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Environment at the Core

By Grégory Quenet, Environmental historian

In 1853, the term "startup" did not exist. However, this term describes the new Compagnie générale des eaux exactly: a risky innovation based on the anticipation of new uses for water that had not yet been identified as profitable markets. After 170 years of existence, a formula for success can often appear misleading. Nevertheless, to understand our current circumstances, we need to delve into the past, as it takes one to recognize another.

A fascinating adventure

By Estelle Brachlianoff,
Head of Veolia

In 1853, the first major Parisian department store had just opened its doors. The cinema would not exist for a long time yet. It was the time of the first railways, the year when, after a vote of its statutes and the obtaining of its first contract, a decree signed by the hand of the French Emperor Napoleon III would authorize, on December 14, the creation of the Compagnie générale des eaux. 

The Compagnie Générale des Eaux, born in the heart of the first industrial revolution, would become, year after year, decade after decade, one of the essential components of what we know today as Veolia. 


Antoine Compagnon

Member of the French Academy

Christelle Pezon

Lecturer, Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers

Julien Thual

Anaerobic Digestion Engineer, ADEME

Annaïg Pesret-Bougaran

Sector Director - Arc en Ciel 2034, Veolia

Francisco Silverio Marques

Vice President - Building Energy Services, Veolia

Séverine Dinghem

Director of Support to Business and Performance, Veolia

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