In countries all over the world, after several weeks of lockdown, companies, institutions and society are gradually preparing to restart their activity in unprecedented circumstances. Decision-makers have a single priority in mind: to guarantee the health and safety of their employees, customers and users.
We talk to Renato Catrib, Senior Vice President for Industry & Facilities Global Service Lines at Bureau Veritas.
The last few months have plunged the world into uncharted territory. How do you see the future?
"While it is very difficult to predict the future, one thing is clear: health, safety and hygiene issues - already key in many sectors - have moved to center stage.
For companies, they have become a critical priority. Society may not change radically, but there will be a "New Normal". By this I mean a world in which we have to live and continue to move forward alongside the virus. We will need to go back to school, go back to work and move around. Our pre-crisis habits will return, but under different conditions and with new rules.
For businesses and citizens, this New Normal will lead to a recurring question: are all the measures that are taken collectively and individually effective, well-implemented and sufficient?
This new era will also have to deal with another challenge: rebuilding trust so that life can resume little by little and with peace of mind.
To meet that challenge, companies will need to address health, safety and hygiene issues as they return to work, and act transparently. Society will have a new way of looking at the world, and the actions of companies and governments. Today nothing is set in stone. Health regulations and protocols are evolving rapidly as medical and scientific communities develop new knowledge.
How do I see the future? No doubt it will require companies to be even more flexible, responsive, innovative and committed to Society with transparency."
You talk about flexibility. Managers and decision-makers looking to restart their businesses face different sets of regulations for every office they operate around the world. How can we reassure and help them?
"Countries are going through different experiences, at a different pace, and that's what makes this even more complicated. Some countries have already relaunched their economies. Others, for the moment, are still entirely devoted to managing the health crisis. In Europe, some states are cautiously lifting measures restricting movement and business activity. In the United States, California is leading the way and is beginning to relax the lockdown rules that have been imposed for weeks, while in China and other countries in Asia, recovery has begun. All organizations are thinking about what processes to put in place, how best to proceed, and when it is done, how to reassure their employees, customers, users and all stakeholders that they have taken all the protective measures required by the situation.
While Global recommendations have been issued by international bodies such as the World Health Organization, International Labor Organization and other international recognized authorities / Organizations, others are designed to meet specific local needs. Experiences vary from region to region and demand perfect understanding of each specific situation.
Through its in-depth knowledge of international and local regulations, Bureau Veritas brings valuable know-how and genuine agility to help companies to quickly adapt to the New Normal. We have been able to mobilize our international network of experts to collect and analyze best practices, recommendations and global health protection regulations related to the pandemic. This integrated approach enables us to define the most appropriate health protection references & protocols. An international presence in 140 countries and expertise in certification processes and Health and Safety Inspections for nearly 200 years make Bureau Veritas a powerful ally for companies and public authorities in this context. The Group is able to support small businesses as well as international organizations, and to verify compliance with health regulations and recommended protective measures."
Beyond differences in local regulations, what needs to be taken into account to restart business successfully, under the right safety conditions?
"The health protocols all have a common basis: social distancing and basic hygiene measures. There is then a need to understand the specific challenges of each business sector, as these will determine the additional requirements and recommendations that need to be considered. Measures must be enhanced and tailored to the physical environment. A construction site is not the same as a factory, an office, a hotel or restaurant, a shop, or a public facility or infrastructure. Organizing how people move around, planning shifts, thinking about workstation layout, are just a few examples.
Another important challenge to be faced by large international companies is related to Supply Chains. How can we ensure that companies' supply chains, which are highly complex with a plethora of players spread around the world, can start up again in total safety after an unprecedented disruption? Companies need to define restart processes as quickly and as safely as possible. This means analyzing critical operational processes.
Here again, the nature of our activity, which spans the whole economy, brings us in-depth knowledge of the work processes of all business sectors and geographies.
This crisis is obviously a health challenge, but it is also a business challenge that invites us to rethink all work and organizational processes.
It is to meet these particular needs that Bureau Veritas has developed a dedicated service offer to support business recovery: "Restart Your Business with BV". This initiative is aimed at companies of all sizes and sectors, as well as establishments open to the public.
"Restart Your Business with BV" consists of a site assessment solution based on series of checklists, with three levels: Global or General, Specific (by business sector), and local (by geography or location). The latter takes into account specific obligations and recommendations set out by local authorities. The conformity assessment against the checklists is done online, via a dedicated digital platform. An audit is then organized, remotely and then on site. If the organization passes the audit, Bureau Veritas issues an inspection report with a certification or a label, as required. A follow-up unannounced audit may also be carried out to verify that the measures put in place are maintained over the long term."
What do you see coming out of this crisis?
"First of all, we must continue to act with precision and humility: humanity's knowledge of this virus continues to deepen. In my opinion, the first thing this crisis is pushing us towards is greater flexibility. Recommendations will continue to evolve, as we develop better understanding of the epidemic's evolution, the hoped-for development of treatments or a vaccine. They will also depend on the behavior of societies in the face of the virus. As a result, the procedures for labeling or certification are also likely to evolve.
Secondly, what used to be considered innovation will become a pillar of this New Normal: our ability to use digital technologies. The situation has enabled people to adapt in real time. Digital will help meet society’s growing demand for transparency: this is why we have decided to propose the online availability of inspection and audit results. Everything is recorded on a digital platform that we have specifically developed for this offering.
In the current context, checking the health, safety and hygiene compliance of physical spaces during business restart is essential. Being able to prove it will determine business success. That is why the 'Restart Your Business with BV' solution is completely digitized: to guarantee speed, traceability and transparency from Business to Society."
Transparency and trust are regularly mentioned by Bureau Veritas. Why is this?
"Indeed! Our expertise, our know-how and our mark of trust and impartiality as an independent third party are the pillars that enable us to support the global economic recovery in all business sectors, everywhere in the world. More than ever, our missions are essential to quality, health and safety, and we have all the assets and credibility to play an active role in shaping a world of trust in the New Normal."