Home / Issues / Development

Volunteering Employees to Improve Access to Water and Energy

Company: Suez
Sector: Gas, Water & Multiutilities
Headquarters: France
Partners: UN Volunteers
Partnership location: Albania, Niger and Senegal

Background

Many people in developing countries lack access to basic water and sanitation, energy supply and waste management services, which can further aggravate economic and health care-related issues. SUEZ, an industrial utilities provider, has long contributed to sustainable development by helping to provide the world’s most disadvantaged populations with access to drinking water, sanitation and electricity as well as waste treatment. SUEZ employees have established two volunteer associations, Aquassistance and Energy Assistance, to support humanitarian projects across the globe.

Actions

Building on years of positive experiences with employee volunteering, SUEZ decided to expand its activities in this area into its core business. Impressed by the local knowledge, network and experience of the UN Volunteers Programme, SUEZ sought to produce a natural synergy by partnering with the agency to provide its uniquely skilled employees for UNV’s utilities-related projects. SUEZ and UNV signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2001 by which SUEZ agreed to provide volunteer employees to UNV for three years, mainly to perform consulting and expert appraisal missions. In September 2004, the SUEZ-UNV agreement was renewed, including Aquassistance and Energy Assistance, and joint development projects continued until 2007.
 
Aquassistance has carried out several missions under this agreement. Volunteers carried out waste management assessments in Albania, Niger and Senegal. In Gabu (Guinea Bissau), it provided regular technical support to UNV in a waste management project, equipment to ASPAG (the local structure in charge of waste collection and disposal), as well as support and equipment to ENAFUR (a water supply utility in Gabu).

Energy Assistance has performed three missions under the SUEZ-UNV partnership. It has developed recommendations concerning power distribution networks in Honduras; it has assessed the sources of pollution in the Galapagos Islands and recommended changes in energy production; and it has performed an audit of an electric Timor. A follow-up to this project is now in progress.

Benefits

The expert knowledge SUEZ employees provided to the UNV missions has contributed significantly to their success in local development and raising the living standards of highly disadvantaged populations. All projects conducted with the support of SUEZ employees have received a positive evaluation with regard to overall development impact including the creation of activities linked to essential services.

SUEZ employees benefit from the opportunity to employ their skills in new and challenging contexts. Participation in a mission tends to be a rewarding experience and employees recognize its value for personal development and overall satisfaction. The initiative thus contributes to the development and retention of human resources, a key asset for any business. Moreover, this partnership has further exemplified SUEZ’s commitments to humanitarian initiatives and increased its reputation as a leader in Water, Sanitation, Waste Management, and Energy Supply.

(Source: Joining Forces for Change: Demonstrating Innovation and Impact through UN-Business Partnerships, UN Global Compact Office 2007).

(Last Update: 2 January 2009)