Sustainable Innovation

Nicolas Hulot candidate for the French presidential elections in 2012









Photo credits : AFP (Le Figaro)

‘Nothing in my DNA would have forecasted the decision that I have made today’, says Nicolas Hulot.

The former television reporter, environmental activist and  ‘free electron’  Nicolas Hulot has announced today to be candidate for the presidential elections in France in 2012 – leading the French Ecologist Party. 

Nicolas Hulot is known in France as the creator of the Manifesto Pacte Ecologique  in 2006,  signed by 750 thousand French people, urging the French government to put Sustainability higher on the political agenda.

Even Nicolas Sarkozy signed the pact. After being elected in 2007,  extensive consultation rounds and the development of the new sustainability laws ‘Grennelle de l’Environnement’. The Grenelle has been both widely admired as well as received much criticism because the laws were considered not sufficient enough.

What decided Hulot to become candidate for the presidental elections ?  Hulot sees it as a ‘Personal Mission’. Having been active for 35 years wants to ‘change the current system that is not sustainable’ and ‘contribute to a new society that is more ecologically and socially viable’. Hulots feels strongly supported by its own party members and the younger generation.

Aware of his blind spots, Hulot has been consulting experts from various disciplines. Hulot will need to build a convincing Ecologist Party program that tackles not only environmental issues for which he is publicly known, but also bringing in solutions for the countries economical and social issues such as the large jobless population, the number of paperless people and the significant state deficit. In the coming months Hulot will provide information on his website






As a consequence of his policital involvement, Hulot has stepped down as the president of the NGO that he founded 20 years ago. ‘Fondation The foundation will continue its activities to create liveable and sustainable societies by engaging with citizens, governmental bodies and enterprises – such as Bouygues Telecom. The Foundation will be renamed ‘Fondation pour La Nature et Des Hommes’.

Sources : / / / /


French Ministery of Ecologie now lead by Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet

Sarkozy has presented his new team of ministers for his third presidency season. As not unusual in France, ministeries, responsibilities and ministers have been reshuffled.  Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, a former secretary of state for Ecology has been appointed as Minister of Ecology.


Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet and ‘Passage de Pouvior’ of Borloo to Kosciusko-Morizet

Jean-Francois Borloo has been dismissed with the appointment of Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet. French associations and NGO’s welcome Nathalie Kosciusko-Monet (or ‘NKM’)  for her competences and drive. She has extensive experience in public services, among others as (adjoint) major of Paris suburb cities and secretary of state of Ecology (2007-2009).

Smaller scope. The main concern of French NGO’s and associations is related to the fact that the importance and scope of the ministery (once nr 2 now nr 4 in the government) has been strongly decreased. This raises the fear that the ambitious Grenelle Environnement Plans, stimulating sustainable development in all industry sectors, will not have significant momentum against other forces, such as the nucleair industry..  

Once a Super Ministery… In 2007, the Super Ministery Ecologie, Environment, Climate Discussions, Sea, Green Technologies and Energie was created by Sarkozy and lead by Jean-Francois Borloo as the most important ministery in France, in response to Nicolas Hulot  ‘Pacte Ecologie’, signed by 750.000 people in France.

Now just Ecologie.. Mrs Kosciusko-Morizet will inheret now in 2010, a Ministery that has been decreased. She will ‘only’ supervise Ecologie, Sustainable Development, Transport and Housing. She will be notably busy with the implementation of the 257  new articles of the new Grenelle Environnement 2.

Energie moves to Economie. Remarkable is the choice of moving ‘Energie’ to the ministery of Economie lead by Christine Lagarde. People fear that it will be difficult for France to keep its commitments for a maximum of green house gas emissions and its development of renewable energies. It does not help that new ministers like Patrick Ollier (relations avec parliament) are rather right-wing, pro-nucleair and not in favourite of wind energy.

Sceptical NGO’s. Pascal Husting, Director Greenpeace France, repeats his comments following the Grenelle de l’Environnement presentations : he believes that Sarkozy and Fillon have not kept their promises and engagements with respect to the environment. He fears that government Sarkozy/Fillon 3 (3rd season) will be even worse.. Arnaud Gossement of ‘Les Amis de la Terre’ points out that the Superministery has been beheaded and that it will be much more difficult to take governmental decisions in favour of ecologie now the related topics are spread. 

Worry. French people in favour of Sustainable Development are rather worried that the ambitious plans of the Grenelle de l’Environnement will slow down, or worse, reverse, avec this new governmental elan. Time for a new Pacte Ecologique ?

Implementation of Grenelle de l’Environnement. ‘Sur et certain’, Mrs Kosciusko-Morizet will need all support, inside the government, from industry and associations to implement the Grenelle de l’Environnement !  

Sources :

Best Practices at Bouygues Immobilier

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Agnès Lostis, Director ‘Développement Durable’ at Bouygues Immobilier

Mrs Agnès Lostis is Director ‘Développement Durable’ at Bouygues Immobilier as of 2008. She is a seasoned manager with several years of experience heading sustainable activities at JC Decaux, an outdoor advertising company.

Bouygues Immobilier is a leading French property developer with 1600 employees operating in 5 countries. It generates an annual turnover of 2 900 million euros in 2008. The company develops housing projects, office buildings and business parks (1).

Part of the Bouygues Group. Bouygues Immobilier is part of the Bouygues Group that also includes  Bouygues Construction, Television channel TF1, Bouygues Télécom and road manufacturer Colas (1).

CR Strategy endorsed by the Group CEO. The Group President Martin Bouygues has strongly endorsed Sustainable Development as of 2006. He wants the Bouygues Group, as a top French company, to set the example and formalise its approach with respect to social and environmental themes. To emphasize his commitment he appointed his brother Olivier Bouygues to lead the Sustainable activities throughout the Bouygues Group.

1. What are the CR objectives ?

Bouygues Immobilier wants to be frontrunner. The companies objectives are in line with but ahead of legislation following the ‘Grenelle d’Environment‘. [For instance, Bouygues Immobilier has committed to an average energy use of its new buildings equivalent to 10% below regulated level for 2010 – which may vary between 80-260 kWh/m2/year depending on climate zone and energy source].

CR Implementation Top-Down. As in most French companies, objectives are set and implemented in a Top-Down way. In fact, it enables Lostis and her team to mobilise their colleagues and to achieve their ambitious goals.

Clear quantitative energy performance goals. Bouygues Immobilier stands out in a its sector. Where other property development companies only mention their ‘intention’ to reduce energy use, Bouygues Immobilier has already set detailed goals.

Stakeholder Information. Bouygues Immobilier stakeholders are informed about Sustainable Development goals and performance via a special Sustainable Development website and downloadable  reports on Sustainable activities (3,4).

Key commitments are the labels for sustainable buildings : H&E and HQE labels for respectively residential and office buildings.


The French property development labels ‘H&E’ for residential buildings of the CERQUAL institute (left) and ‘HQE’ for office buildings of the HQE Association (right)

Label H&E for Apartments. As of July 2007 all new Bouygues Immobilier apartments meet the Habitat & Environment (H&E) criteria. H&E is developed by the French building industry and implies low energy consumption, health, comfort and materials criteria.

Label HQE for its Office Buildings. The label Haute Qualité Environmental (HQE), has been developed for office buildings. It consists of 14 pillars applicable to project management, conception and realisation phases of the building process. The criteria are set by, among others, the ADEME, a French governmental environmental institute. HQE may be compared to the BREEAM certificate that is applicable in the UK, Passivhaus in Germany,  Minergie in Switzerland.

Carbon Footprint. Bouygues Immobilier is decreasing its greenhouse emissions by :

  • Discouraging employee travel.
  • Favouring low energy office equipment.
  • Gaining knowledge about calculating carbon footprint. The Bilan Carbon’ , helps to identify areas of improvement to develop more sustainable buildings.

Sustainable Purchase. On an international level, the Bouygues Group has committed itself to social and environmental responsabilities by signing the UN Global Compact in 2006. To ensure its suppliers act accordingly, it has created Corporate Social Responsibility Supplier guidelines. The companies ‘Charte RSE Fournisseurs’ has now become an obligatory clause in all purchase contracts.

Green Office. Bouygues Immobilier frontrunning position is being endorsed by the development of a Green Office in Meudon just outside of Paris. The office building, to be realised in 2010, will be energy positive. The energy surplus can be re-sold to energy providers (5). The office provides a showcase for :

  • applying bioclimatic architecture, such as an optimal positioning of the building with respect to sunlight ;
  • using natural ventilation, for instance with sophisticated indoor air transport and daytime variation ;
  • informing users with real-time meters encouraging them to limit energy use ;
  • applying solar panels and bio-fuels that produce energy for the building – and more.

Green office

The Green Office of Bouygues Immobilier in Meudon, near Paris

2. Is Sustainable Development a motor for Innovation ?

Lostis believes that Sustainable Development is all about questioning  : How has this been implemented  ? How can we change this to create a more durable situation ?’. These questions lead to innovation. Lostis identifies 3 kinds of innovation : Technological, Cost and Partner Innovation :

1. Technical innovation and training. First of all, sustainable development requires technical innovation. For instance, new kinds of insulation and ventilation that substantially reduce energy use are being developed  Technological innovation, though, will not deliver their promise without user adaptation. If end-users forget to turn off heating, forget to close windows and do not turn off their computers the pre-defined energy savings will not be obtained. Bouygues Immobilier therefore invests strongly in training of the new building owners and end-users.

2. Cost calculation innovation. Sustainable Development requires new ways of cost calculation. According to Lostis, better insulated buildings usually requires higher initial investment. Higher upfront costs (CAPEX) however are largely compensated by lower usage costs (OPEX). To make sustainable projects a success, it is necessary to explain the new cost calculation methods to all those involved. Fortunately, this new ‘Total Cost of Ownership’ method is slowly being accepted in the French real estate sector.

3. Partner cooperation innovation. A holistic approach is needed to develop solid and durable solutions. The perspectives of all stakeholders need to be taken into consideration. Sustainable Development can act as a catalyst for new ways of Partner Cooperation. Bouygues Immobilier has recognized they can not develop sustainable solutions without insights in, for instance, office equipment and service companies. They therefore, in 2008, created a consortium of companies that offer complementary products and services such as Philips, Schneider Electric, Siemens, Sodexho and Tandberg, called Enjeu Energie Positive’. The goal is to develop solutions with lower energy consumption, renewable energy opportunities and processes to minimise carbon footprint in building environments.

3. Does the economic crisis impact CR activities ?

Lostis notes a new openness towards Sustainable Guidelines : ‘We have reached the borders of a system. First in the financial markets, now we feel the necessity to change while seeing the films of Al Gore and Yann Bertrand Arthus.

‘There is a general sentiment that we have ‘crossed the line’ and there is now a need to change’.

Lostis is confident that this feeling of necessity will help to develop the sustainable activities in France. It will help the public acceptance of new laws and guidelines.

4. What is your outlook for Sustainable Development ?

The ‘Pacte Ecologique’ of Nicolas Hulot has marked a significant change in 2006. The manifest gained a lot of media attention. Sustainable Development has risen on the political agenda and has become a top priority, creating dialogues throughout the society.

Ecology is now a factor of importance in all political decisions. Companies feel the urge to define and implement their sustainable goals. The French public and the government are both demanding it.

Lostis hopes that the debates around the ‘Grenelle’ and the new laws that will follow will help to speed up the transition. Sustainable products will have to become ‘Business as usual’.

Sources : 1. ; 2., ‘Barometre annuel de la communication sur l’eco-performance des batiments’, Novethic, Sept 08 ; 3. ; 4. ; 5.

Pacte Ecologique changes Political Agenda

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Nicolas Hulot launched the ‘Pacte Ecologique’ in 2006

Changing public opinion. Most French people seemed to be indifferent to environmental and social issues. Now the buzz is on. How did this happen ?

Nicolas Hulots ‘Pacte Ecologique’ . French Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) sat together end of 2005. They concluded that they should change strategy to get their environmental and social goals higher on the political agenda. Lobby-ing and media exposure were needed. French TV personality Nicolas Hulot was asked to lead the media offensive. The  Web Manifesto ‘Pacte Ecologique’ was launched in November 2006. Among the propositions of Hulot and his team, was  the installation of a new Minister ‘Number 2’ of Sustainable Development. The Pacte Ecologique was signed by 750 thousand people. Among them were CEO’s, celebreties and presidential candidates, including Nicolas Sarkozy(1).

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Jean-Francois Borloo, Minister of Sustainable Development and Energy, Transport and Town Planning ; le Grenelle d’Environnement, Nicolas Sarkozy, President of France

Sustainable Development in Sarkozy Government. Elected in 2007, President Nicolas Sarkozy had no choice but to take action . First, he appointed the seasoned Jean-Louis Borloo at his new Mega Ministry of ‘Energy, Transport, Town Planning and Sustainable Development’. Second, he organised extensive public debates to define new state directions.  The discussions that followed were without precedent. Over 30.000 individuals and representatives participated . Never before representatives of government, industry, trade unions and NGO’s actually sat together and discussed about environmental and social challenges. The results called ”le Grenelle d’Environment‘ were presented by Minister Borloo in July 2007.  The Grenelle contains France’s key environment and social guidelines for the coming 5 years. Since 2007, new laws and public investment plans are under construction and will soon be implemented.

Sources : 1. ; 2.