A hub of renewal

21st June 2022 Posted by

 Blog by Dr Tracey Leghorn, Chief Human Resources and Health and Safety Officer, SUEZ recycling and recovery UK.

It seemed a very distant prospect in the middle of the pandemic, but later this month 80 of my colleagues will finally gather to talk, listen and debate together in one space.

The purpose for our journey to Manchester is the first SUEZ annual Wellbeing and Inclusion conference. And the venue – the Renew Hub – is particularly appropriate.

As part of our contract with Greater Manchester combined authority, we signed up to more than 50 social value commitments supporting the people, the communities and the environment across the city region.  Our partnership is also breaking new ground by putting re-use at the heart of waste and resource management strategy.

Last year saw the development of the Renew Hub, where household items recovered from recycling centres across Greater Manchester are cleaned, repaired and sold through a network of Renew shops; so far, three are operating with a fourth in planning and online sales due to launch.

The Renew Hub houses repairs pods dedicated to refurbishing various items – including white goods and small electrical appliances, furniture and bicycles. These pods are operated in partnership with local organisations able to provide workshops and train apprentices and volunteers. There is also a space for hosting school trips, community groups and corporate events – like our conference. During the day, we delegates will get to try our hands at upcycling furniture, crockery, and upholstery.

So far, more than 20 green jobs have been created through Renew. The goods diverted from waste are sold at affordable prices, with the money going back to the local community. Every year SUEZ donates £100,000 to the Greater Manchester Mayor’s Charity focused on preventing homelessness, and £220,000 to the Recycle for Greater Manchester community fund, supporting local projects aimed at increasing recycling and re-use.

All this flows from our corporate commitment to maximising the social value we can generate through our activities.

As he welcomes the delegates to his home turf, our CEO John Scanlon will make clear how the SUEZ vision and values underpin this approach not only to re-use and social value, but also to wellbeing and inclusion.

For my part, I will be reflecting on our journey so far when I address the conference. Back in the ‘Before Covid’ era in 2019, colleagues from across the company drew up our Wellness for All charter, highlighting eight wellbeing themes. It almost seems prophetic now, but the clear consensus even then was that supporting mental health should be our priority.

One of our first steps was to devise and launch a First Aid for Mental Health Awareness training course. When the coronavirus hit a few months later, our Learning and Development team quickly reconfigured this as an online course, with an additional module on personal resilience. We accelerated the roll-out, along with other initiatives to support our key workers, staff working from home, those on furlough, and colleagues sheltering due to their or family members’ vulnerabilities.

Our weekly Wellness for All webinars on various topics – from anxiety to sleep, meditation to physical exercise – were very popular with employees and their families. They’ve had more than 7,000 re-plays on YouTube. An enhanced employee assistance programme offering confidential 24/7 counselling, financial support, and an expanding bank of literature and guides to wellbeing were also well received.

In 2021, with a dedicated Wellbeing and Inclusion Manager in place, we pressed on. We recruited Regional Ambassadors to reach out to our 300-plus locations and front-line personnel. Key messages and signposts to support were included in toolbox talks. For our 1,500 drivers, we developed – with our training partner – the first CPC (certificate of professional competence) course covering mental health and wellbeing.

In parallel, we were taking steps to nurture a truly inclusive culture across the company. John Scanlon and my fellow ExCom members sat in on listening sessions to hear, at first hand, the life experiences of colleagues from minorities. Our senior managers are also members of a Diversity & Inclusion Network, which has spawned others acting as sounding boards and support networks focusing on women, ethnicity, armed forces veterans, and LGBTQ+.

Some 1,500 colleagues have completed Unconscious Bias training. The webinar programme continues to raise awareness and promote understanding of inclusion and diversity issues, from autism and dyslexia to transgender transition and cultural festivals. Nudged by a £2 donation to our charity partner Macmillan Cancer Support, 30% of our people updated their personal information with details on ethnicity, sexuality and other diversity questions so we can monitor our progress.

Momentum will be maintained through 2022, as we involve people on the front line who are harder to reach. As well as a host of activities related to diversity and inclusion, there’s a focus on social mobility and helping people from deprived backgrounds. We will support employees who want to improve their literacy and numeracy skills and engage with schools to raise the career aspirations of less privileged students.

Autumn will see separate conferences for members of our women’s and veterans’ networks. Roadshows will take our key wellbeing messages to front-line workers, including health tips and advice, with the opportunity to take a ‘health MoT’ at six of our sites.

This year is all about embedding wellbeing and inclusion in our systems and culture through these and a host of other events. Progress towards our objectives for both wellbeing and inclusion now counts toward bonus payments, for example.

If celebrating what we have achieved this far is not enough, we have Wendy Smith among our conference speakers to inspire us further. The Paralympian and bronze medal winner is now a top sports coach and ‘’neuro trainer’. As well as mentoring people suffering with PTSD and trauma, Wendy helps individuals achieve their best.

Wendy has compelling messages to share about resilience and mutual understanding, and how awareness and understanding lead to action.

We know there is a way to go – in our company and our society. But I believe we will travel home from Manchester with renewed purpose and determination.

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