For two decades, the non-profit group Orée has been helping businesses to find smarter ways to make a positive difference.

Every company has its own areas of expertise. Unfortunately, this usually isn't ecology. Their intentions are often good: businesses do want to take positive actions. But they also need to stay focused on growth. So the trick is finding the means to optimise growth and profits in the most responsible way possible. This is where organisations like Orée come in.


Orée: A 20-year non-profit group


Founded in 1992, Orée is a French-based non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting environmental best practices in business. It achieves this by collaborating closely with all types of key industry players, from private companies, local authorities and institutions to academic organisations and other non-profit groups.


Since its creation, Orée has been developing concrete and practical tools to help businesses integrate meaningful environmental initiatives into their ongoing strategies and operations. The group functions via a network of dedicated members who are on a constant mission to better understand how growth impacts the environment and who are determined to reduce environmental disparity, which they consider a major stumbling block to social equality. More specifically, Orée has built its activity around what it considers to be seven of the most urgent priorities in business today. These include "Business and biodiversity", "Eco-design of products and services", "Environmental expertise", "Industrial and territorial ecology", "Environmental labelling and reporting", "Environmental risks" and "Environment and public health".


Though Orée is a French organisation, it is increasingly active abroad as well. "Environmental responsibility can never be a strictly local affair. Good ideas shouldn't have boundaries," explains Ghislaine Hierso, President of Orée and Vice-President to the Executive Vice-President for Public Entities and European Affairs of Veolia Environnement. "Over the past few years, Orée has been welcoming members from various countries, including Switzerland, Belgium and Morocco. In order to be better known at a global level and to encourage a wider debate, we strive to constantly develop more far-reaching tools". Of course,  communication must follow too. Hierso continues, "After recently introducing an English version of our website, we quickly followed up with a Spanish one as well. Additionally, Orée participates actively in leading conferences at both a European and an international level."


Of its seven core priorities, two of the most critical focuses for Orée have been, and will continue to be, "Business and biodiversity" and "Eco-design of products and services".


What is biodiversity and why does it matter?


Biodiversity refers to the delicate and important balance of diverse life forms on earth. A threat to this balance could have disastrous long-term effects on a vast range of environmental services that are crucial for business and more generally, for all human activities. These include: provisioning services like food, fresh water, raw materials, fibres or biochemicals; regulating services such as climate regulation, water flows and purification, waste treatment or pollination; and cultural services like beautiful landscapes or sources of inspiration. This is why Orée is determined to help organisations implement effective biodiversity actions in their strategies.


In 2005, following the Biodiversity and Governance conference at UNESCO and the publication of the Millennium Ecosystems Assessment, Orée teamed up with the French Institute of Biodiversity (IFB) to bring together businesses and scientists in a biodiversity-focused working group for the first time ever in France. Since then, this partnership has led to multiple important meetings across the globe, including most recently, the Global Platform for Business and Biodiversity in Tokyo in 2011 and the 11th Conference of the Parties (COP11) of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Hyderabad, India in 2012. Additionally, Orée has been instrumental in developing important biodiversity-related publications over the past few years, which cover business feedback, future-focused strategies, case studies, reporting standards and other essential key topics.


The importance of eco-design today


More and more businesses are recognising the need to reduce the environmental impact of their products and services throughout their lifecycle, from the extraction of raw materials to recycling and reuse. But, naturally, they need to achieve this without sacrificing quality or performance. They want the best of both worlds. Since 2006, through the working group "eco-design of products and services", Orée has brought together leading French experts and players to examine how to integrate eco-design into organisational strategies (for both businesses and local authorities).


This collective analysis has led to the creation of an internet platform, which targets any structure (companies or organisations), regardless of size and purpose, that wishes to commit to an eco-design approach or merely learn more about this subject. The first part aims to understand the approach through thematic articles, from beginners to advanced. A second part deals with the role played by every skill within a company, allowing people to identify their stakeholders, the required skills and resources, and the challenges and stakes associated with their function. The last part offers concrete experience of companies having operated an eco-design approach and understanding of their objectives. This interactive platform allows companies to gain valuable insight, to compare the impact of their various activities and to share their feedback and experiences with other members for free.


An active group with a very busy agenda


Orée is a significant voice in the national discourse concerning environmental protection. Among many key events on its busy schedule, it recently participated in the preparation of the National Biodiversity Strategy, it helped to monitor the "Grenelle de l'Environnement" in the national Agenda 21 Committee and it took part in the Sustainable Development and Environment Commission of the CNIS (National Council for Statistical Information).


Orée proposes working groups to its members, notably with regards to industrial, transportation and logistics ecology, as well as environmental risks. "This opens up a new chapter dedicated to territorial collectivities on our risk management platform," explains Nathalie Boyer, Managing Director. "We'll also continue proposing various events for anyone to take part in. For example, in early 2012, we'll be organising two 'BibliOrée', which are presentations of environment-focused literary works in the presence of their authors, and a conference on the EMAS (Eco Management and Audit Scheme) with the support of the French Ministry of Ecology. Of course, we'll also have our annual summit and various conferences. Every event in which we participate will be with and through our partners".


The year 2012 shows no signs of slowing down. Coming up, Orée will take part in the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development where one of the key themes will be the green economy. According to Ghislaine Hierso, Orée will focus on efficiency above all. "It's about imagining a new industrial and territorial ecosystem and a new economic model based on real efficiency - an economy that values quality above quantity," Hierso exclaims. "For example, it is absolutely essential to have clear information regarding energy used and protocols implemented in order to achieve minimal consumption. Also, the investment and development of renewable resources is one of our greatest potentials for enhancing our world". Additionally, Orée will participate in the World Water Forum in Marseille and the Convention on Biological Diversity in Hyderabad, as well as the ongoing debates of the climate convention following Durban.


Read more:

More information on business and biodiversity and industrial ecology:
United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development
Earth Summit 2012