Circular Economy

Meet Stephanie Lebeau, Sustainability Manager at SUEZ

Ahead of this year’s National Recycling Week, (8-14 Nov 2021), we sat down with Stephanie Lebeau, our Sustainability Manager at SUEZ to find out more about how we can contribute to a more sustainable future.

1. Can you tell me more about your background in sustainability?

As a kid, my parents imparted into me the importance of respecting others and a strong sense of saving natural resources. My passion for preserving the natural environment came naturally and fueled my education and career. With this legacy in my pocket, I studied chemistry and majored later in Environmental Management and quickly jumped into corporate sustainability roles.

In my current role as Sustainability Manager at SUEZ, I’m involved in matters that can cover anything from greenhouse gas emissions to modern slavery, human rights, community engagement or Indigenous participation. My focus is on both environment and social issues that we can control or influence, aligning our initiatives with the United Nations SDGs.    

I’m always looking for new opportunities to do better, if I see something that doesn’t feel right, or could create better environmental and social outcomes, I have to do something about it. I’ve seen small community groups doing their bit to improve recycling in their local area for example, which led me to believe that small actions can have a big impact.

I love what I do because sustainability is about connections. Connecting people to a purpose, connecting with the communities, with nature, connecting people together. My job doesn’t stop at the front door of the office. It continues at home and wherever I go.

2. What exactly is 'sustainability' and what does it mean to you?

To explain sustainability, I often let people think about a stool, with 3 legs. To be able to sit on it, you need those 3 legs to be the same length otherwise you loose balance. For a business or organization to be sustainable, you must look at your activities, actions, operations and decisions from 3 different perspectives - environment, social and economic. Through the lens of sustainability, you can spot the impacts you have on society, stakeholders and the environment but more importantly, how you can contribute to protect the environment, the people while at the same time continuing to generate profit. Maintaining that balance will keep you on the stool.

3. Why is sustainability so important today?

The actions we take today will have consequences in the future. The challenge is that things like carbon dioxide, the most common greenhouse gas that contribute to global warming, are not visible so it’s difficult for people to take action to reduce the amount emitted in the air. Instead, what you can see, is the consequences on its excessive amount in the atmosphere - land and people’s lives affected by droughts and bushfires.  With this in mind, sustainability is moving from a “nice to have” to an essential component tied to organisation’s purpose, strategy and culture.

4. What is SUEZ's response to the current sustainability challenges?

Our customers want to do good, and our role is to find the most suitable solutions with and for them. We have a responsibility to protect our people and maintain a healthy workforce. Engaging with the communities where we operate allows us to establish new connections and to work together to achieve the same goals. Our targets are aligned with the Paris agreement to commit to limit global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius. We're doing this through initiatives such as gas capture, 100% green energy, increased materials circulation, helping to reach SDG #7 & #13.

We have also engaged in many partnerships which are aimed at responding to the current sustainability challenges including our partnerships with Yume help to reduce waste sent to landfilll and organisations such a TNC, Taronga Zoo, Banksia award to help improve biodiversity.

We continue to invest in new technologies to help improve our circular economy outcomes and recover valuable materials from waste including our compost NuGrow.

SUEZ is also committed to, where possible, finding sustainable procurement options and making the right choices when choosing stationary providers for example. We also see Inclusion and Diversity as a pivotal part of our success and have invested in our workforce with such programs as our Women in Leadership course and mental health initiatives.

5. What are your top tips to help people contribute to a more sustainable future?

The objective of recycling is to keep materials in circulation for as long as possible hence reducing the demand on virgin materials to make new products as well as the water and energy required to make them. My top tips for achieving a more sustainable future include:
  1. Take action when you can. Explore the SDG's and see how your organisation aligns to these goals.
  2. Do not put recyclables in plastic bags. Use a basket instead to carry them to your nearest recycling bin.
  3. When purchasing products, look for the ARL (Australian Recycling Label). This will indicate the right way to dispose of your packaging. Soft plastic (ie. bread bags) can be dropped off at supermarkets for recycling. They will be turned into outdoor furniture.
  4. Food waste is an issue in Australia. If food scraps end up in landfills, it will create methane, a powerful greenhouse gas responsible for global warming.  Compost food scraps. It's good for your garden, you could grow your own veggies.
  5. Don't dispose of electronic waste or unwanted paints in the general waste bin. Reach out to your local council or SUEZ to find the best option available.