Doing our bit for the Armed Forces community
13th December 2021
Blog by Dr Tracey Leghorn, Chief Human Resources and Health and Safety Officer, SUEZ recycling and recovery UK.
The 11th day of the 11th month – Remembrance Day is an annual landmark and national commemoration that means different things to different people. For some, it is a reminder of family members, sometimes distant relatives, who died in the two World Wars. There are others among us I know will feel the more immediate sense of loss of loved ones who fell in the many other conflicts since. It is also fitting that in churches, schools, and a variety of services across the country, people pause to think of the countless victims – civilian and enlisted – who lose life, limb, family or friends, livelihoods or their homes to the ravages of war, insurgency and unrest now happening around the world at this time.
As individuals, we mark the moment in our own ways and private thoughts, whether in a shared minute or two’s silence at the eleventh hour or some other point in our busy routine. As a company, we show our respect for Remembrance Day and the sacrifices made by the fallen and their families primarily through our appreciation of the veterans and reservists serving in our ranks at SUEZ recycling and recovery UK today.
As a token of that esteem, we have sent all the members of our Veterans Network a card for Remembrance Day. Designed in-house with a message expressing our thanks for their service, each card contains a piece of plantable poppy seed paper and a small cross decorated with a red poppy, purchased from the Royal British Legion in support of the Poppy Appeal.
We’re inviting our veterans to have photos taken of the planting, and we’ll share them across the company and their network on Facebook and Yammer and other channels.
We employ more than 150 veterans, who bring their highly transferable skills and dedication to a variety of roles – from driving vehicles to energy-from-waste operations technician, to area supervisor and other managerial positions.
The network was set up in 2018 to offer camaraderie and advice to employees who are ex-forces. Since then it has grown. Now organised in eight regions – each with a lead representative – the group is open to partners and close family, as we understand that serving in the armed forces places heavy demands on them as well. A spouse or partner, for example, may need the flexibility to take time off work during the serviceman/woman’s deployment, or following injury or bereavement.
New SUEZ recruits from the armed forces are assured a special welcome through the network, which provides a ‘buddy’ to help them in the transition to civilian life and their new career. Our own welcome pack to new joiners includes a silver ‘V’ badge to wear at work if they wish, so that they can identify other veterans more easily.
Our reservists are part of the network too. Reservists and cadets for army, navy and air forces receive an extra five days’ paid leave each year for their training – as do our Cadet Force Adult Volunteers.
We like to think that, as a company, we are doing our bit both for our own people who have served or are supporting the armed forces, and for the wider services community. These initiatives and activities include:
- Fundraising: The company and our employees support fundraising activities for relevant charities. Last year we earmarked a £5,000 donation fund and invited our veterans to vote for their favourite causes. Among others, these charities support homeless veterans, organise Christmas parties for children who have lost parents in action, and treat veterans with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). This summer more than a dozen colleagues did a sky dive to raise money for Help for Heroes and the Royal British Legion. Sadly, the Big Battlefield Bike Ride – which combines a cycling challenge with military history in France – was cancelled again in 2021 due to the pandemic, but we look forward to its resumption next year and our veterans are already in training.
- Wellbeing: Our Wellness for All Webinars promote the mental and physical health of all our people. One webinar was devoted to PTSD, a condition that is more common among ex-services personnel. We have also adapted our Mental Health First Aid Awareness Training course specifically for veterans and offered it to their families. They also stand to benefit from other courses we provide, such as Emotion Freedom Technique and Emotion Code.
- Conference: In September we hosted our annual conference for the Veterans Network. We held this at the National Arboretum, which provided our Veterans with the opportunity to visit the memorials. It was a very humbling experience and one which I won’t easily forget.
- Covenant: Since I signed the Armed Forces Covenant on behalf of SUEZ UK in 2019, we have worked hard to ensure that our hiring practices are welcoming to veterans and our policies are supportive. Our efforts were recognised by a Bronze award from the armed forces Employer Recognition Scheme in 2020, followed by the Silver award this summer.
Like our veterans, we wear that silver SUEZ UK badge, and our poppies, with pride. This year we have taken this a step further and a couple of our waste collection vehicles have also been re-badged in time for Remembrance Day. Dave Shaw, our Regional Fleet Manager for central England and the North, who is the Veteran Chair of our network and one of our network coordinators, has helped guide the design of the special armed forces branding. The trucks’ new livery flies the flag for the armed forces and our support for them as we serve local communities.
This week we are also providing a wreath for each of our Veterans Network regional representatives to lay at their local memorial services on Sunday 14th.
I encourage all our people to pause for thought on Remembrance Day and think of the sacrifices that the armed forces personnel and other victims have made in times of conflict, and how we can support them in the workplace and in society.