The Paris Agreement was signed five years ago to great acclaim. But since then, greenhouse gas emission reduction has not held its course—pollution is rising, biodiversity continues to shrink and resources are becoming increasingly scarce.
We must be clear and recognize that even though the willpower to take action cannot be faulted, a key element was still missing: players with sufficient reach to drive the economy toward sustainable development.
In the face of immense polluters, a champion of remediation is crucial. Major industrial groups, national governments and cities are currently, by meeting communities’ growing needs, considerably worsening environmental issues. To transform their activities and reduce their impact, they require powerful partners with a capacity to take action that resembles their own.
Suez and Veolia are the world’s two leading drivers of the ecological transformation. Nevertheless, neither of them can take on the most immense polluters alone, particularly given that the market capitalization of the leading chemical producer exceeds that of Veolia by at least three times and that of major oil groups is greater still.
But pooling the strengths of Suez and Veolia could change everything.
Because, in the eyes of the major groups that realize they need to make a change, size is what turns a service provider into a partner—particularly when they need to work with an operator that can take action all over the world and at every level of their environmental impact.
The larger a group, the greater its capacity to provide new solutions to environmental problems—it can invest further, innovate better, and invent more. We can join forces and not just combine our intelligence, but multiply it to find cuttingedge and more effective solutions.
A larger size would also mean a greater role in regulation, particularly regarding carbon pricing. We must stop pitting companies and associations against each other—and to do so, who better than an operator that can transform the legitimate requirements of the latter into practical solutions for the former?
Lastly, expansion will enable us to defend Frenchdeveloped expertise and a now-European model, founded on partnership, against competition from China and the US, who are emerging with their own business models. Increasing our size is not just about dodging these competitors – it’s about getting ahead of them.
This growth is an opportunity for France. It will give the country a highly visible global role, while boosting employment and the economy. France has led the way in environmental issues for over 20 years; as a key player at COP21 as well as a pioneer of public water services and public-private partnerships, our country has continuously shaped and revitalized the sector. Should France stop innovating to generate and develop environmental benefits now, when they are most needed?
By expanding in line with a European business model based on a culture of partnership, we can ensure that the specific nature of the relationship between operator and regions is protected. This means providing enhanced expertise at the local level by combining the skills of both companies.
In light of the challenge at stake and the level of urgency, we must become a champion that can propel the world toward a new model, making the ecological transformation the driving force of a new kind of capitalism.
Antoine Frérot, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer