GF’s response to
To say that 2020 was challenging—and for millions of people, tragic—would be an understatement. The COVID-19 pandemic presented individuals, governments, and companies with unprecedented challenges. In a business context, it quickly revealed the drawbacks of intricately complex global supply chains and logistics systems that rely heavily on inputs being delivered on time from another part of the world. Amid a nearly global lockdown, this placed an enormous strain on many companies’ production cycles. GF, by contrast, was well positioned to deal with this head-on. GF’s global footprint and the localization of many of its supply chains helped ensure business continuity. Many of GF’s operations, especially in piping systems and the production of machines used to make medical equipment, were deemed to be essential. Nevertheless, parts of the business experienced significant adverse effects in the first half of 2020 from the temporary shutdown of automotive customers in Europe and elsewhere. The pandemic tested everyone at GF, on and off the job. Lockdowns, travel restrictions, and sweeping changes in work practices on the factory floor and in the office dramatically curtailed social interaction.
As an act of solidarity with employees, in early April 2020, the Board of Directors, the CEO, the Executive Committee, as well as Senior Management and Managing Directors agreed to voluntarily and temporarily reduce their monthly fixed compensation. The money was placed in a solidarity fund and distributed to GF employees living and working in countries with less comprehensive social protection systems.
GF’s response to COVID-19 demonstrated how it had learned from previous crises, for instance with the establishment of a central stockpile of personal protective equipment (PPE). In early 2020 when the coronavirus was first reported in China and PPE was quickly becoming scarce, the stockpile enabled GF to deliver 40’000 masks to colleagues in China from its warehouse in Schaffhausen (Switzerland). Two months later, when the pandemic had spread worldwide, these same colleagues showed their solidarity by supplying GF companies in Europe, the Americas, and the rest of Asia with a total of 120’000 masks.
All across the world, GF sites had to react swiftly to the escalating situation and the government countermeasures. Back office employees in most countries where GF is present soon started working from home. Although this initially put a strain on GF’s digital infrastructure, it helped propel a rapid upgrade to more advanced virtual office capabilities. Microsoft Teams became and still is the most frequently used application for online meetings and cross-team collaboration at GF.
Following strict protocols enabled the majority of GF companies to remain open for business throughout the year. A number of GF sites donated PPE, hand sanitizer, and cleaning materials to healthcare workers and first responders in their communities. GF sites worldwide conducted employee hygiene training and awareness programs, put in place the required physical distancing practices, equipped themselves with sanitation equipment, extra hand-washing stations, and face masks, and began conducting temperature checks and providing on-site COVID-19 testing.
Due in part to these measures, a number of GF locations did not have a single reported case of COVID-19 during 2020.