In the Spotlight

Veolia Environmental Services North America: Weathering the Economic Storm

In this unstable economy, Veolia has taken action on cost-cutting initiatives and streamlining processes to better serve customers, while never letting up on their high standards for quality and safety.

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 savingsin 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.”

In addition, by bringing together VESNA’s three business units to establish an integrated services approach, the company has differentiated itself from competitors, while providing customers a more cost-effective, inclusive service. “Companies today are looking for ways to operate more efficiently and streamline their vendor relationships,” comments Burke. “Veolia is well-positioned to help organizations achieve this goal. There is no other waste company in North America that can offer the full complement of Veolia’s environmental solutions. From solid waste management to hazardous materials treatment to industrial maintenance services, we can manage all types of waste streams throughout the entire recovery or disposal cycle.”

Giving Back to the Community

VESNA also supports local community outreach programs through its business locations, encouraging employees to give back to the communities they serve. At a national level, the company supports not-for-profit organizations through the Veolia Environnement (VE) Foundation. The VE Foundation, a global program, supports community-oriented projects contributing to sustainable development, with a special focus on outreach, workforce development and environmental conservation. The VE Foundation also fosters and encourages employee volunteering, providing the expertise of its employees to the associations or institutions active in the areas of emergency aid and humanitarian development.

Examples of recent VE Foundation grant recipients include the Northern Illinois Food Bank, Hawley Environmental School (Milwaukee) and Glenwood School for Boys and Girls (St. Charles, IL) in the community outreach category. In the workforce development category, the company recently awarded OAI, Inc.,a non-profit training and education agency in Chicago, a $33,000 grant to purchase a 15-passenger van to support OAI’s Chicago Southland Youthbuild re-employment education and training program.

The VE Foundation also played a key role in the disaster relief efforts in Haiti. Today, six months after the earthquake in Haiti, the emergency missions are continuing but the teams are now trying to make their actions durable and are working on a progressive handover to the Haitian people. Since the beginning of the disaster, more than 270,000 people have been supplied with potable water by Veoliaforce and its partners. The Foundation reacted immediately after the earthquake, deploying volunteers and more than 30 tons of equipment to produce and supply potable water. Veoliaforce provides emergency humanitarian assistance by sending experts and equipment to safeguard the water supply of disaster areas.

Service First – Safety Always.”

Across the board, safety is the number one issue facing our industry,” according to Burke. At VESNA, “Service First – Safety Always” has become a mantra, the foundation of everything the company does. On the service side, customerswant environmental solutions that add value to their business.Through a focused customer service program, the reward for VESNA is customer loyalty and increased revenues.

In the area of safety, 2009 achievements included a 10 percent improvement in accident and injury frequency andadditional locations earning OSHA VPP Star Statuscertification—eleven total across the company. This uptick is due to placing a high priority on health and safety programs and training for personnel at all levels. It also emanates from a steadfast commitment by the entire company, management and staff alike, to taking responsibility for protecting colleagues and clients in the workplace. “We all share the responsibility for safety,” insists Burke. “Safety is the most important part of everyone’s job and unsafe work practices must be eliminated.”

For more information about Veolia Environmental Services North America, contact Denisse Ike, Director of Marketing and Communications for Veolia Environmental Services North America Corp., at (312) 552-2800.



Veolia ES Solid Waste services over 1.7 million residential, municipal, commercial and industrial customers in North America.


Veolia maintains active landfill gas-to-energy programs at 10 of its landfills and is committed to expanding landfill gas utilization to additional sites.


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’s state-of-the-art recycling facility in Quebec City, Quebec, is unique in North America and effectively handles waste streams from construction, renovation and demolition sites that are typically difficult to recycle.

OAI Check Signing

On behalf of the VE Foundation, Veolia Environmental Services North America (VESNA) recently donated over $30,000 to OAI, Inc., a Chicago-based non-profit agency committed to training and workforce development. Pictured from left to right are: Jim Bell, president and CEO, Veolia ES Technical Solutions; Tipawan Reed, president, OAI; Marguerite Ulrich, VP of human resources, Veolia ES Technical Solutions; and Richard Burke, president and CEO, VESNA.


Veolia ES Technical Solution’s Electronics Recycling Division is one of the largest fluorescent lamp recyclers in the world.

Photos courtesy of Veolia Environmental Services North America.