Veolia environmental services North America: weathering the economic storm

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Courtesy of Waste Advantage Magazine

Delivering fully integrated environmental solutions to virtually all industrial, commercial, municipal and residential sectors in the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean, Veolia Environmental Services North America (VESNA), based in Chicago, IL, is composed of three complementary business units that provide a full spectrum of collection, treatment and recycling processes for the management of hazardous and solid wastes, as well as comprehensive industrial maintenance and cleaning services. The company reported annual revenues of $1.8 billion in 2009, and employs more than 9,800 employees in North America.

Veolia ES Solid Waste is a fully-integrated solid waste services company providing solid waste collection, transfer, recycling and disposal to more than 1.7 million residential, commercial and industrial customers throughout North America. Veolia ES Solid Waste is the fifth largest provider of solid waste services in the country, with operations in 12 states, plus Canada and the Caribbean.

Veolia ES Technical Solutions provides a complete range of services for industrial and municipal customers needing to dispose of hazardous and non-hazardous waste, including electronic recycling. These services are built upon a support structure of transportation, processing facilities and customer service branch field offices located throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Veolia ES Technical Solutions owns and operates an integrated, nationwide network of facilities providing thermal destruction, fuels blending, solvent recovery and technical services.

Veolia ES Industrial Services provides a complete range of maintenance and cleaning services for industrial, municipal and offshore facilities to keep them in peak operating condition. Veolia ES Industrial Services’ expertise, equipment and range of services have developed this company into the largest industrial cleaning company within North America.

The Veolia Environmental Services group is the largest waste services company in the world and the only global manager of liquid, solid, non-hazardous and hazardous waste, onsite waste processing, industrial cleaning and process maintenance, and recycling, recovery and disposal for both the public and private sectors. Its parent company, Veolia Environnement, is the worldwide reference in environmental services. With more than 313,000 employees in 74 countries, Veolia Environnement recorded annual revenues of almost $50 billion in 2009.

VESNA’s business units provide services throughout the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean from over 300 locations across 28 states, four Canadian provinces, Puerto Rico and the Bahamas.

Weathering the Economic Storm
Like the rest of the industry, VESNA’s revenues were down slightly in 2009, results that reflect reduced waste volumes and lower prices for recycled commodities, as well as the slowdown in maintenance activities and new projects by customers who are also suffering from the recession. In spite of this, the company was able to deliver higher cash flow in 2009 than 2008. VESNA also gained more customers by cross-selling services and strengthening relationships with key clients.

According to Richard Burke, President and CEO of VESNA, the company was able to achieve these results because the recession has made them better business people. “It forced us to take action on cost-cutting initiatives and to streamline our processes to better serve our customers, while never letting up on our high standards for quality and safety. We challenged everyone to work harder and smarter and look for ways to reduce costs without compromising on our high service standards.”

A number of the initiatives that were already underway before the recession gained traction during 2009 and helped VESNA to weather the economic storm. Through strategic supplier partnerships, its joint purchasing program continues to generate significant savings in major expense areas such as travel, fuel and maintenance, office supplies and equipment, telephone and shipping, to list just a few.

VESNA also continues to invest in the training and development of its employees through Campus Veolia North America, the professional development arm of Veolia. The Campus Veolia program was launched several years ago in Europe and was identified as a global best practice for the ongoing development of Veolia employees at every level of the organization. In North America, Campus Veolia was opened in 2008. The campus staff is dedicated to developing and administering training and certification programs for employees across all four Veolia Environnement businesses (waste, water, energy and transportation management) and is rooted in the belief that “Veolia trains Veolia” and continuing education opportunities should be available to all employees companywide.

“At the end of the day, Veolia is a service company and our mission is to deliver value-added services that protect people and improve the environment. We rely heavily on the quality and expertise of our people to meet this goal. Without the best and the brightest on our team, we cannot help our customers manage their most pressing environmental challenges,” says Burke.

Challenges and Achievements
To remain competitive, Veolia ES Solid Waste, whose footprint lays primarily across the Midwest (but also includes facilities in southern, western and northeastern states) works hard to build partnerships with other regional players in markets where they do not have operations. The company also leverages the capabilities and relationships its sister companies (Veolia Water, Veolia Energy and Veolia Transportation) have across North America. Says Burke, “This, combined with our truly integrated service offering, allows us to pursue business opportunities that are national in scope.”

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