"The world of tomorrow". This topic for discussion at the Rencontres du Progrès, held on 8 October 8 in Bordeaux (France), examines the notion of progress. Long considered by mankind as a liberating force, progress has gone from being seen as beneficial to the human condition to becoming synonymous with the ecological and social disaster that is looming. This day of debate invites us to find good reasons to take action. The CEO of Veolia, Antoine Frérot, joined in the reflection by presenting the Group’s corporate purpose during the round table "Do companies need missions, or do missions need companies: what are companies for?".
It took 18 months of reflection and negotiation for Veolia to develop the definition of its purpose. These negotiations were then summarized during three meetings of the Board of Directors. Not only did the Group’s employees take part, but also many of its shareholders and clients, who worked together on the subject all over the world. A committee of Critical Friends, made up of independent experts from NGOs and companies operating in the social and solidarity economy, also took part in the formulating of Veolia's corporate purpose.
Developing a culture of proof
To prove that a company’s first role is to be useful before it is prosperous, Veolia has defined 18 indicators of multifaceted performance: Of these 4 are economic and financial indicators, 4 social, 4 environmental, 3 concern customers and 3 are focused on society in general. Veolia publishes the 18 results obtained very year.
The pay of senior executives and the incentive schemes of all Group employees are calculated according to the performance achieved toward its 18 indicators. Among all the stakeholders who participated in the development of our corporate purpose, the employees were the most satisfied to be associated with this search for a more harmonious balance between all those involved. They appreciated that our incentive schemes and employee shareholdings are now calculated on the basis of these 18 performance criteria.
Our clients have also come to see our purpose as a veritable asset that gives us a lead over the competition. Our industrial clients are even ready to reward Veolia in terms of the price they pay for its services, once we provide them with elements of proof that they can integrate into their own CSR approach. Today, beyond the question of their carbon footprint, all companies need to pay more attention to their social, societal and environmental footprints.
The company of tomorrow
For Antoine Frérot, the Covid-19 pandemic has shown that companies have taken the protection of their employees very seriously.
This new attitude on the part of companies is an encouragement to go even further and to reach out to more and more audiences. Since the 2008 crisis, the shareholder model put forward by Milton Friedman with the sole objective of maximising profit under constraints, has been increasingly contested. After the pandemic, the idea of corporate purpose has become an essential issue, and the concept of plural performance is rapidly gaining ground, concluded the CEO.
For further information
> The world of tomorrow! Les Rencontres du Progrès 2021, was organized by the French regional daily newspaper “Sud Ouest”