In 2016, SUEZ launched its SUEZ Collaborative Tour, a series of original meetings between social and environmental entrepreneurs, local players and SUEZ employees, with a view to building innovative partnerships to further the sustainable development of the regions.
Meet Pascale Guiffant, SUEZ’s Deputy Director of Sustainable Development, to find out more about the means and the ends of the tour.
Hello Pascale. Could you tell us about your job and your role at SUEZ?
Pascale Guiffant : My mission at SUEZ consists of strengthening the consideration given to the dimensions related to the environmental and social impacts of our activities in the Group’s commercial offers.
Sustainable Development has a number of levers to achieve this end:
– the Group’s Sustainable Development policy, and its multi-year Road Map, which is currently being reviewed to cover the period from 2017 to 2021,
– we also help our colleagues to integrate issues of sustainable development in their responses to calls for tender issued by industrial or municipal customers,
– and finally, we encourage dialogue with our stakeholders, and transform it into opportunities for partnerships that can improve the environmental and social impact of our activities.
This is the reason why we created the SUEZ Collaborative Tour, which aims to build innovative local partnerships between our own teams and social and environmental entrepreneurs.
In concrete terms, what is the SUEZ Collaborative Tour and how is it organised?
PG : The SUEZ Collaborative Tour is a half-day event that takes place in a specific region. The first event took place in the Val-de-Marne department in France. The goal is to identify local players who can contribute to addressing the region’s environmental and social issues.
First we prepare for the event by analysing the major social and environmental issues in the region in question.
Once we have done that, we compare them with the commercial issues as well as SUEZ’s impact in the region, in order to source local entrepreneurs who can help to take up these common challenges.
In the Val-de-Marne department, for example, we had identified five entrepreneurs.
Then, we work with them for half a day.
– The first part of the event consists of a pitching session. The original thing about this session is that we ask both the entrepreneurs and SUEZ’s local management to present their pitches.
– In the second part, we work in workshops and implement our skill sets in terms of creativity and design thinking, to look into any possible partnerships with each of the entrepreneurs. We do this by bringing SUEZ’s employees (sales representatives, field workers, people who bring innovation to the region, etc.), the entrepreneur and local stakeholders (chambers of commerce, development agencies, or even representatives from municipal technical departments) together around the table.
The goal? To foster collective intelligence and to look into concrete opportunities for collaboration. By way of example, after the event in the Val-de-Marne department, three entrepreneurs entered partnerships with SUEZ and two more are currently engaged in discussions.
What type of issues did you address in this session?
PG : We cover a broad range of subjects. For example, we worked on eco-design, composting and the use of 3D.
Our goal is to find entrepreneurs who are innovative, have a significant environmental and social impact and exercise an activity that is particularly relevant to the challenges facing our customers.
How do these entrepreneurs benefit by taking part in the SUEZ Collaborative Tour?
PG : There are many benefits:
– their visibility in their region and beyond is heightened amongst SUEZ’s experts, potential customers (elected representatives and manufacturers), networks of entrepreneurs and the region’s partners,
– they can discuss their needs in order to prepare for an efficient change of scale,
– they can identify points of convergence with us and initiate the co-building of innovative offers,
– and finally, they can enter economic partnerships and grow their sales.
What are the next steps?
PG : Several events have already been planned in 2017, in the Hauts-de-Seine department, Lyon, Bordeaux, La Réunion, Nantes and Rennes. We also want to take the event abroad, in particular to Belgium and Spain.
What role does collaboration with social and environmental entrepreneurs play in a group like SUEZ?
PG : Today, the Group’s businesses, and especially the waste activities, are experiencing a genuine revolution. We are now all working on and thinking about ways to recover every flow. Over the last few years, many social or environmental entrepreneurs have been attracted by environmental issues and by the circular economy in particular.
When we respond to a call for tender, we increasingly seek to create ecosystems with these players, these entrepreneurs, whose skills and vision of the business form a tight fit with our own. For example, we work with Future of Waste, a community that we created with MakeSense to identify civic initiatives or initiatives prompted by regulatory demands, on issues such as food waste. In one concrete example, we recently responded to a request from a leading agrifoods company, together with a social entrepreneur that is working on unsold food.
Our goal is to really build this ecosystem, and to work along with these players.
Do you want to focus these collaborations on any particular themes?
PG : The circular economy is a priority. But for the time being, we do not want to limit the areas we address, because our action is rooted in the regions and the issues they face. And they are facing a multitude of issues: climate, employment, precariousness, biodiversity… The question is, what are the top priorities for the regions?
But today, there are a number of serious causes for concern, such as the climate or food waste, for example.
Do you plan to extend this initiative to the rest of SUEZ?
P.G. : We started in France, where there is a strong political input to address these issues. The regulations applying to the circular economy have created a high level of interest in these problems. But these are of course worldwide issues that take different forms, according to the local political and regulatory situations.
We want the SUEZ Collaborative Tour to be implemented in every country in which the Group has activities, as social and environmental innovation is required everywhere!
Discover in images the first three events of the SUEZ Collaborative Tour.
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