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Opinion columns

A retrospective on environmental sustainability

Posted by Justine Tabarin |

I joined Criteo in May 2019. When I think about my job back then, it was completely different from what I’m doing today. I handled press relations, mainly for topics such as company values, well-being at work, and business ethics; Topics that are part of what we call Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) today, but we didn't use that definition then. Soon, my responsibilities shifted, and I started to put my focus on CSR. At first, it was about producing the annual CSR report - the legal and financial side of things - and developing the Criteo Cares program. I soon realized that we needed to synch all the initiatives and happenings related to CSR across the company, to coordinate and develop strategic guidelines. People were starting to come to me suggesting projects that interested them. One priority for the company back then was to be best in class in diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and make it a spearhead for our culture at Criteo. So, we needed to start launching concrete initiatives to back up the story we wanted to tell the world about the importance of DEI and help the Criteo Cares program grow. The employee resources groups (ERG) and their initiatives advocating for women at Criteo, the LGBTQ+ community, and the environment were at the core of the revamp of the Criteo Cares program I delivered to the leadership team in 2020. In other words, our focus on CSR and DEI was first fueled from the bottom up by our employees’ commitment. It is quite amazing to see how fast it has spread among the leadership team over the past years. Today, we have a dedicated team of experts and a budget to support the strong company positioning we have taken since then.  

One turning point was the murder of George Floyd and the backlash it had on US society and beyond. Megan, our CEO, is deeply passionate and involved in topics like Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and she therefore asked us to strengthen our commitment and define a real DEI strategy.  And this was a real turning point! Rachel Scheel joined Criteo as SVP DEI, bringing her expertise to Criteo and quickly assembling a team of experts who, under her leadership, created a solid roadmap! I got time to focus a bit more on an area we were still not tackling by that time: our environmental responsibility. Same story as DEI here. We had the initiatives carried out by our environmental community but no firm corporate positioning from the top down. The only part of Criteo dealing with environmental criteria in their roadmap was the infrastructure team; due to the nature of their work, they witnessed firsthand the consequences of our carbon footprint. Plus, on a more personal level, they were all aware and actively involved outside the company. It all evolved after we conducted our first greenhouse gas assessment for the scopes 1,2 and 3. If you want to reduce your carbon footprint, most of the time, you also reduce your costs, except of course if you want to keep consuming the same quantity but with a low-carbon quality, which is more expensive. Change comes with resetting priorities and revising long-lasting habits. To open our eyes, brainstorm, and seek the most relevant actions, we carried out workshops with many of our teams, mostly to raise awareness about best practices. We started with simple things like "When you organize an event, do you consider transportation?" - if it is possible to travel by train for instance." Most of the time, the approach followed a cost-reduction mindset from an economic and environmental perspective. As an outcome, we could extract some numbers and present them to the Management. Seeing the figures helped us realize the current situation and what needed to be done. From then onwards, we implemented new roadmaps and started to work on those topics with the teams; environmental sustainability became a corporate topic.  

50% of my current job now has to do with environmental issues. I am also supported by Yannick now who, as CSR & Sustainability Project Manager, brings a fresh eye and a lot of expertise to the table. And, only a few weeks ago, I presented to the strategic committee and leadership team our carbon reduction targets approved by SBTI. So, from nothing, it is safe to say that these issues have made their way through our leaders and employees to be considered the best in the class of our industry today. Among our teams, we notice that minds have been shifting over the past years. More people have grown aware and involved, and even those who seemed less concerned have come to see such expertise as an interesting aspect to enrich their existing skillset. Clients are asking us about these topics now and so what once looked like a business constraint has turned into a business asset. Of course, we still face many challenges, and we must remain vigilant and focus our efforts on the question of ownership, prioritization, and the maturity of our industry and business.  

  • Ownership: Sometimes, we fail to put the right resources and expertise in the right place for things to move further. This often requires a second try.  
  • Prioritization: Over the past years, environmental sustainability has grown and become one of the 7 most important priorities for us at Criteo. I am very proud of this and will continue to advocate for it, to ensure we keep moving in this direction. 
  • Maturity of the business and industry: It must be a joint effort! We cannot move forward alone as we rely on a bunch of stakeholders. If we want to reduce our carbon footprint, we must all leap together and move on from our old ways.  

So basically, the key is for everyone to take up this task and move forward together. The great news is that laws are developing quite fast, pushing companies to question their ways of doing things, take responsibility and ultimately transform their patterns into something more sustainable. In the end, everything is intertwined; DEI, CSR, governance, ethics, environment. If we push for a more equal society, we push for an eco-friendlier society as well. We tend to differentiate humans from the environment, but in the end, humans live in the environment. So, again; We're all in the same boat!

Justine Tabarin

Director Global Environmental Sustainability

The Future is Yours.

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