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“Being optimistic and pragmatic we will keep on striving for continuous improvement”

5 questions to Jean-François Claver, Chief Industrial Officer, and a member of Imerys Executive Committee.

A picture of Jean-Francois Claver

Jean-François joined Imerys in 2015 as Director of Mining and Industrial Operations and was appointed Group Chief Industrial Officer in October 2016. Prior to joining, he had a career of almost 16 years at Pechiney, where he held several industrial and general management positions, and with several other international industrial groups including Alcan, Vallourec, Lafarge and Etex.

1. How would you describe your job as Chief Industrial Officer and as an Executive Committee Member?

My role as Imerys’ Chief Industrial Officer is to support the operations of Imerys’ five Business Areas across the world. This role holds both technical and societal responsibilities.

Regarding technical responsibilities, with a team of experts forming the Group Center of Excellence, my role is to ensure smooth coordination and collaboration with Imerys' Business Areas’ industrial & mining teams. In practice, my team provides them with the necessary guidance and support in areas like the Imerys Industrial Improvement system, called I-Cube, our continuous improvement program; support on the Group investment program and in particular on large projects;  and support on mining and resource planning, so that we extract the best value from our mines. Finally, I supervise Imerys’ purchasing organization, a global organization set up two years ago for the Group.

In terms of societal responsibilities, my team and I cover four main topics, all part of our Corporate Social Responsibility program called “SustainAgility”: employee Health and Safety, Environment (more particularly focused on environmental risks, climate change and biodiversity), product stewardship and product sustainability. The latter two are firstly for ensuring that our customers and employees are informed of the best practices to handle our products safely, and secondly for monitoring the impact of our operations and the use of our products on the environment and on society.

"The health and safety of our employees is my main concern."

Amongst these, the everyday health and safety of our employees is my main concern, even more during the Covid-19 pandemic. This is the reason why, with strong support from other ExCo colleagues, I lead our Covid-19 crisis committee, which works non-stop to ensure that our employees have the necessary equipment and guidance to be safe and healthy in the workplace. 

As an ExCo member, my primary role is to support my colleagues, mostly the Senior Vice Presidents of the Business Areas, in running their operations safely and efficiently. I bring many years of experience and expertise in operations to deliver results today and prepare Imerys for the future. 

2. How has Covid-19 affected your role

Covid-19 has greatly affected my role. First and foremost, I am the driver of our Covid-19 crisis committee. I was chosen for this role as I am very familiar with Imerys sites, and I have operated sites in previous companies. So, I fully understand their circumstances and their difficulties. With this knowledge and understanding, the committee was able to give the sites pragmatic guidelines that were both effective and fairly simple to implement. As a result, and thanks to the great work of our teams around the world, we have been able to implement robust safety measures to help mitigate the impact of the pandemic and protect and support our employees. Given that we are active in over 45 countries - a number of them having faced high infection rates globally - some of our employees were unfortunately impacted. Nevertheless, we are encouraged to see the global effectiveness of our safety measures and are dedicated to ensuring, and continually improving, the safety of our employees.

3. How did you adapt your way of working, and your relationship with sites?

Beyond the crisis committee, Covid-19 has also significantly changed the way in which I work. As Chief Industrial Officer, I often travel to visit sites, engage with our people on the shop floor, meet with teams and discuss their projects. Throughout my time at Imerys, I have visited more than half of our 230 sites, in many different countries. Now, of course, travelling to sites is limited or even impossible. Being grounded poses a challenge in terms of collaboration with our colleagues, but it has also created new opportunities. I am now able to dedicate the time that I would have spent travelling towards improving various systems and launching new initiatives like Industry 4.0. But I am looking forward to meeting our site teams again!

4. Are you more prepared for a second wave of Covid-19 than you were in March?

We are better prepared. We have stocked up on safety equipment in case the pandemic continues much longer than expected, and we have learned to be agile in adapting our protocol and our guidance based on shifting circumstances. We are ready—even if the conditions we are in today are to persist—to continue to operate safely, protect our people, run the company, and serve our customers.

5. Do you have any perspectives to share regarding investment and management for next year?

We are trying to operate as normally as possible. When demand fell earlier this year, we compressed our investment program and reduced our costs; not only to reduce cash expenditure but also because it was logistically difficult to continue deploying our projects regarding the health situation.

Currently, we are preparing the budget for next year and a plan for the coming years. We are definitely planning to resume and accelerate our projects, but we are also aware that it may continue to be difficult in the coming months. Our attitude is to be optimistic and pragmatic - but for sure we will keep on striving for continuous improvement.