As you have probably noticed, the Group often emphasizes its commitment as a socially responsible, and civic-minded company. The Covid-19 crisis has provided the Group with an excellent opportunity to prove, particularly to the outside world, that this commitment is a genuine one. Last April, at the height of the crisis, the Group unveiled its solidarity plan and set aside an exceptional budget of 1.5 million euros. Together with Jean-Jacques Bourdeau, Head of Communications and CSR activities at HPAD, and Loraine Zingari, Coordinator of relations with host communities in the Group’s Public Affairs department, we would like to explain today how this funding is already being put to use.
How was the amount of this allocation arrived at?
Loraine Zingari: At the end of March, we contacted our various CSR contacts in order to determine the scope of possible actions at their sites. It was crucial to ensure that this aid was on the right scale: we have been working for several years to develop a long-term partnership relationship with local communities, and it was very important to provide assistance at this time of crisis. In conjunction with Victoria Provenzano (Social Commitment and Civil Society Relations Officer in Public Affairs), we also identified suitable major institutional partners to whom the Group could make donations, such as the "Tous Unis contre le Virus" campaign and the Red Cross. On the basis of these various criteria, the Executive Committee determined the level of the Group's funding envelope.
Jean-Jacques Bourdeau: We were keen to ensure that this funding was properly distributed, and we approached all the Group's entities to explain the terms and conditions of the Solidarity Plan to them. The funds are allocated on the basis of turnover but also depending on the situation of the regions and the usefulness of the actions that are to be carried out. A majority of sites had already launched solidarity initiatives and the Group provided support and backing for these initiatives.
How does it work?
J-J.B.: For the zone “France, Spain and England” which I am overseeing under this plan, our aim is to support people and organizations who are working directly on the ground. In France in particular, the focus is on health care professionals - general practitioners, nurses - but also hospitals and research laboratories, all of which are on the front line in the fight against Covid-19. In April, many people were unable to obtain protective health equipment and appealed to us for help. Likewise, town halls, fire stations and retirement homes approached us.
All these initiatives are in line with Eramet's overall strategy of commitment to and involvement in local communities. Many of these local parties turned to us of their own accord, via plant management, employees or the Aubert & Duval Foundation. This shows the importance and reality of this involvement in communities.
L.Z.: In other parts of the world, there were of course donations in kind (masks, hand sanitizer, scrubs, etc.) but also logistical, human and financial support to local partners. Comilog and Setrag, for example, worked very early on with local and national radio stations to set up awareness campaigns about barrier gestures. Like SLN and GCO, they have made large food donations to families that have been most affected by lockdown or curfew measures. Eramine provided the village next to its site with an ambulance to allow emergency medical evacuation to the nearest hospital, more than 60 kilometers away. In China, the two Aubert & Duval and Erasteel sites in Tianjin and Wuxi have been distributing masks to employees’ families on a weekly basis, including during the shortage at the beginning of the crisis. These sites had often already been approached by people on the ground before the funding was established and, as Jean-Jacques said, we supported these initiatives. But in the case of some sites, such as in the United States or Norway, the Group's assistance helped to trigger a sense of solidarity and brought the plant closer to the local community so that it could make a contribution locally.
In practical terms, once a need has been identified, how do you go about meeting it?
J-J.B.: The idea is really to urgently provide protective health equipment – gloves, masks, visors, scrubs, wipes, hand sanitizers, etc. – to limit the spread of the virus and protect vulnerable populations. To do this, we have the strength of an entire Group and its logistics capabilities behind us. We are working with the teams led by Julien Therme, Head of the French Purchasing Hub, to source products and suppliers, and ship them to the entities that have asked us to do so (find out more about the Group’s procurement efforts during the Covid-19 crisis).
We also looked at the synergies that could be created between the Group's various sites in terms of purchasing and organization: Sandouville and Eramet Ideas, for example, were able to make their own hand sanitizer. They supplied hundreds of liters to Dunkirk and Les Ancizes, for example. In Pamiers, the 3D printer was used to make visors for the staff at local retirement homes. It’s a collective effort that also highlights the flexibility of our teams, who are capable, in record time, of rethinking the way they work, collaborate and share!
L.Z.: Internationally, it is our CSR representatives who have been hard at work, doing remarkable work with their teams in often difficult conditions, as they are themselves in lockdown or extremely limited in their movements. For example, Patricia Amvene, Director of Communications and Sustainable Development at Setrag, coordinated the Solirail operation, a railway convoy carrying food products, health kits and hand-washing stations to stations along the Transgabonais railway. At Comilog, André Massard, Director of Communications and CSR, worked tirelessly to enable the installation of hand-washing facilities in Moanda, the donation of equipment to the Gabonese government and the presence of an international medical team at the hospital in Franceville. At GCO, Daour Dieng worked with two leading NGOs in Senegal to provide on-the-ground support for GCO's support to communities. Ricardo Rodriguez at Eramine has shown tremendous inventiveness to maintain a close link with local communities during lockdown.
J-J.B.: We adjust our funding as closely as possible to the actual situation on the ground and to needs thanks to ongoing contact with our various stakeholders. For example, we were able to support the reopening of the town hall in Saint Georges de Mons (the town in the Puy de Dôme where UKAD and EcoTitanium are both located) by providing them, in less than 24 hours, with the plexiglas that was essential for the reopening of their reception counters. A great example of responsiveness!
The solidarity plan is also backed by part of the Group's CSR budget - approximately 8.5 million euros - which has been earmarked for measures to combat Covid-19. How will this funding be used?
L.Z.: Many of the Group's sites have annual budgets devoted to investment in the community, totaling more than 10 million euros per year on average. This year, action plans were affected by the crisis: some activities were canceled or delayed due to containment measures, and others appear to be of lower priority in the current environment. This means that funds can be reallocated to finance solidarity measures related to the effects of the pandemic. Conversely, some initiatives provided for in the 2020 budgets make sense in the context of the crisis and need to be maintained or even stepped up. This is obviously the case for health activities such as support for the running of the Samu Social (a humanitarian emergency service) in Moanda or donations of medicines to the dispensaries in the districts where GCO operates. But it is also the case when it comes to supporting local activities that generate employment and earnings, which are currently of vital importance. Examples include the construction of a small paving stone production plant near Moanda in Gabon or support for the community mutual society that works with small farmers in the municipalities where GCO has operations.