Agbar's Executive Chairman, Angel Simón, stressed in a master class given yesterday at the Association of Civil Engineers of Catalonia, in Barcelona, that the Group has evolved from infrastructure management to knowledge and applied innovation management. He likewise indicated that it carries out its activity in a sustainable, efficient manner with the circular economy as its maxim. “For us, this strategy involves the pillars of digitization, innovation, sustainability and the social aspect (DISS)”, he maintained.
Thus, during his talk, entitled “Knowledge and innovation as pillars of business transformation: the case of Agbar”, Angel Simón analyzed each of these pillars in detail, explaining, on the one hand, that “digitization represents the transformation of the business toward a new model based on digital technologies which allow data to be converted into information and this, in turn, into a vision which can generate new contributions and value”. In this respect, he referred to the DOL (Digital Operation Lab) project to manage big data and make them available, which is developed in Alicante.
He moreover referred to the value of innovation as a way of preparing for this continuous transformation, an innovation which covers all the aspects of the company and, especially, the development of new solutions and products. To achieve this, the company has different elements which pursue different results, for example incubation through support and cooperation with start-ups, capital investments to access new growth opportunities, partnerships with joint ventures, the acquisition of developed companies or the development of internal products. He highlighted water leak detection technology by satellite as a project that the company is currently developing, together with companies from the United States and Israel.
Likewise, in relation to sustainability, Angel Simón stated that the company has been committed to water and the environment over its 150 years of history and that "sustainable development is the driving force behind our activity and growth”. In this respect, he stressed that the Group has been a pioneer in calculating the water and carbon footprint. One example of this is the creation of EsAgua, a network managed by the Cetaqua technology centre and a pioneer in Spain among entities which strive to reduce their water footprint and are committed to sustainability.
As an example of the implementation of the circular economy, he mentioned a pioneering project to optimize the use of resources carried out by Aigües de Barcelona, the Town Council of Sant Feliu de Llobregat and other social actors from the municipality. Among many other measures, this initiative makes it possible to promote a circuit of reclaimed water for urban or industrial uses, and to take advantage of the biomass generated in the wooded area of Sant Feliu. “The applicability of the circular economy in the complete water cycle has a direct influence on the improvement of energy and waste management”, stated Angel Simón. Another example that he mentioned was the energy self-sufficiency project in Granada: “A plan designed to manage to cover 100% of the energy consumption of our facilities through self-generation and the recovery of 100% of the waste generated in the wastewater treatment plants, and to save in the annual water consumption of a city of 500,000 inhabitants”, he explained.
In relation to the social aspect, Angel Simón stated that “we have never cut off the water to anyone who cannot pay for it, because we have a policy of maximum protection of the groups at risk of social exclusion”. Our concern for the citizens, their welfare and the returns to society are crucial for Agbar. Thus, since 2012, some 16,400 families (more than 50,000 people) have benefited from the discounts to pay for water supply). This has represented, among other things, allocating over €5.7m to the Solidarity Fund to guarantee the right to water. “In order to continue to strengthen our social commitment, we are already giving the citizens a voice to involve them in this social dividend and we will to continue to make progress to establish social councils in the neighbourhoods”, maintained Angel Simón. He also referred to the figure of the Customer Counsel, a key for dialogue with clients through mediation and to introduce improvements in the customer service processes. “In 2016, 93% of the disputes were resolved through mediation, it being highlighted that in 74% of the cases the client received a wholly or partially favourable response”.
Angel Simón took advantage of the meeting to declare that Agbar works every day to attain the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) from the water vector in order to address the major challenges of the future which, he concluded, are centred on guaranteeing high-quality supply entailing reuse and an improvement of wastewater treatment infrastructures.