. Over the last decade, Angela has moved from our SHEQ (Safety, Health, Environment, Quality) department, to waste and now energy - every role edging closer to her mission of driving game-changing environmental solutions.
Hard-hat and hi-vis on, Angela Cooney, Sustainable Solutions Manager, guides a group of professors and students to a tank at the Sippy Downs campus of the University of the Sunshine Coast. The 4.5 megalitres of water in the tank are cooled by solar energy captured by more than 6,500 panels across campus. Water leaves the tank and flows through the 1.6km of pipework, working as air conditioning for 15 buildings. This award-winning ‘water battery’ is just one of the game-changing blueprints Angela is proud to have helped make a reality.
From strength to strength
Angela’s first experience of Veolia was as a SHEQ and HR Administrator in 2008. Having established a new branch for a British recruitment agency at only 23 years old, it was clear she had the ambition and drive to keep pushing on.
“When I started, I was studying for a Bachelor of Environmental Science. However, I had a background in recruitment. Management knew I’d be happy in any role, with a view to moving into an environmental position down the track. Within less than a year, an Environmental Officer role came up in the resource recovery division. From there, I became the Environmental Advisor for Queensland.”
After a year and a half into her role, Angela welcomed her baby boy into the world. With Theodore in her arms, Angela’s career continued to soar.
“I had a surprise baby! I went on maternity leave for six months and came back part-time. After a couple of years in my advisor role, I stepped into a Facilities Manager role. I was supported with flexible hours, and I worked part time until my son started school. I’ve always had incredible support around me; I’ll never forget my managers and colleagues who made this happen.”
Angela made the jump from our waste area to our energy division in 2018. She acknowledges it wasn’t an easy transition, but the move has exposed her to an entirely new realm of environmental solutions.
“I wanted to learn more about energy. Then the role of Sustainable Solutions Manager came up on the Sunshine Coast so I took the plunge. The transition from waste to energy was hard work! I needed to learn a lot, very quickly. But I was surrounded by so many encouraging people who were all willing to teach me.”
People, planet and profit
Angela collaborates with organisations, businesses and communities to understand their sustainability, energy, water and waste requirements. From there, she helps determine how we can best use our processes and technologies to solve their resource challenges.
“What I love about what we do is our holistic approach. It’s about the environment - but we take everything into account. Veolia’s model is based on the circular economy. We look at the triple bottom line: people, planet, profit. So my values align with those of Veolia.”
Angela reminds us of one recent project, the award-winning thermal energy storage tank at the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC).
“I love that we’re trying to change the way things are done. We’re looking at renewable alternatives to high carbon-emitting technology and integrating these across the board. There’s a lot of talk in Australia about low-carbon technologies - but not a lot of action. Veolia puts ideas into action without compromising. We make it happen. And the ‘water battery’ at USC is just one example of this. It’s going to play a huge role in helping the university reach its goal of carbon neutrality by 2025. Within one year, USC has already reduced carbon emissions by an estimated 4,100 tonnes.”
Angela says that the impact of the tank extends beyond the immediate benefits of reduced emissions and economic savings - it also serves as an education piece.
“We’ve been working closely with staff and students at the University to integrate the project into course work, and to offer tours. We’ve had interns working on the project; we’ve hired graduates; we’ve worked with engineering and business students on sustainability projects across campus. It’s been awesome.”
Future leaders in sustainability - listen up!
Angela has two pieces of advice for students looking to forge a career in renewables: be open-minded and work hard.
“The recent shift towards a renewable and low-carbon economy makes this sector so exciting. And we need more people playing a role. I’m often asked by students how to pursue a career in renewables at Veolia. The key is to be open-minded. I was willing to take on an admin role, but I made my long-term goals clear to my managers. If you’re interested in a different project, talk to your managers and put your hand up, even if it means volunteering outside of work. Veolia is really cool. There are loads of opportunities and you never know where your career path may take you.”
Are you curious about where a career at Veolia could take you? Explore our current opportunities today.