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Bureau Veritas Southern Africa: Reflections and learnings from 2020 as a positive outlook is projected for next year

Transformation and innovation make 2020 a year to remember as pandemic catapults new digital service offerings to elevated heights.

The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new – Socrates

Bureau Veritas, a world leader in testing, inspection, and certification services, has embraced 2020 with a strong focus on people and health and safety; innovative technology and finding solutions to keep customer service at an all-time high. A rapid response to environmental challenges, state-of-the-art innovation and strict cost saving measures put in place, Bureau Veritas Southern Africa has continued to operate in a productive and efficient manner, creating a sustainable business environment with an enviable list of accomplishments and successes across several areas of the business.

Vice President for Bureau Veritas Southern Africa, Ms Sal Govender commented:

Sal Govender, Vice President Bureau Veritas Southern Africa

“It has been a year of successes and challenges; however, our structured approach has created a sustainable business environment and the company is in an enviable position of being unscathed with job security being a notable achievement. We are proud to say that due to implementing stringent cost saving measures and driving state-of-the-art digital innovation through our business, we have enjoyed job stability and retained our high customer service levels. The pandemic has catapulted the need for the plethora of health, safety, environmental and conformity services we offer, resulting in and increased demand in these areas of the business.”

The Southern Africa region has focused on team cohesion and working together seamlessly in support of one another and customers. Health and safety protocols have been a large focus area, with continuous training to ensure employees remain vigilant and equipped for success.

Information Technology

The environmental challenges facing the global community during 2020 only served to accelerate the need for digital remote working, an innovation challenge faced by many organizations. Bureau Veritas Southern Africa embraced the opportunity and rapidly perfected the digital transformation required to ensure clients’ remote inspections, monitoring and audits became very much a part of the new normal and employees were able to work from home as required.

Zishaan Singh

IT Director, Mr Zishaan Singh confirmed, “Our state of readiness proved invaluable when the South African hard lockdown was announced in March 2020. Our IT infrastructure was well organized to support the situation and meet the demands of the business and our customers. Being an innovation-driven business, Remote Inspection technology is not new to us, but the nature of the pandemic has meant it could be implemented in full swing and at pace. This state-of-the-art technology is underpinned by strong digital platforms, the ethos of which aligns to our IT creed We are always ready, constantly drives us in our quest to remain ahead of the game. Regardless of the pandemic, this is our new normal.”

Commodities & Certification

Gavin Hefer

Gavin Hefer, Commodities & Certification Director, commented: “Every cloud has a silver lining, and 2020 has brought positives for our business. The team has proven to be resilient, adaptive and reactive which has been key to making a recovery for lost time during the earlier restrictive months of this pandemic.” Their operations found new alternative means to continue process flow sans business interruption, reaching out to clients with new solutions and support service offerings. One of the notable successful projects this year has undoubtedly been the “Restart Your Business” service offering, which introduced a solution for clients to safeguard their business as they restarted operations during the pandemic and ensure successful economic business recovery. Harnessing new safety protocols to ensure business continuity and keeping employees’ safe has remained key. Constant employee backing and engagement, the mastering of new digital platforms, thinking differently by adopting a renewed innovative mind-set and seeking new digitized solutions as challenges arose, have all resulted in new-found efficiencies that will forever change the way the department operates.

“One of our biggest accomplishments has been job security, we need to remain cognizant of the human factor, understanding that our employees are going through challenging times and by offering them the right support and understanding, we have been able to pull together to achieve our collective goals in the most challenging of times. Being adaptive to change is the key to success in this fast-paced and forever changing current era,” he noted.

Human Resources and Corporate Social Responsibility

Beatrice Scharneck

Employees lie at the heart of the company culture and much training has been rolled out in support of employee well-being to ensure a healthy work-life balance, especially when working from home. Regular employee support engagement discussions have ensured a positive and engaged workforce with opportunities for employees to reach out to professional organizations for additional support where required. Ms Beatrice Scharneck, District HR Manager, stated: “People are our most important asset and we have remained alert to the needs of our team and will continue to provide support to ensure morale remains high. A recent Glint survey conducted on Bureau Veritas Southern Africa overtly illustrated the high level of employee positivity during the pandemic. We are honored and encouraged by these results.”

Corporate Social Investment and caring for communities continued after lockdown was announced in March 2020, in line with strict health and safety guidelines from the company, government and the World Health Organization. Bureau Veritas South Africa, Senegal, Togo and Nigeria all supported World Environment Day in June, elevating the need to protect the environment and preserve biodiversity for generations to come. International Mandela Day was celebrated in South Africa, Mozambique and Zambia, with support being provided to schools and communities by way of food provisions, masks, Covid-19 health and safety educational talks, as well as the provision of Wi-Fi and computers to Homes of Hope in Johannesburg. International Youth Day was acknowledged in both South Africa and Mozambique, with a strong focus on building on existing relationships with beneficiaries.

In addition, true to its values of creating trust, being open and inclusive and leaving a responsible mark on society, the company made special efforts during the pandemic to provide support to society in South Africa, Togo, Senegal and Angola by providing food, masks, hydro alcoholic gels, school materials and attending charity events in aid of fun raising initiatives.

Food Security, Pharmaceutical and Agriculture

Joanne Barton

The Bureau Veritas team remained at the forefront of market demand for food, agricultural and pharmaceutical laboratory testing and inspections throughout the pandemic, ensuring customer sample testing remained ongoing and at a rapid pace. Under the leadership of Ms Joanne Barton, Director of Agri & Food Laboratory Services the team remained resilient, consistent, and focused on customer support. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, business continued at an all-time high, with a new service launched, offering AGRI peanut testing and sampling, further cementing the company’s reputable standing in the marketplace.

In the words of Barton, “We have learnt so much this year; never take anything for granted as it can be whipped away in an instant. Teamwork is invaluable, without ‘team’ there is dysfunction, regular meetings and assuring staff are critical, but what is most important is for each and every staff member to emerge proud of what they achieved. This goes beyond salary and is a real driving force in tough times, even in hard lock down we all reported for work and never dropped any balls during the Covid-19 outbreaks. In achieving this, I am incredibly proud to work with our group.”

Oil and Petrochemicals

The Oil and Petrochemicals activity has also enjoyed several successes this year, despite the environmental challenges posed on the market. An admirable accomplishment has been the team’s quick adaptation to change, whether this meant working on site as essential services for daily operations for customers, adjusting to remote planning of operations and working conditions, or working offshore where an entirely new work strategy needed to be implemented; the team worked harmoniously to ensure operations remained safe and solid.

Erick Naidoo

Customers reported that service level expectations were more than exceeded, paving the way for business continuity and client satisfaction. Oil and Petrochemicals Director, Mr Erick Naidoo commented: “The single most important factor of 2020 has been to remain safe and healthy, with no disruptions to services and working procedures. We achieved this, bearing testament to just how adaptable and capable our team is. The human ability to adapt and work together cohesively to beat the odds reflects in how we are able to accomplish so much more than we dreamt we were capable of. We have learnt once again, the critical importance of health, safety and general wellness. The importance of colleagues, friends and family has shone through. Supporting one another and sharing different methods on combating challenging situations is integral to success. Remote online working and virtual meetings have changed the way we will be working in the future and have played a critical role in our achievements. Paramount to all of this is work-life balance.”

Technical Center Africa

The Technical Center Africa has enjoyed a year of growth and development, establishing various international collaborative projects with global experts, generating new opportunities, feeding innovation and development whilst growing the work pipeline. New opportunities for remote assessments and audits have generated business in a market demanding digital transformation, where Bureau Veritas is a leader in the industry.

Heinrich Stander

Technical Center Manager, Heinrich Stander said: “Our strong focus on innovation secured our team’s seamless transition from office to home working and together with our forward-thinking customers, we continued with minimal disruption, exceeding client expectations. We are proud of our first fully virtual audit this year, and soon will be conducting our first virtual site visit. A key learning for the Technical Center is that there is appointment in every disappointment. Having a great team supported by exemplary senior leadership really shows its colors when the norm is challenged. This lies at the heart of a good year despite the global pandemic and its influence.”

Bureau Veritas Government Services: South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe

A sterling success accomplished during 2020 to date has been the cataclysmic demand for remote inspections which has been driven by the nature of the pandemic. The capability to deliver the service during lockdown and from home has bolstered this essential service. Bureau Veritas South Africa is the leading entity worldwide in remote inspections and represents 70% of global volume. Since the hard lockdown was announced in March 2020, more than 10,000 remote inspections have been conducted, far exceeding the initial forecast for the year. Ms Grace Mabasa, Government Services Manager, commented: “Back in March we only had eight remote inspection licenses and today, we have more than 30. Remote Inspections is the way of the future, innovative digital transformation has paved the way for our success in this area.”

Grace Mabasa

Additionally, a recent survey conducted indicated an overwhelming majority of clients found the Remote Inspection Service to be user-friendly and quick, with a staggering number citing they would recommend the company for this service. With many inspectors having been trained in recent months, massive savings on time, travel and related carbon emissions have been achieved, increasing productivity and

Jean-Michel Perret

efficiencies, and also mitigating health and safety risks linked to driving and Covid-19 contamination. The opportunity to record inspections via audio further safeguards the outcomes. Key projects have included conducting remote inspections for, amongst others, the DRC, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. Mr Jean-Michel Perret, Director of Government Services, stated: “We all need to move with the times to make our business work in an ever-changing world. By putting the correct resources and functionalities in place, we have seen tremendous business growth in this ever-expanding service. Positive feedback from clients around their experience of remote inspections has left us extremely proud of our team, who have quickly risen to the occasion and adopted to the next normal at lightning speed. Kudos to the team!”

Bureau Veritas – Mozambique

2020 has seen operations in the Tete Oil Condition Monitoring laboratory expand to meet client demand despite the pandemic’s impact on the economy. Operations and inspections at Afungi and Pemba have continued unabated on the new gas projects, with support from internationally acknowledged personnel. Remote Inspections, monitoring and audits are also available to clients to secure continuity on the ISO certifications.

Olivier Onillon

Bureau Veritas Mozambique enjoys a strong focus on Corporate Social Responsibility and has continued with its identified projects during the 2020 pandemic, ever mindful of health and safety protocols stipulated by the company, government, and the World Health Organization. International Mandela Day saw the business support those in need by donating essential foods; whilst in August, the company celebrated International Youth Day by aiding education initiatives, mental wellness and encouraging young people to become actors of positive change in their communities. In the words of Mr Olivier Onillon, Country Chief Executive for Mozambique: “Safety is our top priority, and we need to constantly adapt to new conditions and situations, despite a challenging environment. One of our biggest achievements in Mozambique this year is that our operations are running optimally and smoothly, with great successes observed in Tete, Afungi and Pemba. Congratulations, Team Mozambique, you have done us proud!”

Bureau Veritas – Zambia

Alex Ehui

The Zambia operations have continued smoothly with business demands increasing at several sites, signifying a resilience and preparedness to meet client demands. New projects have bolstered the country’s employment agenda with the hiring of some 50 employees in support of new business opportunities in the country. Country Chief Executive, Mr Alex Ehui explained: ‘Our resilience, determination and professionalism have driven us to secure new business this year, whilst continuously and strongly focusing on safe working conditions and a positive outlook. Our safety culture means employees always come first; their wellness is of crucial importance. Happy and motivated employees mean excellent service delivery and satisfied clients. That in turns makes us even happier!”

Corporate Social Responsibility plays an important role in business in Zambia and despite the pandemic, the company has continued to support communities. The team proudly participated in International Mandela Day with the “Feed a Family in a Jar” food campaign at a local school where the team also shared tips on keeping healthy and safe during Covid-19. Whilst the pandemic was at its most rampant in August, Bureau Veritas Zambia engaged in International Day of the Disabled, donating food to the Home of Happiness.

Bureau Veritas Southern Africa continues to ensure employees are geared for the future, uplifting and supporting the team with the requisite tools for success. Many employees continue to work from home where possible. The next normal has changed office layouts for the foreseeable future, with desks spread further apart, health and safety signage highly visible whilst hand sanitizer has become the new office essential. Remote inspections remain on an upward trajectory and health and safety are steadfastly cemented as the key priority. The next normal is now, what was known as business unusual is long gone and a positive future awaits this engaged workforce.

In conclusion, Govender commented:

“We are both optimistic and excited by the prospect of what 2021 has on the horizon. The behavior we have displayed as an organization to ensure employee wellness and stability, has undoubtedly resulted in augmented organizational citizenship. We have steadfastly remained focused on our customers, maintaining high levels of productivity and delivering efficient and innovative services. Our successful 2020 is solidly underpinned by a unified and dedicated team, of whom we are exceptionally proud. The future is bright with opportunity as we shine a light on next year!”

The head office for Bureau Veritas Southern Africa is based in Johannesburg; with branches in Cape Town, Centurion, Durban, and Pretoria; and laboratories in Cape Town, Centurion, Durban, Johannesburg, and Richards Bay.

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