Futurapolis 2019: for Veolia, the major environmental challenges need to reconcile environmental transition, economic development and social cohesion

In Toulouse, the 8th edition (16 to 18 November) of the Futurapolis Innovation Summit questions our lifestyle and democracies, comparing different visions of the future of innovation and progress. Antoine Frérot, Chairman and CEO of Veolia, presented his vision of the major environmental challenges. And Frédéric Van Heems, CEO of Veolia Water France, participated in the discussion on the question: "In 20 or 30 years, will there be any water left?"

Increasingly concerned and impacted by the consequences of pollution, young people bring their dynamism and creativity to finding answers to environmental problems. Antoine Frérot says, "They should be trained to understand complex phenomena. And their passion will be needed to find solutions."

 

Polluting must cost more than depolluting

When an economic activity pollutes, it is normal for the polluter to clean up. If we add "aid for depolluters" to the "polluter pays" principle things will move twice as fast because then depolluting will cost less than polluting.

Antoine Frérot, Veolia Chairman & Chief Executive Officer
To fight global warming, a carbon tax is necessary - provided that the money collected is exclusively allocated to helping those who depollute. At €30 or €40 per tonne of CO2, the solutions that have now proved their worth would be profitable and would quickly divide emissions by a factor of two or three. But this tax is controversial because countries don’t want to set it at the same level, thereby distorting competition. The European Union could introduce a carbon tax in its space because emission reduction solutions already exist. It is just a question of agreeing to pay the cost of it, which is not exorbitant.
Antoine Frérot
Chairman and CEO of Veolia

Veolia's purpose is economic, social and environmental

Antoine Frérot believes companies are not criticized as much for the environmental problems they created as for the question of their usefulness.

Answering the question "what are they for?" - which over the last 40 years and according to Milton Friedman's theory has been that companies are profit-making and governments take care of the other company stakeholders - we see that the authorities can no longer do it alone. All society’s actors, including businesses, now have to help the authorities. And if companies fail to understand that it is in their interests to do so, they will be rejected and the market economy threatened.
antoine frérot
Chairman and CEO of Veolia

For Antoine Frérot, a purpose describes a company’s usefulness and what it does. It is a compass that takes into account the interests of all its stakeholders in a multi-faceted performance. Although a company is the object of the private interests of the various stakeholders involved in it (shareholders, employees, customers, etc.), it is also a general interest tool because it serves a larger section of society and paves the way for the future. Business leaders, like companies themselves, are therefore "political objects". They have to explain what their company does, why it is desirable for it to develop and continue to exist, and why it needs assistance and allies.

 

"In 20, 30 years, will there be any water left in France?"

Frédéric Van Heems pointed out that the amount of water on the planet never varies. But with increasing urbanization, it needs to be properly distributed and clean, and at a cost that is accessible for everyone. Still today, 850 million people do not have access to drinking water and 2 billion to sanitation.

2019 is a turning point for French people who now know that climate change concerns them and their children. We have to move towards greater sobriety and circularity with intelligent sharing of the resource. Treated wastewater must be reused in a circular water economy. In France, only 1% of treated wastewater is reused, while in Spain and Italy the rate already stands at 15%. There is an issue in relation to water governance. For too long, the different water management silos have created complexity. With global warming, we need to rethink the entire water cycle.
Frédéric Van Heems
CEO of Veolia Water France

More

Video of the conference with Antoine Frérot at Futurapolis
(French)

Video of the conference with Frédéric Van Heems at Futurapolis
(French)