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ArianeGroup’s Head of Sustainability tells us about why she is passionate about her job.
After graduating with a Master’s degree in International Affairs and Risk Management from the Bordeaux Institute of Political Studies in in 2011, Violette Edwards’ first job in the aerospace industry was at the Safran Group head office. She then joined the newly created Safran–Airbus venture ArianeGroup in 2016. Now ArianeGroup’s Head of Sustainability, she spearheads the Group’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) drive.
What is sustainability?
Through their activities, facilities, and the resources they use, all companies have an impact on and therefore a responsibility to the world around them. Sustainability is at the interface of social, environmental and economic interests. It means fair and inclusive development, which protects the Earth’s resources and, in our case, those of space!
This awareness led to the emergence of the concept of corporate social responsibility, which is essentially how a company can contribute to sustainable development and be fully part of society in the broadest sense.
How is it important for ArianeGroup?
Our company purpose statement sums this up perfectly: “Pioneering the European way to space, for the well-being of all citizens in a safe world”. We are committed to ensuring that access to space remains a means for supporting a sustainable Earth and a benefit for the daily lives of our planet’s inhabitants.
We have a role to play in civil society, rooted in our missions to guarantee independent, sovereign European access to space, particularly with the Ariane rocket, and to help safeguard people’s security through the French sea-based nuclear deterrent force.
What does your role as Head of Sustainability at ArianeGroup entail?
Firstly, there’s an analytical phase to determine our priorities and goals. Then these findings have to be put into operation by defining a governance system and a roadmap, and obtaining the buy-in of all the various stakeholders, both within and outside the company. The ultimate aim is to fully integrate the notion of sustainable development into how the company does its business.
In many ways, my job is quite similar to project management or change management, in that my role involves raising awareness of the importance of sustainability at every level in the company, and making sure that we all move forward in the same direction.
How much progress have you made so far?
Our priorities are now clear and formally set out in our Sustainability Commitments. We are working to define and deploy roadmaps in all of the company directorates. Some are now mature (Health, Safety & Environment, and Energy, for instance), while others are in the earlier stages (Responsible Purchasing) or even still on the drawing board (Green IT).
We are also developing our climate roadmap, in the context of the Green Deal. This obviously has direct impact on our products, so we are working closely with our customers and partners, including the French defence procurement agency (DGA) and the French and European space agencies, to reduce our environmental footprint and make progress on the eco-design of future generations of launchers, for example.
We will be publishing our first Sustainability Report in 2021.
How did you come into this job?
I studied international affairs and risk management at the Institute of Political Studies in Bordeaux. After an internship at Alcatel-Lucent (now Nokia), I joined Safran Group in 2012, where I was in charge of international security. That first job really plunged me into the aerospace sector and ‘real life’ risk management in a group of 75,000 employees.
I joined ArianeGroup when it was founded, and originally worked on change management in the Ethics & Compliance department. Then I created the Sustainability department and moved from a risk-focused to an opportunity-focused approach.
Where does your interest in sustainability come from?
I grew up in the Basque region of south-west France, in the countryside between the mountains and the coast. I love the ocean and water sports like sailing and diving.
So looking after the environment is very important to me, it’s a driving instinct in my life and my job. It’s something I truly believe in to bring about change.
What advice would you give space enthusiasts who are interested in sustainability?
Always be curious, read widely, question, challenge! Set up projects at your own level, expound and bring others on board: no initiative is too small, and sustainability can and must be included everywhere! Great things come from small beginnings, and we can all make a contribution, whatever our background or profession.