Issue 53 – September 2013
Jean-Michel Herrewyn is Senior Executive Vice-President of Veolia Environment and Chief Executive Officer of Veolia Water. Veolia Water, the world leader in water utilities, provides its expertise to millions of people across 69 countries. ISO Focus+ talked to Herrewyn about how international standards are used in day-to-day operations.
ISO Focus+: Managing the water and wastewater services for local authorities and enterprises requires a high level of commitment. How do you assess your performance? Do standards act as a support or a constraint?
Herrewyn: In the 1990s, Veolia Water chose to implement the ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 management system standards. Today, these standards provide a framework for the monitoring and reporting of our activities. Looking across the spectrum at all our certifications (ISO 9001, ISO 14001, OHSAS 18001…), at the end of 2012, certifications accounted for 81% of our revenue.
All our services are assessed through performance indicators (PIs) such as the efficiency of our water distribution networks or the overall compliance of treated water (both drinking and wastewater). At the local level, the PIs form part of our monthly operating reports and are later included in the service provider's annual report.
The PIs describe the company's performance, covering all aspects of sustainable development through criteria such as the use of green energy, the miles travelled by our vehicles, or the performance of our distribution networks. Each step in the development of this report is then audited by an independent firm to verify that the method used was correctly applied. The report is used by corporate social responsibility agencies worldwide to determine Veolia Environment's ranking.
Ten years ago, Veolia decided to develop an environmental management system (EMS) covering its entire global operations. This EMS was crafted specifically for the company with the help of ISO standards, in particular ISO 14001. It is based on a set of requirements aimed at ensuring that the company remains aware of the environmental impacts of its activities, is able to assess them, and take action to reduce them. At the end of 2012, the percentage of revenue covered by an (internal or certified) EMS was 93.5%.
Far from being a constraint, the standards we use for our organisational structure are considered an asset and a pledge of reliability, professionalism, and credibility to our clients and shareholders.
ISO Focus+: How do you apply ISO standards to your water cycle management, from source extraction to the return to the natural environment? Do ISO standards help you anticipate the environmental impacts of your activity?
Herrewyn: Veolia Water closely monitors the quality of the water supplied to the 100 million users it serves worldwide. Our environmental reporting includes several indicators that help us guarantee the high quality of the water we provide. Therefore, in 2012, 97.5 of the population served by Veolia Water enjoyed water of good bacteriological and physicochemical quality; nobody received poor-quality water. This level of monitoring helps us detect any breaches in quality linked to a gradual deterioration of the water resource, which complements the daily assessments by employees in the field.
ISO Focus+: What is the return on investment of Veolia's involvement in international Standards development?
Herrewyn: Veolia is the world leader in water and wastewater utilities, covering the areas of construction and services. Our participation in international standards work enables us to promote and showcase our know-how. This earns us the trust of our clients who later contact us to build and operate their facilities. More generally, it provides an opportunity for sharing the good practice and knowledge learned at the École française de l'eau (French Water School).
ISO Focus+: What advice would you give to other organisations that are not yet engaged in standardisation? And what is Veolia Water's strategy for standardisation in years to come?
Herrewyn: Standardisation is a productive investment for a company. It gives experts from all over the world a chance to compare notes in terms of experiences, knowledge, and failures. It is a school of humility where each word matters, each opinion is taken into account, and only consensus prevails. The benefits of standardisation are shared by all; they provide a solid foundation on which to achieve the technical convergence that will lead to a sustainable development of economic activities.
Veolia is heavily involved in many areas of environmental standardisation and intends to pursue its efforts in its different business activities, particularly in water management.
Summarised from ISO Focus+, July/August 2013.
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