Chair: Martin Gill

Panellists:
Ben Suurd – Regional Head of Security EU and AMET Region RB (Netherlands)
Alfred Elia – Chief Security Officer at Unilever (Tanzania)
Janusz Majcherczyk – Regional Security Manager Central Europe at Mars (Poland)

Key points

Alfred Elia presented a most engaging, and somewhat incredible insight into the context in which he operates in Tanzania. He is responsible for security for an organisation that has headquarters outside the country, so the company is very Covid conscious. But once he steps outside work, the problem disappears; Tanzania does not appear to have a problem. In fact there is little evidence of concern about the virus, hospitals are not burdened and football matches, with full stadia, have taken place. He describes it as a ‘contradiction’. This also presents different challenges, not least keeping staff motivated to follow virus protection procedures, for example, social distancing rules, and he stresses the importance of good leadership. Technology helps, cameras are used to monitor staff and they are ‘called out’ if they don’t follow social distancing rules. You will hear him discuss the way in which other professionals, for example in business continuity, have overshadowed security, and how the security role has been secondary to others. It is not a given that security professionals have been able to shine in this crisis.

Janusz Majcherczyk, in contrast, highlights the considerable extent to which Covid-19 has changed the world, and the many ways security has been shown to be important. He outlines three points of focus. First, in managing the virus itself by communicating the risks and measures in place so staff are aware. Second, changing workplace procedures, taking account for example of the new hygiene rules needed. This has meant rewriting some procedures and producing new ones. Three, managing the costs associated with having additional security staff and the need to better equip and protect them. The management of suppliers has been key. Overall, security has been seen to have earned more respect from key stakeholders.  Its role, in enabling company work to continue, has highlighted its core benefit in helping the company to make a profit; this bodes well for the future. You will hear him discuss the role of regulation and its limits. Key points made here are about the importance of effective communications on the one hand and good leadership on the other; people need to be reassured and looked after.

Ben Suurd notes that one of the main challenges he has faced in dealing with different countries is responding to the different laws in operation; it complicates strategy. On the other hand one area much easier to handle is international travel, clearly there has not been much of it. In his workplace, security is a part of the crisis management team, and that has given him a central role in responding to the crisis. It is evidence once again that where security sits in the organisation has impacts on the role it plays and the extent of its engagement with core operations.

The discussion in this webinar showed up the very different viewpoints. We learn again that in many ways companies were not specifically prepared for such a long crisis and so responding across regions was made more difficult because different countries responded in different ways and at a different pace. In Poland, the impact has been dramatic but seemingly not in Tanzania, let’s watch that country closely both to check it lasts (hopefully it will) and to ensure that we optimise learning. Indeed, once again, we find that is still a lot of learning to be done.

Martin Gill
19th November 2020