The EU is increasingly more determined to fight for environmental protection. Mădălin Mihailovici, CEO of Veolia Romania, explains for Newsweek Romania what are the challenges of “green transformation” for the Romanian society and economy.
Newsweek Romania: “Green Transformation“ is a new concept of urban transformation. It is a system that focuses on the use of renewable energy sources and green areas for tomorrow’s sustainable cities. How does Veolia apply this concept?
Mădălin Mihailovici: We are currently witnessing a rapid rise of the collective awareness on environmental issues, which is forcing governments, companies and citizens, now more than ever, to take a stand.
Among the more ambitious actions proposed today by many experts, we include focusing funds on industries oriented towards sustainable development, defragmentation of value chains with huge environmental costs, relocation of food chains and, last but not least, environmental reconciliation.
The national recovery plans following the crisis caused by Covid-19, as well as the provisions of the European Green Deal make up for a great framework for businesses to address this trend adequately and responsibly.
Veolia, as global leader on the management of natural resources, has both the ability and the expertise to provide the necessary solutions that would help us overcome the challenges of these difficult times: the urgency of climate changes, the scarcity of resources and the challenges of urbanization and digitalization.
Reducing the environmental footprint across all the business activities carried out by us, as well as by our customers, along with creating the premises for the preservation and restoration of biodiversity are part of Veolia’s strategic plan to restore the balance of natural resources and achieve sustainability by 2023”.
To what extent does your company focus, in its operations, on the use of renewable energy sources and green areas?
The civil society and the public are already exerting some pressure and will continue to do so. Nowadays, companies must do more than their job.
Veolia has had for a while now a goal to identify and develop solutions where there are none, although they are necessary, and to reinvent traditional activities by simplifying streamlining them and through digitalization.
This mission focused on environmental protection is based on the company’s 18 multifaceted performance markers, established based on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, to help it reach the objective to become a benchmark company in ecological transformation.
The companies will be forced to focus on differentiated services to help their customers decrease their environmental footprint.
We are not referring here only to the processing of industrial waste, gradual migration to the use of green energy, reduction of the carbon footprint, monitoring and improving the quality of air, treatment of micro-pollutants found in water, reuse of waste waters or desalination of sea water, but also about customized industrial ecology services, actions which lead to a more tangible application of the circular economy principles.
In this sense, Veolia Group has adopted a differential ecological management adapted to the local features and specificity, which entails rationalization and improving the use of green areas by diversifying the features of the landscape, as well as the restoration, preservation and management of the environment, by limiting artificial interventions and pollution.
Consequently, this management leads to the fostering of biodiversity and development of green corridors in Veolia’s sites, in alignment with the existing integrated green corridors found in the adjacent areas.
What are Veolia’s plans for investments, when it comes to budgets for green technologies?
In response to these emerging challenges, Veolia Group has undertaken a firm commitment to act and contribute to the best interests and for the progress of humanity by providing tangible solutions aimed at protecting the planet and, by default, its habitants.
We are constantly strengthening and reinventing our essential activities, including the way we work and deliver services to customers, the way we develop innovations to address global environmental challenges, to enhance the impact and our long-term performance.
In order to support this structural transformation of the Group, we anticipate investments amounting to billions of Euro to support and develop environmental services and accelerate innovation.
The Group’s strategic program is focused on six global challenges on which our company may generate impact, by providing actual innovative solutions related to health, namely: adaptation to climate changes, development of new energy-efficient materials and technologies, management and recycling of waste generated by the food chain, circular economy and digitalization.
The ambitious environmental targets, also committed by Romania, lead to fundamental changes in the economy, as well as in our company. What changes should we expect, in your opinion?
Beyond the climate policy, ecological transformation also entails a new framework of our industrial policy. It is the basis of competition between the new technologies in the post-COVID-19 era, but, at its origins, ecological transformation focuses on applying new low-carbon technologies in our daily lives.
Companies will have to focus on differentiated services to help their customers reduce their environmental footprint.
We are also seeing a positive trend among European states to implement the transition from coal to “green energy” at the level of the heating grids, while also developing energy efficient services for buildings, a trend which must continue and be implemented.
We should also expect the transformation of non-hazardous industrial waste collection, for example, by using new digital services and the establishment of a price policy depending on the quality of the raw materials.
As far as we are concerned, we are focusing all our efforts on developing our organization both from a technical, as well as a financial view, setting out clear objectives companywide: reinvention, streamlining and strengthening of traditional activities, design and development of innovating solutions or foreseeing tomorrow’s critical needs, innovation and transformation through digitalization.
Reaching these goals will help us become more flexible, more efficient, more resilient, and the processes subject to transformation will be customer oriented. These goals will equally contribute to the reduction of the environmental impact of our operations and the integration of circular economy projects.
Can the companies achieve the ambitious targets of the energy transition set by the European Green Deal?
This ambitious package of measures which should allow economic players and European citizens to benefit from a sustainable ecologic transition and which has many advantages, from cutting down emissions to investments in research, is also a tremendous opportunity for companies to close the technological gap.
The gradual implementation of these measures, however, requires firstly a coherent, fair and transparent legislative framework that fosters investments, while also ensuring a certain level of predictability; these circumstances will certainly allow companies to carry out thriving businesses and to achieve their goals, including the energy transition goals.
How is Veolia adapting to the new green economy development?
Veolia has committed to becoming an ambassador of ecological transformation, and its endeavors are focused on a good ecological management within its own sites, as well as within the sites of its customers.
Specifically, our company preserves natural resources by reducing the use of water, energy and materials, through the implementation of the best-in-class technologies.
The European Green Deal is closely related to a state’s development and financial power
Furthermore, we will also intensify our ability to provide high-quality secondary raw material, suitable to the manufacturers’ needs, and to generate energy using renewable fuel or waste incineration.
We also aim at reducing carbon dioxide emissions by implementing nature-inspired programs (biomarkers, green infrastructure, ecological management etc.) designed to raise awareness among employees, customers, communities, children and decision-makers on the company’s operations and the way they can be adapted to protect the environment.
The EU will invest in the next 10 years, through the Green Deal – an ecological pact designed to reduce pollution, no less than 1,000 billion Euro. Will these funds be available for companies such as yours?
The battle against climate changes entails a joint effort of all EU member states, but not all regions start as equals. Romania is a country lagging behind.
In order to develop such a complex strategy and to attract EU funds dedicated for this program, we believe authorities should sit at the same table with the business environment and social partners and draw clear and realistic objectives and measures, which can be undertaken and implemented over the following years.
On the other hand, the European Green Deal is closely related to every state’s development and financial power. The government should dare to take on massive loans, and inject the capital in infrastructure, agriculture, health and education. These funds should be strictly used for investments.
As far as we are concerned, our company is mainly using our own funds, with our financial outlay being focused on the ecological management of our own sites, as well as on high value-added services for our individual, industrial and third-party customers.
Innovation is also one of our group’s main pillars, based on the expertise, commitment and resourcefulness of its teams and the research and innovation extended network, which help it overcome the global environmental challenges and support our customers focus on sustainable solutions.
The coronavirus pandemic also changed the way economy and society are organized. Do you think that the circumstances of these past years will accelerate this “Green Transformation“?
Firstly, this pandemic has showcased the devastating power of the domino effect: a local healthcare crisis has become a global economic and social crisis and then turned into a medical crisis.
Secondly, this major atypical crisis highlights our inability to imagine the worst scenario and exceptional events.
It propels us to a different dimension in time and space, which follows different rules. Companies and governments were thus forced to find resources and methods more or less conventional to “survive,” by adopting measures with a direct positive impact on the environment.
A new report of the European Environment Agency shows that the biggest reduction in pollution, 40-50%, was achieved during the initial phase of the lockdown, particularly in Spain, Italy and France, as well as in other European states.
Data suggests that these concentrations remain 10 to 20% lower than the pre-COVID levels.
It also depends on each of us, whether it is private players or public entities, on how and when we capitalize on these opportunities in order to contribute to humanity’s progress for a better and more sustainable future for us all.
Minister of Environment: “We made significant steps“
Romania is ready to adopt EU’s latest strategy on adapting to the effects of climate changes, according to the minister of Environment, Tánczos Barna.
“The EU strategy highlights a series of priorities for Romania, such as the vulnerability of the agricultural sector, the importance of water management and the major role of policies for mitigating disaster risk.
We also welcome a focus on nature-based solutions.
As a country with a rich biodiversity, this concept is also integrated in our approach. Cooperation and mutual understanding will be essential in addressing the devastating effects of climate changes,” explained the minister of Environment.
Romania will continue its efforts and actions to promote and strengthen the environmental dimension of sustainable development and implementation of Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, added Tánczos Barna.
“We are committed nationally to a process aimed at promoting the principles of sustainable development at a large scale.
We made significant steps towards promoting sustainability through the National Strategy for climate changes, economic growth based on low-carbon emissions and the associated action plan, focused on the need to introduce economic incentives for a green transport system.
Nevertheless, the changes we are referring to require time, more than we can afford.
Otherwise, I would like to point out that the lesson we must learn here is how to show respect for the environment and, at the same time, how to find the social and economic balance to act #PentruNatură (for nature) in an efficient multisectoral manner,” stated minister Tánczos Barna.
“Green transformation” should build on mindsets, believes the Minister of Environment, who launched “Green Friday” program, recommending Romanians to leave their cars at home at least one day a week.
Original article on Newsweek.ro.