2019 Annual Integrated Report

Solvay pursues comprehensive initiatives and processes to cultivate and assess the engagement and well-being of its employees, including personal development, rewards and recognition, an inclusive culture, and work-life balance. The Group also considers that engagement is fostered by freedom of association and collective bargaining.

Employee engagement


Employee engagement is the level of commitment, passion, and loyalty a worker has toward his/her work and the company. The Group believes that engagement increases performance through higher productivity and employee retention. Five factors have an impact on employee engagement: pride, quality of work environment, overall satisfaction, motivation, and attachment to the company. Solvay also considers that engagement is fostered by fair labor practices and well-being at work.

Management approach

Employee engagement is measured through a worldwide annual survey measuring the engagement of Solvay’s employees and the factors leading to engagement. This enables the Group to identify strengths and areas where the working environment and employee experience can be improved. The survey results are assessed across various scopes – at the Group, Global Business Unit, Function, and site levels, as well as for each team manager with at least five respondents on his/her team. Across the Group, this represents a clear and intentional commitment by leaders and managers to improve engagement and support the well-being of their employees.

In 2019, Solvay decided to engage employees on the Purpose survey. The Solvay Employee Survey has not been launched this year. To define the Group’s purpose, the largest listening exercise in Solvay’s history took place. It involved 288 listening sessions convening 3,000 people, 75 hours of individual interviews, 13,000 completed surveys, 25 leadership dialogues, and 50% of survey responses from production sites.

For our Purpose

Well-being at work


Solvay follows the well-being definition of the International Labor Organization and the World Health Organization: well-being at work is a holistic concept which relates to all aspects of the quality of working life that ensure workers are safe, physically and mentally healthy, satisfied, engaged and efficient. It contributes to a culture of recognition and support, to work-life balance, to employees’ growth and development, and to good communication and collaboration.

In launching Purpose, Solvay stated well-being as one of its core beliefs, targeting a healthy organization.

The well-being indicator for Solvay’s workforce is measured via the yearly “Solvay Engagement Survey”. Four questions in the employee survey relate to perceived well-being at work. In 2019, Solvay did not conduct a “Solvay Engagement Survey” because it conducted another, related survey to collect employee’s ideas, called the Solvay Purpose.

Management approach

Within Solvay, a multidisciplinary Committee on Well-Being At Work (WBAW) has existed since October 2016. It includes occupational physicians and psychologists, Human Resources, Health, Safety, and Environment experts, and sustainable development experts, representing all regions. The aim of this Committee is to define and promote a well-being at work program.

The WBAW program 2017-2020 has five pillars:

  • executive Committee sponsorship: WBAW is a key priority for Solvay;
  • include Mental health as part of the Safety communication to Executive Committee (burn-out observatory);
  • provide toolboxes and initiate WBAW supportive network. On site, “Local support for WBAW” teams have been appointed (site HR, HSE, and medical professionals);
  • develop Group deployment on WBAW training:
  • training of Executive Committee and Leadership Council (70 senior leaders),
  • training of managers: 898 managers trained through November 2019, with excellent feedback from participants who appreciated the concrete actionable examples,
  • training of “Local support for WBAW”: few sessions held so far; needs to be promoted in 2020,
  • raise awareness of all Solvay employees via e-learning;
  • support our sites to define and implement action plans.

A full section of the Solvay Way framework, which Solvay entities use to perform annual self-assessments and define improvement plans, is dedicated to well-being, while the yearly Solvay Engagement survey explores employee perceptions of well-being at work. This encourages sites to develop local well-being programs and assess stress risks. Well-being is one of the management aspects examined during the annual visits organized with IndustriAll Global Union.

In 2019, 140 sites assessed their performance in deploying the well-being at work mandatory practice: 81 of them reached the level where risk assessment of the stress causes has been performed, an action plan discussed and implemented, and well-being at work training deployed with managers.

2019 key achievements

Burn-out observatory deployment

The burnout observatory allows us to identify the main risk factors in order to define preventive actions. So far, the main risk factors identified are related to workload, quality of the management (recognition, support), and organizational changes.

Since 2016, the Burn-out observatory has been progressively deployed via the medical network in EMEA (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal), North America (Mexico, some sites in the US), Latin America (Brazil, Chile), and APAC (China, India).

So far, it covers 77 Sites and 18,078 employees.

E-learning on WBAW for all employees

In June 2019, we posted an e-learning session on WBAW, available to all employees in 15 languages, in order to ensure a uniform understanding and provide guidance. 2,973 employees took the e-learning session. It will be promoted further in 2020.

China very active in WBAW-related actions

In 2019, China (with 2,600 employees) was very active in training on WBAW for managers (10 sessions) and employees, in stress assessments followed by actions at the team level, in building a network of “Local support on WBAW” (all Chinese sites), and in deploying a burn-out observatory (all Chinese sites).

Labor relations


of employees covered by collective agreement*

* Due to the Solvay Care collective Agreement with the global employee representative body, the Solvay Global Forum, which covers all employees.

Solvay believes that a trusting, constructive relationship with employees and their representatives forms the basis for fair labor practices. This relationship is built on the Group’s commitment to respect employees’ fundamental human rights and guarantee their social rights.

Management approach

Labor relations are managed at four levels: site, country, Europe, and Group.

Solvay Global Forum

In 2015, Solvay created a global employee representative body, the Solvay Global Forum, composed of eight employee representatives from the eight main countries where Solvay operates (United States, France, China, Brazil, Germany, Italy, India, and South Korea). This Forum meets with the Executive Committee once a year, in Brussels, during a one-week session. Video conferences are held quarterly, bringing together the Solvay Global Forum and the Group’s top management to comment on and discuss the quarterly results of the Group, and to keep everyone informed of the main new projects.

The main topics discussed in 2019 were the yearly negotiation of the Global Performance Sharing plan, which entitles each Group employee to a share of the Group’s EBITDA, and which also includes sustainability criteria (progress on the Solvay Way annual self-assessment).

European Works Council

Solvay and its European Works Council (EWC) have been in permanent dialogue for more than 20 years. In 2019, the EWC met on two occasions in a plenary session. The sustainable development EWC commission met on two occasions and the EWC Secretariat met 11 times with senior Group management, allowing these representative bodies to be part of Solvay’s evolution. Subject matters receiving particular attention were Mergers and Acquisitions (notably the divestment of the Polyamides activities); reorganization issues, including the simplification plan; developments in Group employment and working conditions; and strategy and sustainable development issues, such as the new strategy launched in November, a deeper dialog on the revision of the new code of business integrity, and the new sense of purpose. An agreement was signed to anticipate Brexit and maintain the UK’s representation within the EWC.

The main topics discussed with the Sustainable Development Commission of the European Works Council in 2019 included sustainable development topics, the health and safety plan, and digital transformation projects.

The IndustriALL Global Union Framework Agreement

On December 17, 2013, Solvay signed a Corporate Social and Environmental Agreement for the whole Group with IndustriALL Global Union. This Agreement is based on International Labor Organization standards and the principles of the United Nations Global Compact. It is a tangible expression of Solvay’s determination to ensure that basic labor rights and the Group’s social standards in the areas of Health, Safety, and Environmental protection are respected at all of its sites.

In February 2017, Solvay took that collaboration one step further by renewing its Global Framework Agreement with IndustriALL Global Union, reinforcing its commitment by adding new social projects, such as societal actions and the protection of mental safety in the workplace.

Every year, IndustriALL Global Union representatives meet Solvay employees to check on compliance in the field, with two assessment missions taking place at two different sites. One mission measures the results of the Group’s safety policy. The second examines the application of the agreement, which, in particular, formally covers the following health and safety aspects:

  • Ensuring good working conditions;
  • Managing risk as a daily concern;
  • Defining demanding internal policies and their strict application;
  • Improving safety performance and regular monitoring of both Solvay’s and contractors’ employees;
  • Ensuring healthy working conditions for all, regardless of the job they perform and its associated risks.

In 2019, the two assessment missions took place in Mexico and India. In India, the visit created an opportunity to build a dialog plateforme at the national level between management and employee representatives. IndustriAll Global Union paid particular attention to Solvay’s behavior-based employee safety approach and its potential limits.

To ensure all employees comply with the IndustriALL Global Union Agreement, it is integrated as an employee practice in the Solvay Way framework. In 2019, more than 99% of the sites have presented and explained to all employees the IndustriALL Agreement. 

Read the full text of the Agreement

Solvay Cares: minimum social coverage standard for all employees worldwide.

In February 2017 Solvay signed a Global agreement on a minimum level of welfare and healthcare protection for all Solvay Group employees worldwide.

Solvay Cares was fully deployed in 2019 and aims to provide four major benefits:

  1. Full income protection during parental leave, with 14 weeks for the mother and one week for the co-parent; and full income protection of one week during adoption;
  2. A minimum coverage of 75% of medical fees in the event of hospitalization or severe illness;
  3. Disability insurance in the event of lasting incapacity;
  4. Life insurance with coverage for the family or partner.
What has Solvay Cares changed for employees?

By April 1, 2019, Solvay Cares was offering the agreed minimum level of benefits worldwide. The statutory benefits are considered part of the Solvay Cares provisions. This explains why benefits provided in different countries may vary and may differ from the minimum benefits.

Countries listed below were already at or above the minimum level of benefits and did not require any action: Brazil, Canada, Chile, Hong Kong, Taiwan, New Zealand, Vietnam, and other countries with smaller headcount.

Countries listed below needed an upgrade to their parental benefits only: Colombia, France, Germany, United Kingdom, United States, Argentina, and other countries with smaller headcount.

Minimum notice periods regarding operational changes

Some of the collective bargaining agreements specify notice periods for consultation and negotiation. The Global Framework Agreement concluded between Solvay and IndustriALL Global Union includes a provision that employees and unions (where applicable) must be informed in advance of any restructuring plans. In some of the collective bargaining agreements, a notice period and provisions for consultation and negotiation may be required.

Employee Representation Indicator

Trade unions are present at a majority of Solvay sites around the world. Union membership is estimated at 20% in Europe, 25% in South America, 30% in North America, and 70% in Asia.