2020 made us proud to be Solvay
by Nicolas Boël, Chairman of the Board of Directors
Looking back at 2020, beyond the superlatives which have been widely used to describe an “unprecedented” year, I observed that the crisis brought about pressing challenges on three fronts, prompting our Group to pursue a threefold mission.
First, Solvay needed to continue operating, in the face of an overwhelming health and subsequent economic crisis, which were the most severe our Group had witnessed since World War II. Second, we wanted to generate cash to be able to face the crisis, keep implementing our G.R.O.W. strategy and continue our transformation. Third, in a context of global lockdown, with some 10,000 employees working from home, a sizable portion of our workforce on furlough and tremendous pressure on everybody, it was imperative that we maintain the bonds that unite us and define us as a company.
We all adapted, fast, with dedication and agility. The Board of Directors played its part, modernizing its ways of collaborating as a team. We increased the frequency of our meetings and made them more focused, more informative: our objective was to decrease the organization’s level of anxiety and stress by bonding more intensely, by exchanging more information and taking quick decisions. We concentrated on what was essential – and we have consequently reached in my opinion a very high level of trust and collaboration. We fulfilled our mandates with diligence, earnestly and constructively challenging the projects presented for our review – it was positive energy.
The same positive energy prevailed across the entire organization. And it paid off, as you saw in our financial results, which allowed Solvay to create value for its shareholders while at the same time protecting and rewarding its employees and investing for the future. Solvay is staying true to its dividend policy, even in these extraordinary circumstances. Our Group indeed proposed to maintain the 2020 dividend at €3.75 per share. On behalf of the Board of Directors, I want to express my sincere gratitude to the people of Solvay for outstanding results and for their unrivalled engagement through this multifaceted crisis.
“Solvay is a caring company, which sought to soften the consequences of the crisis for its employees and reward them for their exceptional efforts.”Nicolas Boël
Solvay is a caring company, which sought to soften the consequences of the crisis for its employees and reward them for their exceptional efforts. To support those who suffered the severest hardship, we have taken solidarity to a new level, building on Solvay’s roots and on our historical track record of responsible capitalism. The Solvay Solidarity Fund collected a total of €15 million from Solvay employees, from the Group’s leadership team who relinquished 15% of their salaries, from Board members and from shareholders. I extend once again my deepest gratitude to all. Together, we are alleviating the suffering of employees and their families; together, we are even saving lives in our communities, as we for instance activated the Fund to the benefit of the new Covid section in the hospital located next to our plant in Devnya, Bulgaria. In India, we mobilized the SSF to help guar farmers, whose livelihood was jeopardised by the crisis. In total, the Fund provided financial support worldwide to 1,600 families last year.
I would say that we are emerging from 2020 feeling proud of Solvay, even perhaps a little more so than in previous years. I certainly am, and I observe it around me among the different stakeholder groups who bond to constitute the Solvay people. We have made decisions – some of them were difficult, with an impact on the organization and consequently, employment. But we always balanced safety, business, financial performance, communities and welfare. Speed and agility were indispensable, but not forced upon us: we acted quickly because we all concurred it was the just thing to do. That gave us the strength to face and overcome daily challenges while at the same time preparing Solvay for the future.
Nicolas BoëlChairman of the Board of Directors