Over the past few years, Veolia’s ecosystem has dramatically changed.
The engagement of civil society – NGOs, social entrepreneurs, consumer associations, solidarity nonprofits, academics, etc. – has shifted the traditional scope of the Group’s activities and governance with an increasing focus on more intimate relationships with all stakeholders.
The company must have multiple objectives that serve all its stakeholders if it is to distribute its value added between all those who contribute to it. If a company is to be useful, it must decide on an ‘optimum’ solution between its stakeholders.
A company prospers because it is useful rather than the other way round.
As affirmed by Antoine Frérot, sharing created value is,
for Veolia, a prerequisite for long-term survival.
In addition to its municipal and industrial clients, the Group engages in discussions with stakeholders at all levels, from grassroots contacts to top governmental authorities through.
The Critical Friends committee
Set up in 2013, the Critical Friends committee is comprised of people from the nonprofit, institutional and academic worlds, who are all experts in social and environmental issues.
It acts as an external observatory on strategic issues about social and environmental responsibility to support Veolia’s continuous improvement efforts.
The Critical Friends meet once or twice a year. The committee is chaired by an independent person recognized for his or her experience in the social and environmental fields. In 2015, two local committees were created in China and Germany with a view to discussing, with representative stakeholders, topics linked more specifically to Veolia’s businesses in these countries.
The Critical Friends committee is another aspect of the stakeholder dialogue initiatives at the Group or local level.
What is the role of the Critical Friends committee?
The committee is a means of bringing together collective intelligence where we compare our viewpoints and feed off each other’s experience.
Our role is to challenge Veolia – and sometimes alert it to problems – concerning subjects related to its strategy and which we see as having a potential impact on society as a whole.
How does it operate?
The committee starts by examining a project that has been carried out at a site or in a region.
This is a very important moment in which we get to grips with the diversity of the Group’s activities and meet with people who contribute to its growth. Then, we devote a day to one or two discussion sessions about subjects prepared in advance. These sessions are attended by Antoine Frérot and members of the Executive or Management committees.
For example, we have looked closely at Veolia’s climate responsibility, contribution to the SDGs, new responsibilities in the industrial sector, opening up to the air-quality market and, more recently, the definition of its purpose.
What is the use of this committee?
This is an important question for its members. What do we really contribute to?
It’s not necessarily something you can measure, but the attention that Antoine Frérot pays to our meetings is telling.
To use his own expression, he “milks our discussions for all they’re worth”. What he gets out of them is his business.
Our recommendations are shared with the management teams, and even presented to the Board of Directors.
In 2019, the committee was expanded to include representatives of other Veolia stakeholders: clients, suppliers and future generations. The main priority is still to retain a sense of free speech and collective intelligence as it conditions both the strength and usefulness of this committee.