Interview with Aurore YANG, Deputy Head of Asia Sustainability Department: Corporate Social Responsibility is also a kind of Productivity

Aurore YANG, Deputy Head of Asia Sustainability Department

Since joining in 2003, Aurore Yang has been with Veolia for 16 years. From Veolia's subsidiary SADE to Shanghai Pudong Veolia Water Corporation, Ltd., and from the Health and Safety Department of China Municipal Water to the Asia Sustainability Department she currently works in, she has experienced four job rotations within the company.


The rich experience of 16 years in different positions has given Aurore Yang a broad vision, a delicate and friendly communication style, allowing her to be competent and confident in her current role as the deputy head of Asia Sustainability Department. Fully recognizing the importance of corporate social responsibility, Aurore Yang puts herself in her colleagues’ shoes when she communicates with various departments, and actively coordinates and promotes various internal and external evaluation, implementation, and publicity projects.

Compared with traditional sales, finance and other jobs, working as Deputy Head of Asia Sustainability Department can be called a new career. How did you become Veolia's Deputy Head of Asia Sustainability Department?

In 2003, I joined Veolia after graduating from university, and it has been 16 years since i joined. The society changes rapidly now, and there are not too many colleagues who have served the company for more than 15 years.

In fact, when I joined Veolia, I was not working for corporate social responsibility. I first worked in Veolia’s subsidiary SADE to establish its first joint venture in China. In 2007, I joined the Shanghai Pudong Veolia Water Corporation, Ltd.. In 2013, I rotated to the Health and Safety Department of China Municipal Water. Since 2016, I started working in the current Asia Sustainability Department and now work as Deputy Head of Asia Sustainability Department.

What is your job like working as Deputy Head of Asia Sustainability Department?

In Veolia, the Asia Sustainability Department is mainly responsible for promoting the Group's commitment to sustainable development and its achievements. And I am responsible for the implementation of the indicators of sustainable development in China. We aggregate these situations and present them to our employees, shareholders and the public through the Group's publicity channels. As the society progresses, especially on the relationship between enterprises and the society, people are paying more and more attention to whether enterprises take up their social responsibility.

We are the window for external corporate publicity and the messenger of Veolia's corporate social responsibility internally. We hope that this department does not only perform a bottom-up role that receives reports from various projects. I also hope to do more work from top down to convey the concept of sustainable development of the Group to more 

lower level employees.


Taking this opportunity, could you please tell us about Veolia's commitments and goals in the aspect of corporate social responsibility?

The era of easy access to resources is gone, and sustainable development has become a must for the planet. Therefore, Veolia has formulated nine sustainable development strategies in three aspects in the regions where it operates. For each of the above strategies, Veolia has set a 2020 goal. For example, from 2015 to 2020, to reduce carbon emissions by 100 million tons or equivalent, and to avoid emissions of 50 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent; to collect more than 60% of methane in landfills operated by Veolia; to carry out 100% analysis and implement action plans on sites with potential biodiversity; to maintain Veolia's local reinvestment rate of above 80%; to ensure that more than 75% of employees participate in training every year.


What is your most unforgettable task?


That must be the task to protect and restore biodiversity. Often our stereotypes tell us that factories and the nature cannot coexist. However at Veolia, we are restoring biodiversity to allow industrial activities and the nature to coexist in harmony.

The most iconic project is the Niukouyu Wetland Park in Fangshan District, Beijing. It is one of Veolia's biodiversity conservation and restoration projects and a leisure center loved by nearby residents and a shooting base for hummingbird lovers. But in fact, the water source there comes from industrial and domestic sewage discharged from the oil refining and chemical equipment of Yanshan Petrochemical (BYPC). After sewage treated by Yanshan Veolia reaches the standard, they are purified by the aquatic plants and aquatic animals in the wetland and finally discharged into the reservoir.

Not only Yanshan Veolia, we need to evaluate more than 10 projects in China, including Kunming Water Concession, Harbin Southwest District Heating, Huizhou Hazardous Waste Treatment Project etc.. Veolia cooperated with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to develop a set of specialized biodiversity assessment methods. Colleagues from the project and I contacted a number of university professors in the field of biodiversity to help us complete our work together. 


What kind of work pace does it imply to complete these tasks?


First of all, I often need to travel. Because as mentioned earlier, there are many projects that require on-site evaluation and implementation of work. In addition, unlike other departments that have regular job duties, the Asia Sustainability Department has a lot of work that we need to discover and define by ourselves. I am now in Shanghai alone, with leaders in Hong Kong and Japan, and I often have some ad hoc tasks. No one will tell you how to carry out corporate social responsibility, which requires you to decide the order of priority based on criterias such as sustainability, meaning, and the level of resources and energy required.


As Deputy Head of Asia Sustainability Department, what is the biggest challenge in your work?

In the beginning, we came across some colleagues who thought that the Asia Sustainability Department was in the office every day and was responsible for doing illusory and routine duties. This kind of misunderstanding hinders my work to a certain extent. In fact, corporate social responsibility can be transformed into productivity.

By taking up corporate social responsibility, we allow our customers, shareholders and the public better understanding of Veolia’s corporate culture and image, better acceptance and trust for Veolia as an environmental service company that brings benefits to the society. The Yanshan Veolia Niukouyu Park mentioned just now is an example that brings benefits to multiple parties including the government, clients, and residents.

In fact, we now have some very good practices in various projects. What I want to work on further is to help the project to further share experience, explore potential, and finally transform corporate social responsibility into another driving force for the development of the project.

When your work is not appreciated, how do you deal with it?

By communication, and the way of communication is very important. You need to stand in the perspective of the audience and speak the same language as them. To be honest, corporate social responsibility is not the major business for colleagues who work on sites, and is relatively unfamiliar to them. It can be hard for them to apprehend concepts such as water footprint and carbon footprint. So, I will stand in their perspective and talk to them about the usefulness of those concepts. For example, like biological diversity, I will explain to them if there is a vibrant biological diversity at their plant, their clients will have the feeling that they are different from other companies.


Who do you want to thank most at work?

There is no doubt that I am most grateful to Veolia's management and various project leaders. Without their support, our work would be impossible. We often have some new concepts to communicate with them. They never reject them at first, but listen and learn carefully. Sometimes because the concepts are new, project leaders may feel that it is not the right timing, and they are willing to explain to us patiently.


How does Veolia differ from other companies in fulfilling corporate social responsibility?

There are indeed some differences. For some companies, fulfilling social responsibilities is mainly about making donations. But for us, we share a deeper understanding of corporate social responsibility. We believe that a company with social value must be able to closely link corporate social responsibility with our businesses. Starting with the company’s main businesses, we think about what we can do for the environment, society and employees.

In addition, I really like the quote “Think globally, act locally.” from Veolia Chairman and CEO Antoine Frérot. The work of corporate social responsibility is to implement projects in accordance with local systems on the basis of maintaining the Group's values.


What are the qualities needed to work at the Asia Sustainability Department?


The first is to recognize the idea yourself, so as to persuade and influence others. The second is to have a strong ability to execute projects and actively promote implementation. The third is to put yourself in the audience's perspective and use appropriate communication methods.

As a frequent traveler, which one of Veolia’s canteens is the best?

I can say responsibly that the canteens on every Veolia project serve delicious food. Shall we make a Veolia canteen series?


From the above interview, do you understand more about the Resourcer’s opinion on the relationship between enterprises and the society? Aurore Yang assisted the implementation of the project with cross-departmental coordination skills, and promoted the internal and external communication of Veolia's sustainable development concepts with high EQ and IQ.