CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY Q&A WITH DAWN STOCKELL, MARKETING DIRECTOR, VEKA PLC
November 22, 2021
Less than three years after launching its first corporate social responsibility (CSR) report, and VEKA has been short-listed for three awards which incorporate CSR. Marketing Director Dawn Stockell explains how the company ensured that its commitment to good work practices and sustainability remained resolute during the pandemic.
Given the stresses and strains of the last two years, would it just have been easier for VEKA to put CSR on the back burner for a while?
It’s true that we have had to remain firmly focused on protecting the welfare of our employees, suppliers, and customers and ensuring that we continue to be a reliable source of supply. And for many, yes, that would have meant CSR taking a back seat, but although we haven’t been able to achieve all the goals that we identified in our 2019 CSR report, we have still made progress. We don’t set out to win awards, but it’s nice to be recognised for our achievements.
You’re a G21 Award Finalist for COVID-19 Business Hero. What did VEKA do to be award worthy?
Whilst it’s nice to be recognised for an award, I must stress that it hasn’t been easy.
Like most of our industry, we had no choice but to close our doors during the first lockdown. But we knew it was the right thing to do.
During the closures, the effects of the pandemic resulted in the business failure of two important customers. This had a substantial impact, forcing us to review our ongoing demand and make some redundancies. Redundancies are one of the most difficult decisions a responsible business must make, and we recognise the consequences on affected employees. Our approach is always to be transparent and treat people with respect. Fortunately, we were able to reduce the number of redundancies from a potential 78 to 25 and we have hired over double the positions since.
Our strategic response to the pandemic protected the welfare of our customers, suppliers, and employees. We re-opened with a strong plan in place. Our management team were encouraged to ‘face the future with fearless optimism.’ With a newly earned respect for the need to be able to flex our strategy, our plans remained ambitious, but sustainable.
We ensured our staff returned to a safe and secure workplace. Alongside the material changes, such as PPE, signage, and sanitising stations, we also looked to safeguard the mental health of our employees, especially those on furlough or working from home for the first time.
VEKA also supplied material essential in the manufacture of the ‘Nightingale’ hospitals and helped to support 200 local families with food over Christmas. But what makes us most proud is that despite unprecedented demand, our approach has resulted in continued supply to our customers.
So, three awards for Corporate Social Responsibility. Why is CSR so important to VEKA?
Not only is CSR a key strategic objective for our business, but it also inspired our new positioning statement for 2021, ‘We Care | We Act’, which was developed here in the UK but will be used to shape the positioning statements of VEKA all over the world.
We launched our first corporate social responsibility (CSR) report, just weeks before the full impact of COVID-19 became apparent. As 2020 unfolded, the central role that CSR plays at VEKA became clearer than ever.
CSR remains a central part of our company strategy for the next 5 years. It is very important to us that the way we work – and the strong sense of ethics we apply – will continue to be a key reason why our customers and suppliers want to do business with us and why people choose to join our family.
This March we published our second CSR report despite dealing with the effects of the Pandemic. We wanted to remain transparent in how we tackled COVID-19, how we measure our impacts, and to be held accountable to our future goals
What does this mean for VEKA’s customers?
We pride ourselves on being a safe pair of hands and doing what we say we will. Although we have ambitious plans, our business is run in an ethical way, as we will never put the welfare of the business, our customers, suppliers, or people at risk. This is reflected in our new mission statement. ‘We care about our partners, our people & our environment.’
We know good people like to work with good people and we take our responsibility to the environment very seriously, as we know our customers do. By introducing more co-extrusion tools on our lines, for instance, we will increase our scope for using more recycled content in all our products, rather than just focus on one ‘eco’ range.
We are also continuing to reduce the amount of packaging for our products and deliveries, which not only is good for the environment, but saves our customers time and money too.
Did the pandemic change the way you do business?
During the pandemic we were forced to look at simplifying every area of our business, and many of these learnings will help to make the business more sustainable in the long run. For instance, we are continuing to address the way in which we use energy and water.
We have also forged a stronger relationship with our sister company VEKA Recycling. At times this year they have delivered five times the level of product that they were contracted to. With virgin material so hard to source, our lines may well have struggled without this strong partnership. Using recycled content is an important part of the sustainability agenda at VEKA but this year we’ve seen it go from being the right thing to do, to being a critical element of our overall performance. It’s gone mainstream. From next year we will be ordering 50% more recycled content than this year. As a result, we have averaged 99.4% OTIF on white extrusion, an exceptional figure given the shortages of resin.
What’s been your ‘takeaway’ from the pandemic?
Perhaps for VEKA, the key message we took from the pandemic was the importance of looking after each other and working together. As a business, there was only one way that we were going to come out of these exceptional times in a strong position, and that was with the understanding, support and dedication of our people, our customers and our partners.
So, when this year one customer described us as: “a shining light in dark times,” it meant an awful lot to the business.
VEKA Plc has made the shortlist for two G Awards: ‘COVID 19 Business Hero’ and ‘Best Sustainability Initiative’. They are also finalists in the ‘CSR’ and ‘Made in Lancashire’ categories in the Red Rose Awards. Both award evenings take place at the end of November.