Recognition and pride on Remembrance Day

Dr Tracey Leghorn
by Dr Tracey Leghorn, Chief Business Services Officer | SUEZ recycling and recovery UK

Remembrance Day will have a particular poignancy this month as we commemorate the fallen of two world wars, and later conflicts, while once again we see war in Europe. For most of us lucky to have grown up in the post-war era, the Armistice anniversary commemorations are a celebration of the long peace that we and neighbouring nations have known for more than seven decades.

As we pause to remember the sacrifices made by so many to secure that peace, many of us will, no doubt, think of places around the world where that isn’t the case today.

For veterans of the UK armed forces, events on the other side of Europe will have personal echoes. At this time of year – seeing people wearing the poppy, Remembrance Sunday services and events, sharing moments of silence on the 11th – must conjure up a different mix of emotions for them. As civilians, we can only guess at the pride, pain, nostalgia, camaraderie and other feelings that might be involved.

On Remembrance Day I will be reminded of these things and of the day, last month, when two colleagues and I went to the naval city of Portsmouth and had the privilege of accepting an award on behalf of SUEZ recycling and recovery UK.

The Ministry of Defence’s Employer Recognition Scheme acknowledges the special effort companies such as ours make to support veterans, reservists, cadet force volunteers, their spouses/partners and the wider armed forces community. Employers are also expected to support causes related to the armed forces and be an advocate for supporting the community.

Just over a year ago we received the scheme’s Silver Award. To be considered for a gold award, organisations must provide additional leave for reservists and have in place supportive HR policies for employees who are veterans, reservists and cadet force adult volunteers, as well as spouses and partners of those serving in the armed forces. It was a memorable moment for us to collect our Gold Award at the ceremony on 6 October.

This was the culmination of a company-wide commitment we made back in 2019 when I signed the Armed Forces Covenant on behalf of SUEZ recycling and recovery UK. For several years, we have been working hard to ensure that our hiring practices are welcoming to veterans and our policies are supportive.

Among other initiatives, in 2018 we set up an employee network for the armed forces community within our ranks. Part of our wider efforts to promote a culture that values diversity and fosters inclusion, the network welcomes and supports new recruits to the company who have or still serve in the reserve forces in some capacity. We have raised funds, and the company has donated to, relevant charities chosen by our veterans (which included my sponsored skydive with a dozen ex-services colleagues!). We have also adapted our Mental Health First Aid Awareness Training specifically for veterans, making it available to their families as well.

The SUEZ Veterans’ Network has grown to more than 280 members and provides a host of activities to support our armed forces community. Back in September I had the pleasure of co-hosting its annual conference with our Chief Executive Officer, John Scanlon, at the National memorial Arboretum, in Burton Upon Trent.

It was a fantastic day. The 40 members present were joined by senior company leaders, and we heard from representatives of Help for Heroes and the Royal British Legion’s Battle Back centre at the National Sport Centre in Lilleshall, Shropshire. Colleagues were able to network, take time to visit memorials and celebrate the amazing work the network has done this year.

As our CEO John Scanlon noted, our veterans and reservists offer SUEZ and our customers a wealth of transferable skills, including many in high demand in the UK’s growing green economy.

Another important role of the network is to point out to us what else we can and should be doing to make the most of that contribution. As Dave Shaw, a veteran of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers and now a SUEZ Fleet Manager and Joint-Chair of our Veterans Network, said: “An incredible amount of hard work has gone into developing the Veterans’ Network since it began four years ago. The level of support SUEZ gives the armed forces community is invaluable and this continues to be improved with input from veterans.”

Earlier this month Dave, along with two of our veterans who had taken part in the Military Miles event in June, travelled to the British Normandy memorial to lay a wreath on behalf of the company and our veterans. He said: “I personally felt extremely honoured and humbled to be able to lay a wreath, on behalf of SUEZ, at this magnificent memorial to all those that laid down their lives on D-Day, 6 June 1944.”

We remain committed to supporting our armed forces community as they develop fulfilling career paths within the company while continuing to serve our society. We recognise and value their expertise, and we’re proud to have received recognition of our efforts in return.