2021 was once again a year of constant adjustment in a world dominated by COVID-19. It began with numerous countries in lockdown, which restricted economic activity, travel, tourism, and Horeca. The success of vaccine programmes then allowed many western countries to gradually ease restrictions, reviving business as we returned to a kind of normality.
Yet the uptick in economic activity also resulted in a number of negative side effects, such as rapidly rising raw material and commodity prices and sky-rocketing freight rates. In addition, a lack of materials and components hindered production across a number of sectors. Last but not least, a shortage of personnel slowed down economic activity, a trend we expect to continue for some time. On balance, however, the easing of restrictions powered global economic growth of over 5%, compared to a fall of more than 3% in 2020.
On April 28 we were finally able to announce an agreement with the Dutch Public Prosecutor regarding irregularities that took place at ERIKS and Mammoet. This outcome follows an enormous effort over the last seven years. We would like to take this opportunity to reiterate once again that SHV regrets that these irregularities ever took place, that we never accept unethical behaviour, and that we are continuously strengthening measures to prevent such cases from happening again.
The acquisition of Kiwa represented another major landmark in the year. Active in the Testing, Inspection and Certification (TIC) industry, Kiwa also provides related auditing and laboratory activities supported by training, technology and data services. Adding Kiwa to the SHV family of companies will serve to strengthen an already solid foundation for future growth. Both the company’s way of doing business and its culture have a good fit with SHV and our purpose and we foresee many opportunities to support Kiwa’s strategy in a market that continues to grow. Ongoing consolidation also offers new possibilities for add-on acquisitions to expand the business.
We were also excited to announce an investment in Lightyear, a company developing a long range solar electric vehicle designed to be grid independent and to drive anywhere. The transaction perfectly fits our vision of a sustainable future for generations to come. While it by no means represents a diversification into vehicle production, we envisage several opportunities for cooperation and the exchange of technical knowledge between Lightyear and SHV businesses.
As has been the case since the outbreak of COVID-19, the health and safety of our colleagues has remained a top priority. Safety measures across all offices and operating facilities, many already implemented in 2020, were adjusted and optimised when and where necessary. To our everlasting regret, however, we could not prevent the loss of 24 colleagues to the virus in 2021. We feel for their families and loved ones and wish them the strength to come to terms with their loss.
The operating environment affected all Groups, albeit in different ways and to different extents. On balance, the easing of restrictions, the pick-up of the economy, and above all the efforts of all colleagues had a positive effect on performance, resulting in a net income of €979 million, compared to €488 in 2020.
SHV Energy performed well, supported by the resilient domestic volumes and growing industrial and commercial volumes that followed the easing of restrictions and subsequent pick-up of economic activity. Makro was initially heavily impacted by COVID-19, but sales improved later in the year. Mammoet benefitted from the growth of activity in the oil & gas sector, as did ONE-Dyas with the increase in oil & gas prices. ERIKS was also positively affected by the pick-up in industrial activity, despite supply constraints and material shortages. Nutreco experienced persistently low levels of activity in the leisure and Horeca sectors as well as high commodity prices. Even so, volumes increased. NPM Capital was able to realise several divestments, which significantly boosted results. The pandemic had limited impact on the business of Kiwa.
SHV launched its purpose in 2020: ‘Courage to care for generations to come’. A dedicated taskforce, comprising colleagues from every Group, continued to embed this purpose throughout the organisation. Websites and dedicated communications have been supported by workshops, training a large number of ambassadors to spread the message. The purpose has also been integrated into processes and documentation across several areas such as HR and Finance. Our purpose has been warmly received, with a vast majority of colleagues embracing a shared sentiment that brings us together and connects us, whichever Group we work for.
In a time of rapidly changing customer behaviour, technology trends, and competitor moves, SHV has recognised an even greater need for strategic planning in attaining the speed and flexibility required to meet ambitious targets. An upgraded strategy, together with a strengthened performance management system focusing on strategy execution through delivery and development, will enable both SHV and the Groups to successfully navigate the disrupted landscape.
A new, highly detailed performance management cycle has been fully embedded into core processes and decision making across the Groups. To support the rollout, cross-Group training has taken place for Finance and Strategic teams across the Groups as well as Group Management Boards, and the EBD. Next steps will focus on integrating performance management still further while harmonising quality standards.
People are key to a future of sustainable success – and providing opportunities to grow within our family of companies remains a high priority. An Emerging Talent strategy is now fully operational, with six career tracks supporting talented colleagues in their early career development with targeted professional and personal growth. Structured succession planning and leadership development has resulted in many executive roles being filled by internal candidates.
Development programmes for senior leaders were all successfully aligned with COVID-19 restrictions and blended both physical and virtual learning. A dedicated cross-Group Diversity and Inclusion taskforce focused on increasing structural awareness of all aspects of the subject, which included a global D&I week. ‘Taking the Stage’, a training programme by females for females, was rolled out further. And an extensive study into Equal Pay for Equal Work has been conducted in five major countries to discuss and, where necessary, to resolve pay differentials.
Since being established in July 2020, Adaptfy, SHV’s global Data & Analytics (D&A) organisation, has scoped, built and delivered a number of D&A solutions for SHV Groups. Adaptfy has grown to over 50 people, completed 23 projects, and has 14 projects live at the time of writing. The organisation is now widely accepted by the Groups as a trusted partner and an expert in the field of data science, data engineering, technology, digital, and business consulting. It has started to develop new customer analytics, demand forecasting, and pricing solutions to scale across the Groups, while also developing the first modules of a Data Academy to train Group leadership.
Procurement continued its transition to a higher level of performance across all SHV Groups. To meet the challenge of recurring shortages, Procurement will focus on safeguarding material and service availability, reducing the impact of inflation, and continuing to define sustainability targets together with suppliers - including a reduction of CO2 emissions. A number of SHV-wide initiatives will serve to expand and further professionalise the function, such as implementing a job-competence framework and embedding advanced data analytics into daily operations.
Acting with integrity and in compliance with laws and regulations ultimately depends on the conduct of individual colleagues. SHV management takes responsibility for shaping the appropriate working environment, with ethics and compliance departments in each Group providing the tools and knowledge required to navigate challenging circumstances and business dilemmas. In-depth assessments have also taken place to assess the state of play of the organisation's compliance culture.
Needless to say, we expect our partners to uphold similar values when doing business with us - especially when working on our behalf. In 2021 we bolstered third party due diligence procedures, while formalising the integration of Ethics and Compliance in the merger and acquisition process. Our whistle-blower programme ‘Speak-Up’ has also been enhanced, offering all employees and stakeholders the opportunity to report concerns about workplace incidents and business practices.
The internal audit department continues to add value by identifying opportunities for improvement; helping the businesses to grow; and preventing issues such as fraud, corruption, and avoidable losses. A welcome review at Kiwa generated valuable insights that were used to shape the structure of integration plans. Internal audit also supported management by providing insights into the progress of strategic projects. In partnership with SHV Procurement, Adaptfy, and the external auditor, data-driven insights have also been supplied to support the Groups in improving operational procurement processes.
As working from home continued to be the norm, the constant monitoring of IT systems allowed colleagues to work smoothly and effectively without disruption. Hybrid working has emphasised the business risks faced by remote users and the urgent need to safeguard security. With digital information and technology so heavily integrated into our day-to-day work, the world has become far more vulnerable to cyber-attacks. In addition, attacks targeting both information and critical infrastructure are becoming far more sophisticated. By establishing an SHV-wide monitoring centre, we are in a position to detect and protect from attacks, as well as ensure a fast response in the case of an incident. Because human behaviour is often a weak link in the security chain, the focus has not only been on technology but also on raising awareness among colleagues.
In a challenging year during which we all had to react to unexpected situations time and time again, the ability to report such an impressive set of results represents a real achievement. All through the year, the EBD and the Management across all Groups have been well aware just how complicated it has been to get the job done in the best way possible. Colleagues worldwide have shown just how much they care about the success of our company. Without their ongoing support and dedication, we simply would not be where we are today. For this, we express our sincere and heartfelt thanks to everybody, everywhere.
As we go forward, a number of very real challenges lay ahead. COVID-19 and related issues such as product and labour shortages are just the beginning. We also need to constantly address keeping our colleagues not only safe, but also healthy in mind as well as body. Shaping a truly inclusive workplace. Safeguarding our corporate culture. Contributing to the fight against climate change. And enhancing life for communities in the countries where we operate. At the same time, we cannot overlook the more everyday aspects of business, such as paying taxes not only in accordance with the letter of the law but also in the spirit of it and to conduct our business in an ethical and compliant way.
Needless to say, the current situation in Russia and the Ukraine is of great and immediate concern. The safety of our colleagues always comes first, and we will adopt every measure possible to ensure their safety. Events will undoubtedly have a direct impact on Mammoet and Nutreco who both have a presence in the region. Other Groups are also sure to be affected, albeit indirectly, but it is far too soon to grasp the full ramifications of such a grim scenario.
As society becomes increasingly transparent, SHV is ready to demonstrate a clear response to these challenges and build a solid foundation for the next 125 years. And we are looking forward to doing this together with Eelco Hoekstra, who will join the EBD following his appointment in April.
Ethics and Compliance