Lou DeLoreto, Vice President, Safety & Sustainability- North America, Bureau Veritas talks with Sarah about the company’s focus on improving sustainability, both in achieving its own objectives and also by helping customers with their sustainability goals.  

Sarah Nicastro: Welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast. I’m your host, Sarah Nicastro. Today, we are going to be talking about how Bureau Veritas is focused on building a sustainable future. I feel like I’m going to be saying this for a number of podcasts in a row, so you may already know this, but I do have some renovations underway in my house, so if you hear any background noise on my part, please bear with me. The show must go on, so we’re going to forge ahead, but there might be a little bit of noise. Okay, so I’m excited to welcome to the podcast today, Lou DeLoreto, who is the Vice President of Safety and Sustainability for North America at Bureau Veritas. Lou, welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast.

Lou DeLoreto: Super happy to be here. Nice to meet you, Sarah.

Sarah Nicastro: Thanks. Thanks. Happy to have you, so before we dig into the topic at hand, can you tell our listeners a little bit about yourself, your background, and maybe give a little recap on BV as a business.

Lou DeLoreto: I will do that, so let’s see. I won’t bore you too much with my career, but essentially for the last 26 years professionally, I’ve been in the health, safety, and environment field, most with two large multinational companies, a lot of field service construction, in fact elevators were a big part of that career throughout the world. And it’s now I think been about eight months since I’ve joined Bureau Veritas, like you say, BV safety and sustainability for those. And BV sometimes isn’t well recognized in the US, but I can tell you that anyone listening at some part of their day, BVs been involved whether it be the food or water you drink, to the car you drive, the bridge you cross, the building you work, or school you study in. Maybe it’s an electronic vehicle that you’re driving. We really inspect, certify everything from food to, like I said, infrastructure, but we really are like kind of the quality control, the trust of the product for those who use it, so you’ve definitely have been around us whether you know it or not.

Sarah Nicastro: Yes. Thank you, Lou. And we recently had Maggie Laureano on and we put a link in that show note episode, I’ll do the same for this one of the kind of day in a life video that shows a lot of those different interactions with BV. And it really illustrates your point of, you may not know the brand by name, but you’ve inevitably come across pieces of infrastructure that have been touched by BV.

Lou DeLoreto: And I’d say like in the North America space, roughly about 6,000 plus employees and 150 locations of labs and buildings around US and Canada, that’s kind of where we’re positioned.

Sarah Nicastro: Okay, cool. All right, so Lou, my first question is really just, if you can comment on the topic of sustainability and the desire to move toward a more sustainable future. In your words, why is this so critically important to have top of mind right now?

Lou DeLoreto: Yeah, I think, we think a lot about that and I say that I think it’s always been critical, but you can’t find a news outlet or something on social media, that’s not talking about some major climate event. Whether it’s the fires happening in the west, what Ida just did to the south and up to the Northeast. Whether you’re choosing not to listen about the impact of climate or maybe some worry denial, it’s real and present. And I think that’s where you see a lot of, I would say even organizations, regardless of policy, really taking on some environmental stewardship, recognizing that it’s going to take all levers to try to get around this thing, but really not only find out what their impact on their businesses to the environment, but how can they use their businesses to make it even better. I think it’s just really eye opening what’s happening around the world. And I think you’re seeing a lot more, I’d say leadership in the space and I think that’s extremely critical for us to make some improvements.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. I think that’s a good point. It kind of feels to me like, particularly in North America, we’re reaching a tipping point here where companies have an option to do some of what we’re going to talk about today, that BV has done and sort of lead the charge in this area or quickly be forced into doing so, right? And so just like most business change, the more you can be proactive instead of reactive, the better off you’re going to be. But there’s a lot of new legislation coming along, new regulations being passed that companies are going to be forced to comply with. And so whether your catalyst is altruistic or just business focused, it’s an important topic to sort of educate and do some work on.

Lou DeLoreto: You know what I’m seeing, so obviously you’re also seeing financial institutions. If you want backing and support, they’re expecting you to be mature or at least have a plan to be mature in this space around sustainability, as well as like attracting and retaining employees, so employees just it isn’t all about just the paycheck anymore. They also want to be part of something bigger, so the more that you have some strategy around making the planet or making people better from when they came to you to your company and went back home, like people are starting to expect that, so it’s even beyond the environment, you know? And I think that’s important.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. Those are really, really good points and different areas of consideration around this topic. Lou, can you talk a little bit about the role you feel or not, do you feel like COVID has had an impact on the way companies perceive this topic and are taking action?

Lou DeLoreto: Yeah, I think COVID had a couple of, I’d say important aspects on how companies not only saw how they can support clients but also what COVID did is really made companies think about how they can operate during a pandemic, right? For us, I can give examples, we’re an important say part of a supply chain, so if you have a big project you need do, or you want your fuel, or if you need your food certified so you can go sell it, we had to be there. And so we found ways on how we could keep our labs operating, how we could leverage drones for example, or even halos for lenses, but really kind of be creative on how we could bring that same service during a pandemic while making sure we have health and safety of our employees. That was one aspect, right?

I’d say the other thing is, are there other ways we can help our customers during a pandemic? And one example would be like the restart of the business, so we did a lot of audits and inspections of building spaces to make sure they could reopen refaced or even have the right checklist or things in place, so if people were at work they had the same protocols, masking, distancing, hygiene, all those things. We did two things, we said, okay, how can we continue to provide the same service so that clients need it. How can we also help them to keep their services? And then lastly, I’d say it also gave us a look at how much is there a nice to have versus a real necessity?

And so for an example, we had a lot of virtual work, do we need 60,000 square feet in this building anymore? When a lot of what we could do is maybe virtual. How much is true essential travel? The idea of like a carbon footprint, it also made us reflect a little bit on, okay, so what could the future look like where we reduce the impact of carbon to the environment based on the way we work. We’re seeing opportunities there, so I think there’s lots of areas where it did actually impact us.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. I agree. We had a podcast published recently with Dr. Andreas Schroeder of the Advanced Services Group at Aston business school. And we were talking about how specifically servitization, but even just services and sustainability are inextricably linked, and his point was there is just so much that is really good business that improves sustainability. And there’s so many opportunities for sustainability in business, right? He is kind of talking about whatever your lens is in looking at this topic, there’s business benefits to becoming more sustainable and there’s business opportunities in sustainability, right? You can look at those things a bunch of different ways, but I agree that COVID was a big reflection point in a lot of those areas of, okay, wait a minute. And then there was some points where I read some different research on how it impacted the environment.

And I think that made people think about, to your point, is all of this necessary or are there things we could be doing that would have a big benefit that we just… You get caught in the status quo and that shook things up enough, I think for people to reflect and think about that a bit more. Lou, I want to talk about two different areas here next. I want to talk about how Bureau Veritas in some of the ways that you’re enabling your customers to become more sustainable. And then I also want to talk about how you as an organization are focusing on your own sustainability as well. To start, can you talk a little bit about some of the efforts and options that BV is offering to its customers to improve their sustainability?

Lou DeLoreto: Yeah. It’s interesting, and I look at it in both of those areas, so when we look at how BV looked internal for sustainability, as well as external, what we found is a lot of the things we were already doing before ESG or CSR was kind of a thing. We were always doing stuff on it. What this allowed us to do is kind of get more strategic around it, get it under one sort of packaged umbrella, but we had a lot of offerings, so we call them our green line of services, okay. We kind of have like four pillars. We work in sort of the consumption and traceability space, so that’s like supply chain resilience, the food, everything that you’re using or… Is it traceable and what’s the sourcing and making sure that we’ve got that aspect for customers.

We also do obviously the building and infrastructure. We’ll do the green building certs, we’ll make sure we project manage good life cycle of all of those projects to make sure from conception design, to final install, all those are meeting that expectation and really all those aspects of infrastructure that would be for renewable energies, we have a piece of that. Third is new mobility, so I think 25% of the carbons really around air travel, vehicles, all those things, so we actually try to work with clients on a variety of technologies, mixing fuels. Bless you. To see if there’s alternative ways that we can do that travel more efficiently. In fact, I think we’re one of the only companies that have conceptually put the whole life cycle of electronic vehicles from design to install, to even govern it’s inspections, to make sure they’re always doing it.

And so that’s kind of a new offering we just came out with on mobility. And then lastly, it’s just like the resources and production, which is really around the renewable space. We just acquired and bought to the BV family, Bradley Construction. And they’re really heavily in the solar and wind space. I think they’ve got over 50 projects that they’ve been a part of. And that’s like probably like the fourth pillar that we are in, so the renewable piece. But long list of renewable, I would say, our green line service are really helping other clients achieve their sustainable goals too, which is exciting.

Sarah Nicastro: Okay, so let me ask you this. You mentioned that BV has really been doing these things for quite a long time, but the focus on these initiatives has allowed you to sort of become more strategic, categorize things differently. How long would you say the green line of services has existed? Even if it wasn’t referred to as that?

Lou DeLoreto: Hard for me to exactly say, but I know some of the industries I spoke about is who BV was born on like in Marine & Offshore, so thinking about how they can be more efficient and optimized, that travel has always been there so like conceptually, I feel like there was always pieces of sustainability in BV strategy. I can’t give you a year, but I know it’s kind of, if you think about Veritas is the pursuit of truth, right? We’ve always been trying to help clients do the right thing and confirm they’re doing the right thing. And sustainability’s been just part of that, so I think it’s really conceptually, always a piece. I just think the pieces are getting a lot bigger in our offerings going forward.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. That makes sense. Would you think it’s fair to say, like has there been an increase in interest specifically around those sustainability services? Like of customers looking at it from the lens of sustainability, so their desire to expand their initiatives?

Lou DeLoreto: Yeah. One of the things, so we’ve got a platform we talk about as Clarity. We do a lot of certification, so training certification, and buildings, and everything, and people, so we’re getting a lot of interest of us leveraging our platform to come into a company and help baseline where they think they are in sustainability, so it pulls in, you can help decide what’s important to you in the whole CSR or ESG space. We come and help you walk through where you are in that journey and then work with you on the pace for which you want to get to somewhere different, so we’ve seen a lot more interest in that, because I think you can define CSG so many different ways. We help you define what it makes more value add for the company yourself.

And I see that’s come a long way as well as just infrastructure, right? Even as we’re getting a lot more project-based work that’s in that area to make sure that obviously the quality, the control, and even the sustainability targets they have in those projects are met, so those are probably two big ones I’m seeing. 

Sarah Nicastro: Now, if you consult with a client who has this interest in improving their own efforts, do you provide guidance on the best ways to do that? Or do you just help them execute the plan that they’ve set?

Lou DeLoreto: No, I think the product and the service is just that, so I think it tells you where you are.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Lou DeLoreto: And I think it then it gives you some BDPs practices that we know from other clients.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Lou DeLoreto: And then we just work realistic to a timeline and investment that, that client’s interested in, right?

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah.

Lou DeLoreto: It’s collaborative.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. And I think it’s interesting that you say that’s an area that there’s a lot more interest in. We are recording a podcast with Tetra Pak and they’re kind of seeing the same type of thing, and having organizations that they work with in their services division, looking for more assistance on what are the right targets? What is the right path to get there? How should we measure our success? And it’s just interesting to me that some of the companies like Tetra Pak or BV that have maybe then more of a leader in this area are in a really good position to leverage that expertise and experience to help others on this path. Okay, cool. All right. Lou, let’s talk a little bit then about how BV itself is transforming in the area of sustainability, so maybe if you can talk a little bit about what are the goals, what are the focus areas, that sort of thing?

Lou DeLoreto: And I’d say like, this is the same kind of thing. When you start taking inventory of the things that you do in CSR, you find out, wait, we do train people. We do care about the environment, so the inventory was already there, but again, it allowed us to kind of really kind of package it, and be a little bit more strategic, and really get some KPIs around it. But so we go to market shaping a world of trust, right. And really building it for our customers, helping them, internally we call it shaping a better world, so CSR in BV is called Shaping a Better World, okay. And so we’re kind of playing on really what I think is important. And we look at three, I would say areas within sustainability. One is people of the workplace, and the middle is the environment and the climate, and last is business practices.

And so we’re kind of emphasizing initiatives in each one of those. In the workplace we talk about things, health and safety. We talk about diversity and gender, training and development, right? There’s a lot of whole people play in the work place. The environment is really about impact on the climate, our carbon per employee. And then business practices is not only do our own business practice, but our suppliers. So we kind of make sure of ethics and those things are important. When it comes to like goals and KPIs. There’s 17 sustainable development goals that are recognized around the world. We’ve started with five that we think we can make a good impact fast. And who knows if it doesn’t turn into all 17, but those five all live in those three pillars, so we are looking at equal pay and diversity, health and safety, economic growth and development, climate action is the middle.

And then the last one again is like business practices. And all those drive KPIs, right? We want to reduce our injury rates by 2025, by 50%. We want to get women in leadership positions, equal pay to a percentage, so we’ve got KPIs lined up for each one of those. Climate, we want to reduce our carbon footprint per employee all around the world, so we’ve got like different KPIs that we’ve set up ourselves up to 2025, and then we’ll probably push again thereafter. And then when it comes to like management’s engagement, like other things CSR is kind of a pay for performance, so their engagement and I’d say influence of those KPIs that I just mentioned are really built into sort of the objectives that we’re all held accountable for.

Sarah Nicastro: Okay, so apologies if this is a silly question, but the 17 metrics that you mentioned of which BV has picked five to focus on, are those BV metrics that you could choose from, or you’re talking about like a global standard?

Lou DeLoreto: Okay, so the five SDGs are global standard. What we do is we assess BVs maturity of each one of those five, okay. And they’re not really KPI driven, it’s just a maturity path. Here is you’re doing everything, what percentage of you do you still need to do? That’s a separate, like how does BV perform against other companies in those, and everyone has the same kind of self-assessment, so that’s one get out of those five SDGs that are around the world. Inside that we develop BV KPIs, so it’s kind of more of a target based KPI than really just the maturity of that whole development area, so we might have, 95% completion in health and safety because we’ve been doing it forever, right. But we still want to reduce our actions by this, here’s the KPI. They’re kind of two separate focuses for us, keep maturing in those five but also give yourself some agreeable targets as a KPI. Does that make sense?

Sarah Nicastro: It does. Yes. And I think there’s a couple things that I think are just important enough to touch on, right? One is this idea that when BV decided to sort of formalize this focus and you know put some different structure and terminology around it, you realized that there was quite a bit you were already doing, but it also then brought clarity to the areas that you did need to focus more on, right. And so I think that if I’m just thinking about how to derive some of what you’re saying into actionable insight for folks that are listening. The first thing is if you don’t have some formality around this within the business, that’s where you need to sort of start. You always hear if it’s not measured, it’s not going to change, right?

It’s sort of this idea that, if this is going to be an important focus, then it needs to have its own structure, its own strategy, its own measurement, et cetera. Which leads me then to the second point, which is you saying that you have the key areas of focus, but if I’m understanding you correctly, the individual KPIs within each of those categories can change related to where you have made progress and have achieved the target level of performance and what areas still need to be improved upon. Is that correct?

Lou DeLoreto: That’s exactly right. And it allows us to kind of lean in and try to drive a little bit more, I would say, tactical improvements.

Sarah Nicastro: Right.

Lou DeLoreto: And really kind of push us.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. And that’s what I was hoping you could maybe talk a little bit more about, is just this idea of the role accountability plays in all of this because CSR and sustainability, I mean they are buzzwords, right. And there’s a lot of things in business today, we have a great company culture and our employee experience is awesome. And there’s all these things that people know they should say, but there’s a difference obviously between saying it and doing it. And I think particularly related to things that are very measurable, like a lot of the KPIs that you’re giving as examples. This idea of measurement and accountability is super important, so can you talk a little bit about that?

Lou DeLoreto: Yeah. I think there’s two important things. I think when you talk about sustainability, although like I’m probably the facilitator and lead, you’re not successful in sustainability unless everyone owns it, right. No matter what role you are in the organization, you do have to support sustainability activities for BV to be successful and for us to truly make an impact, right. That’s one thing, and I think the way I integrate that into all of the different roles throughout the organization is really important. And I think that’s still a maturity path, right? For every individual to wake up and say, oh, CSR is part of what I do takes some time, right. It’s kind of new script, so that’s got a maturity path to go to. In terms of, I would say accountability or like even I think is like more importantly, if a company says it’s important to them, how are they really showing it by action?

And an example I could say is, one of the things that we’re trying to increase is participation in citizenship and volunteering, right. And we had pockets of people doing it just because it’s the right thing to do with no real BV sanctioned program, so we recognized that through our self-assessment and through not really knowing the participation rates of volunteering. We came out with this year that we support eight hours for every individual, as a proved PTO to go help someone or something, right. And that was a huge demonstration by leadership to say, we are really supporting sustainability and here’s one exact way, right? In fact, this month around the world, all of BV is Shaping a Better World month, so we have people all over the world doing what they can themselves or in teams in volunteering, right. And so that’s pretty cool. I think that’s an important part too, is not only just saying it’s important, but like what are you putting yourself out there that shows you really are driving it and really important to it? I think those are two important parts.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. I like that point too because, so we have that as well at IFS, we have a CSR day and what I like about that is there are KPIs and metrics, which are going to be driven by process change, and technology change, and operational things. But you need or should balance that with how to get your people personally invested in making a difference as well. You can have the goal to reduce fuel consumption or whatever those things are that are more operational. But I like the idea of also considering how do we bring each individual, that’s a part of this company into this mission and how do we… I mean, to your point, some people are going to do it just because it’s already a part of their life, but for those that don’t already, that’s a great way to get them involved.

Lou DeLoreto: Yeah. I think leveraging your resources, and finances, and your business processes to make impact, but more important leveraging your employee resources to give back is huge, so I think that, that participation level is really important to us and we want to see that really increase.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah.

Lou, if there’s someone listening who let’s say is lagging a bit in making this a real focus in the business. Like we talked about with some real structure around it, with some real strategy around it, with some real accountability around it, what is sort of your best overarching advice?

Lou DeLoreto: I think there’s a few things, its workshop driven. It’s really kind of… Well, first you could hire BV to help you to get the sense of where you are, but it’s like who are you as a brand? How do you see or define CSR today? Where are you on that maturity path? It’s really just taking stock of looking inside your walls, and learning about your company, and what your impact is on the environment to people, to the CSR sort of like structures, but it’s like really doing the self-work of learning what you do, and what’s important to you. I think, like not giving yourself the space and time to really kind of think that through and jot down that inventory is really important, that’s one thing.

There are experts out there like us and others that can help facilitate the discussion, make you ask the right questions, there’s tons of tools. We’ve pulled in experts globally. We’ve got kind of a board of exports that help us sort this out. We meet quarterly, but really it’s kind of a dynamic process. We’re always kind of learning more and there’s not one size fits all. But I think it’s giving yourself that time and space to understand, what does it mean? What do you do? What does it mean to you? And where do you want to go with it, right? I’d say the last thing is just start, like waiting to make it perfect is just a loss of time, so just start getting engaged, picking a few things that are in CSR is really important.

Because you can lose months and years if you want to try to make it perfect. And we’ve already recognized, even our first start is, let’s expand on this and we’ve got now OGs, which are regions around the world, they’re adding their own different goals, so they’re even like the foundations there globally, but their own country or culture thinks this is also important and they’re roping more things in, so it’s not perfect. Start somewhere and ask the experts, they’re out there.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, that makes sense. I think too, just thinking through when you’re in that sort of thinking process. Thinking about the different drivers for this, right? It is, what difference do we want to make? What type of initiatives and efforts do we want our business and our brand to be associated with? But it also is, what opportunity is in this to provide different green services to our customers. And then also what is the customer demand? Depending on the market you serve, people are becoming more and more invested in our future and they’re going to demand better from their service providers, and their vendors, and their manufacturers, so it’s important to consider that as well.

Lou DeLoreto: Yeah, that’s a good point. I think like even asking your clients where they are and what’s important to them.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Lou DeLoreto: Helps you mirror sometimes what you might be missing, so having that dialogue with vendors, suppliers, and clients start finding it for you as well.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. Or if you’re… Again, really just getting started with this initiative, it may give you some really good insight on where to start. What are the biggest areas of impact, and start there and like you said, you can’t do it all at once. It’s not going to be perfect.

Lou DeLoreto: Yeah.

Sarah Nicastro: So figure out what’s most important to your customers and start with those things and then go from there. Lou, I also wanted to ask, what do you think are going to be some of the biggest trends or topics related to sustainability that we’ll see over the next 12 or 18 months?

Lou DeLoreto: Well, I do think it’s in the way of infrastructure, so we’re kind of seeing some of that push through some of the policy changes. And I think you’re going to see a lot more investment in some of those sort of infrastructure, climate driven project work, for sure. I think, we’re already seeing a lot of that happen and people sort of looking at that opportunity to see how we can support our clients with that project work. I do see it in some of the mobility piece, so you’re going to get a little bit more, I’d say recognition around electric vehicles, and stations, and those pieces. But the last piece is I think you’re going to still get a lot more transparency around how to measure different companies on sustainability. Make sure they’re not green washing, that they’re really kind of doing what they say they do and not trying to find shortcuts, so I think you’ll find more ways where you can normalize and configure control. How someone’s good at it and they can prove it. I think those are probably three areas we see coming.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. That’s really interesting. I hadn’t really thought about that from a consumer, or even a business consumer, consumer of services perspective. Being able to investigate the transparency and the efforts that each company is doing. Cool.

Lou DeLoreto: I mean, we have about six or eight non-financial agencies that come and look at our work-

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Lou DeLoreto: So that we can make statements and be comfortable and transparent about it, so I think you’re going to see a lot more of that you’re going to need to be kind of accredited-

Sarah Nicastro: Right.

Lou DeLoreto: About the lofty goals, KPIs, and maturity path you’re taking.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, no, that’s good. Any other comments? Words of wisdom? Closing thoughts?

Lou DeLoreto: No, the construction work wasn’t so bad back there, so that was okay. I didn’t hear much.

Sarah Nicastro: Okay, good. Well, you did have to say the dreaded you’re on mute once, so apologies for that. I was trying to be fast enough.

Lou DeLoreto: No worries.

Sarah Nicastro: I think the mute helped, but I’m glad it wasn’t too disruptive.

Lou DeLoreto: No, I appreciate the time. Listen, we’re very passionate about the topic and we’re doing some great things, so it was great to have the opportunity to share with you and listeners.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. Well, thank you for being here. And BV does a really good job on social media, sharing some of its sustainability initiatives, safety initiatives, diversity and inclusion initiatives, so well worth a follow and checking out some of the things that are going on. Lou, thanks again for being here. I really appreciate it.

Lou DeLoreto: Great.

Sarah Nicastro: You can find more by visiting us at futureoffieldservice.com. You can also find us on LinkedIn as well as Twitter @TheFutureOfFS. The Future of Field Service is published in partnership with IFS, you can learn more at ifs.com. As always thank you for listening.