Sustainable Innovation

French Government presents Grenelle II Laws ; Focus on Local Application

Today, the new ‘Grenelle II’ laws are presented in the French Parliament. Though the  ‘Tax Carbone’ has been abandoned (France will wait EU regulations). detailed plans are presented for building, transport and energy sector. Local authorities are asked to play a more important and facilitating role. French NGO’s point out the weakened ambitions since the Grenelle II and ask French parliament members to push the government to keep its promises (1, 2, 3, 4).

The Grenelle II follows the Grenelle I (2007) and a second public consultation round with representatives of large companies (MEDEF), SMEs (CGPME), NGOs.

The new law package contains six pillars and contains the ‘outlines’ and ‘logistics’ of the application on regional and local level.

1.  Improving the Energetic Performance of Buildings. Among the measures are : insisting on ‘Batiments a Basse Consommation’ (BBC, < 50 KW/H/m2 per year) for new buildings and to reduce the consumption of existing buildings by 38% untill 2020. Which makes sense as the existing buildings use on average 250 KW/H/m2 per year, as stipulated in earlier article.

2. Creating a change in Transport Use. Among the measures presented are : speeding up the process of public transport infrastructure, insisting local public authorities on offering ‘lease-bikes’ and car-sharing programs, and subvention of electric and hybrid car development.

3. Reducing significantly Energy Consumption and Carbon Emissions. Measurements foreseen are : Obligation of all entreprises with over 500 employes and municipalities with more than 500.000 inhabitants to calculate CO2 emissions on a yearly bases, see also earlier article, Stimulation of Renewable Energies, notably by simplification of governmental procedures.

4. Preserving Biodiversity. Pharmaceutical and hospital products will be more restricted and reported. Choice of new geographical zones that need special attention.

5. Risks, health and waste. Various measurements are proposed, such as the Protection of Electrical and Telephone Network workers. Quite remarkable is the new and explicit Interdiction of telephone use in all schools of all ages. The phones may only be used outside the school, nly with seperate earphones connected with a wire to the phone.

6. A new Ecological Governance Model. Introduction of Five ‘Colleges’ of Stakeholders : ONG, Entreprises, Unions, Public Authorities and Public Administration. Regions with over 50 000 inhabitants will be obliged to create a Sustainable Development report.  Exchange with NGOs, Associations and Entreprise Representatives will be extended on a regional and local level to reinforce transparance and exemplarity. Each product should carry CO2 emission information, related to the CO2 emissions created by transport of people and goods.

Open Letter of French NGO’s to vote against the new laws. A group of French NGOs have sent an open letter to the French public representatives to express their inconvenience with the current proposed laws that are regarded as ‘weakened’. They point out that the French Government tends to forget the earlier made promises in 2007 of the Grenelle I claiming to promote renewable energies, whilst subventionning notably nuclear (not solar nor wind energy) in the 2009 Grand Emprunt Plans. They ask the delegates to carefully study the new laws, ask clarifications, clearer and obligatory transparancy on social impacts of French companies and clear dates as of which new laws should be operational (such as the Eco-Etiquettage) (4).  

Sources and more information on : 1.; 2., 3.; 4.


Why banks can make a difference – and so do you
December 7, 2009, 11:50 am
Filed under: Sustainability in France | Tags: , , , ,

The banking and insurance sector creates overall the largest carbon footprint : 3680 MTons CO2, compared to 925 Mtons CO2 of the 2nd largest sector, those of civil airplanes.

These are results of a recent published study of 10 French business sectors by the French auditor and consultancy Vigeo and the WWF (1). Likely to be representative for other Western countries.


Green house emissions in 10 industry sector according to analyses ofVigeo and WWF.

You may be surprised. How could banks only using ‘just some electricity and paper’ count for the largest green house effects ?

Using Life Cycle Analyses principles, the carbon footprint of a compay (or a sector) is based on 3 perimeters : (1) The companies production process (production phase impact) (2) The production process of used materials (suppliers impact) (3) The effects of the products of the companies (product use impact)

The direct created carbon footprint (lever 1) may not be very high, nor does the production of energy to warm the buildings (lever 2).  However, by financing other industry projects (lever 3), like energy, property development, transport, the overall impact of the banking and insurance sector ends up to be the most significant of all sectors.

Banks carry therefore a high responsiblity to pull the right levers. They should not reduce their own and direct impact by reducing energy, water, paper use. If they make sustainability part of their company strategy, they notably carry a responsibility to choose sustainable over green house gas emitting technologies.

Investments in renewable energy – a banks choice

And you, what can you do ? Ask your bank how it makes its finance sustainable choices ! Does the bank set requirements on maximum green house emissions for property development ?  Do they preveal clean and sustainable technologies ? Do they favour renewable energy projects  ? In France, Banque Populaire, now BPCE, is seen as a good exemple. See also the BPCE ‘Best Practices’.

For those who do not believe in the power of customer pressure : Just remember the recent collapse of the Dutch DSB bank, a small bank that offered loans and mortages. The bank went bankrupt this year, after a group of dissatisfied customers asked people to withdraw all their savings – which they did.  

Source : ‘Entreprises et changement climatique’, nov 2009, Vigeo et WWF,

Best Practices at La Poste Mail

La Poste logo wiener

Michel Wiener, La Poste Mail Division, Director of Communication and Institutional Relationships.

La Poste is the largest French and 2nd largest European postal operator with 300.000 employees. The Group consists of Mail, Parcel-express (Parcel delivery), La Banque Postale (The banking subsidiary) and the retail brand (Post offices) (1).

La Poste Mail is the largest division, generating half of the Groups revenues (11,3 billion euros in 2008).

Michel Wiener is Director of Communication and Institutional Relationships. I would like to thank him for his participation and cooperation.

1. What are the CR objectives ?

CR endorsed. Sustainable development has been placed high on the corporate agenda by the Group director Mr Bailly. Since 2005 a yearly report on corporate responsibility is published.

WWF Partnership. In 2008, the corporate responsibility activities of La Poste have been strongly reinforced by the partnership with the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF). Both parties will jointly develop sustainable solutions.

Four key goals. The Mail Division has committed itself to 4 specific CR goals : (2).

1. Sustainable Transport. 100 000 post men cover yearly 76 million km using 49 000 La Poste vehicles. La Poste has the largest company car fleet in France. Evidently, it is representing a substantial share of green house gas emissions. La Poste takes its responsibility. It aims to decrease its emissions by 15% before the end of 2012.  ‘Eco-conduite’ trainings have started to learn employees to drive in a fuel effective and eco-friendly way. Since the start of the project, already 47.500 employees have been trained. Moreover La Poste is extensively investing in electric car development : It aims to have the first 10.000 electric cars on the road in the coming years.

2. Responsible Mail. La Poste want to contribute to ‘Responsible Mail’ by using more paper with the FSC label or recycled paper. By 2012 all internally used paper should be recycled or FSC paper. The current product portfolio is being studied and redesigned. An example is the ‘eco-carnet-timbre’. 12 instead of 13 postmarks are printed on the same paper surface, meaning a more effective paper use.

eco carnet timbre

La Poste eco-carnet-timbre : minimalising paper use

3. Sustainable Buildings. New buildings of La Poste will be built inspired by the French HQE criteria for sustainable development in the construction sector, among them are the postal sorting centres in Faulquemont, Montpellier and Montelimar.

4. Employment Quality. La Poste wants to be a reliable and good employer. This means job security for its employees (CDI, contrat de travail a durée indéterminée). Since 2004, 16.000 temporary working contracts were transformed into permanent appointments.

Sustainable Purchase. Apart from the 4 key objectives, La Poste is a driving force in sustainable purchase. The post men of La Poste Mail wear professional outfits made of bio and/or solidary cotton. The cotton is produced in West-Africa and India with special care for environmental issues. The choice for bio and fair trade cotton contributes to improve the living conditions of cotton workers in developing countries. As of 2006, more than a million bio and  fair trade produced clothes have been ordered by 140 000 postmen.

2. Is Sustainable Development a motor for Innovation ?

Yes it is. Wiener confirms that Sustainable Development is a motor for Innovation at La Poste. It is true for various products and services such as the eco-carnet but also for new packaging and processes.

Electric cars. La Poste’s engagement to develop electric vehicles is probably the most appealing example. The company cooperates with the French state and French multinationals EDF, France Telecom, GDF-Suez and Veolia to stimulate automotive manufacturers. In 2009, a grouped Requests for Proposals has been created with a substantial economies of scale : 100.000 cars are ordered for the next 5 years. The large scale will help to reduce the invetments risks of manufactureres and therefore stimulate the development of electric cars (3).


Dublo (in cooperation with Micro-Vett / Newteon et Fiat) (left)  and Berlingo (in cooperation with Venturi Automobiles et PSA) (right)

More Transport Innovations to come. La Poste does not just stick to cars but also invests in electric quads, bicycles, postal trains and lorries with double floors.

Experiences and knowledge are being capitalised in separate spin off companies : a company for eco friendly driving (Mobigreen) and a company for durable transport (Greenovia).

3. Does the economic crisis impact CR activities ?

Sustainable activities are no differently affected by the current economic crisis than any other activities according to Wiener. However, Sustainable Development and is here to stay. It will continue to grow. At La Poste it contributes to the companies competitive advantage : By choosing sustainable processes and services La Poste can stay ahead of competition. And customers and employees feel connected because of the social and environmental efforts made by the company.

4. What is your outlook for Sustainable Development ?

Sustainable objectives will become common practice. It is Wieners expectation that all companies will eventually chose sustainable goals.  A good example that shows the road ahead is the nutrition firm Danone. With its mission statement it places sustainability in the core of the company’s strategy ‘Bringing health through food to as many people possible’. The company now sponsors nutrition and drinking water projects for children in developing countries like Madagascar and Bangladesh.

Sources : 1. ; 2.  ‘La Poste rapport d’activité et développement responsable, saison’ 2008 ; 3. ‘Voitures électriques’, article presse l’Etat et des entreprises pour une commande groupée, 17 02 09.