Thursday 26 January 2023
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Nottingham

Veolia’s continued business in Russia ‘could bring council into disrepute’

An opposition councillor has questioned whether waste contractor Veolia’s decision not to pull out of Russia has put Nottinghamshire County Council’s reputation “into disrepute”.

The global waste company operates in various countries across the world, including the UK, France and Russia.

It has been the long-term waste contractor with Nottinghamshire County Council and manages household waste and the running of recycling centres.

However, concerns have been raised in other parts of the country over Veolia’s decision not to cease operations in Russia following the start of the Ukraine war last year.

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Sheffield City Council, which also has a contract with Veolia, heard concerns from campaigners last year about the business continuing to work in the country.

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More than 1,000 firms including BP, Nike and McDonald’s pulled out after Russia’s invasion in February 2022.

The France-based conglomerate says it “utterly condemns” the war and violence in Ukraine and is providing no new funding or investment into Russia.

It adds that it is continuing to maintain its “public service operations” to communities in Russia, including waste management.

It has also continued some operations in Ukraine, a company spokesperson says.

However, a Labour councillor has asked the county council to consider whether it should continue working with Veolia.

The comments came during the place select committee on Wednesday (January 11) when Cllr Penny Gowland (Lab) questioned if the authority has urged Veolia to completely cease operations in Russia.

“The global company Veolia is still working in Russia,” the West Bridgford North politician said.

“While you may say Veolia is not global, the company consists of a large number of sub-companies including Veolia Oxford, Veolia Sheffield and Veolia Nottingham and Veolia UK PLC.

“I’d go as far as to say it’s a Russian doll of companies.

“Our question is about what representations the authority has made to Veolia to ask it to cease its activities in Russia.

“We note that the contract with Veolia says the indemnifier shall not bring the name of the beneficiary into disrepute. Is Veolia bringing the county council into disrepute?”

Cllr Neil Clarke (Con), the cabinet member for transport and environment, agreed the reputation of the council must be protected.

He said: “This is the problem when you have global companies with subsidiaries, and it’s delving out to find out which relationship relates with which.

“I’m absolute with you that the county council must ensure the reputation is maintained and, certainly, I would not want the reputation to be sullied by any incorrect interpretation of international relationships.”

But a council spokesperson told the meeting Veolia has provided assurances that its activities in Russia are not in support of the ongoing war.

He said: “We’ve approached Veolia corporately to ask it for this position and it issued a Veolia UK statement.

“That was very much around the services Veolia provides in Russia being focused on providing essential public services.

“Withdrawing those services would compromise the people who are at the sharp end, the public, rather than the government of Russia.

“From our side, we want to make sure those operations are totally separate from Veolia elsewhere and we have been reassured by that statement.

“From a contractual perspective, we would expect Veolia to act in an appropriate and professional way.”

A Veolia spokesperson added: “We utterly condemn war and violence in Ukraine.

“We are providing absolutely no new funding for our operations in Russia, and have stopped all new investment and all financial flows between the group and our Russian subsidiary.

“We are maintaining our responsibility to our employees and the communities we serve by continuing our vital public service operations in both Ukraine and Russia.”

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