You need friends when times are tough

Barbara JeanPress Release, UncategorizedLeave a Comment

Dear Suppliers,

Times are tough, now that the COVID-19 crisis is still going around in our global markets,
changing the way in which we do business fundamentally. Our first priority at the outbreak,
was the safety of our staff, their families and of those external to the company that are making
efforts to continue the operations of Axcentive. With the help of many, Axcentive can now report
that the service to our customers remained all along the lockdown at the same high level as
usual. This is largely thanks to the flexibility shown by our employees, who were asked to operate
from home, where conditions are inevitably less professional than at work. Our suppliers have
shown to be essential partners and their much appreciated unconditional support underlines
the respect and friendship that we feel for each other.

At the current stage of development of the crisis, we resume normal operations progressively
and where possible. This allows to focus on our supplier evaluation 2019. Questionnaires were
sent out shortly before COVID-19 came to Europe but at a time that Asia and particularly China
was already severely hit. We are very satisfied with the level of responses we got. Axcentive
already included the pandemic topic and how our suppliers deal with it. More about the
outcome below.

2019 CSR Questionnaires
All invited suppliers (24) have provided the requested information which in itself is an excellent
sign. We conclude from this that by now partners are aware of the importance of CSR. This is an
important step forward. Only 2 years ago some companies declined answering on CSR related
questions.

Actions taken by the respondents can be divided in two groups. First, those that cover general
business optimisation projects which also have a positive effect on CSR related matters.
It is true that changes related to Corporate Social Responsibility often have a positive effect on
other company key indicators. Environmental measures typically mean raw materials are being
used more efficiently (savings). Labour and Health measures, typically means happier, more
motivated employees, with production quality going up and absenteeism going down.
Some concrete improvements realised: One supplier purchased a new fleet of low emission
trucks, an Asian producer realised an investment in a gas scrubbing tower significantly reducing
gas emissions; others reduced waste by recycling. An important Asian supplier improved working
conditions in one of its offices by painting the walls and improving (LED) lighting. The same
company improved IT password management.

Some of these measures seem small, but their impact may be significant. Great things are not
done by impulse but by a series of small things brought together (Vincent van Gogh)

The second approach is taking measures with the sole objective of acting socially responsibly even if in financial terms, there is no short term justification
Some concrete examples here: An important supplier made its administration offices energy neutral by a.o. solar panels. The same company created the position of Chief Information Security Officer (CISO). A supplier decided using only FSC wood and biodegradable plastics in their packaging material. One of our Asian suppliers decided overtime work to become a voluntary choice and increased overtime salary. Yet another supplier from Asia introduced a Code of Conduct on Business Ethics and included CSR in their supplier evaluation procedures. A whistle-blower program was introduced with one of our transporters. Sponsoring local communities was mentioned, for example funding education to less favoured children.

All respondents provided information on specific COVID-19 consequences and measures, such as training for employees and visitors, protective measures and equipment, different planning procedures allowing work organisation at distance, home office, flexible hours, etc. but also some delays in the achievement of ‘other’ CSR milestones such as business ethics or environment. No matter where, our stake holders have shown to care.

During these special times and certainly while in lockdown, stake holders realised that profit for a company is one thing, necessary of course to exist, but there are other objectives worth working on. These are related to respect and care for fellow stake holders and appreciation of the environment as a whole. COVID-19 has initiated discussions on a ‘greener’ way of doing business after lockdown with people being prepared to change their habits. The low-cost attitude is being questioned.
All-in-all, Corporate Social Responsibility as a guiding principle seems to have emerged stronger from this sanitary crisis.

The upcoming 2020 supplier evaluation will highlight Corporate Social Responsibility even more. Despite the ongoing crisis we are acting for example on the following:
• 5 Supplier audits, focussed on CSR. This will include all CSR aspects such as environmental, labour and health and business conduct. These audits, by videoconference, will provide additional input to information already provided in questionnaires, but also allow us to explain in more detail why CSR is important for Axcentive and our ambition to enable our suppliers to progress in along with Axcentive, for their own sake and that of all stakeholders.
• A complete report summarising our findings from the above and from earlier years with numerous examples of improvements realised by our partners, including (anonymous) data. This report will be made available to all stakeholders who are interested.

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