Solvay is confronted with a growing trend to engage stakeholders in defining material areas of sustainability management. However, in a complex company like Solvay, setting up such a dialogue at Group level is difficult. One has to build long-term relationships with relevant stakeholders, so as to be able to build trust, mutual understanding and a sufficiently broad understanding and vision of the issues discussed.
Solvay`s Board of Directors saw the European Works Council as a good partner to build such a long-term relationship with workers. In 2010, a permanent Sustainability Working group consisting of 10 members and focusing on sustainable development was set up in Solvay’s European Working Council (EWC).
The thematic subgroup in Solvay’s Working Council meets with Solvay’s sustainability team and experts in dedicated areas (in particular Health, Safety, Environment) every 6 months. Within this frame of work, in 2013, a first agreement on environmental standards was signed between IndustriALL (Global Union represents 50 million workers in 140 countries in the mining, energy and manufacturing sectors) and Solvay. Joint assessments (e.g. on safety issues) are carried out by Solvay in cooperation with IndustriALL twice a year in two countries.
Both the EWC and the interaction with IndustriALL Global Union are excellent opportunities to have in-depth conversations about specific areas of sustainability management. In the case of EWC:
- the overall Sustainability strategy has been discussed with the involvement of the council
- representatives of the council cascade information exchanged during the regular meetings to the workforce
- the sustainability subgroup is well-informed of new programmes related to sustainability.
This contributes to a good mutual understanding of programs, timeframes and limitations. It increases the awareness of the overall personnel about Solvay’s sustainability roadmap.