A partnership for life
Typical Vaillant Group: our employee Alexandra Deschamps is committed to the French SOS Children’s Village in Carros. Only through the involvement of many employees can our family-run company conduct its social activities.
Wide-reaching but on strong foundations: our partnership with SOS Children’s Villages
When the heating system at the SOS Children’s Village in Battonya broke down on a cold autumn’s day in 2011, our Hungarian colleagues spontaneously decided to provide free and non-bureaucratic aid. The Vaillant Group Sustainability Management team took this local action, born of the moment, and quickly developed it into an international partnership, which has even been contractually agreed upon since 2013 – creating a strong foundation for cooperation with Vaillant Group sites in all countries. Corporate Communications Manager Alexandra Deschamps is responsible for the commitment shown by the Vaillant Group France. She explains the practicalities of our partnership with SOS Children’s Villages.
As an exclusive partner, the Vaillant Group provides selected SOS Children’s Villages with free, efficient heating technology. But that surely cannot be all?
Alexandra Deschamps: Far from it! The heating technology reliably supplies the little ones with heating and hot water but also vastly reduces the heating costs for the SOS Children’s Villages in which it is installed. In the French SOS Children’s Village in Carros, for example, we have installed eight condensing boilers. The other activities relate to the personal involvement of our employees and the children’s everyday lives as well as their individual development.
What exactly does that mean?
Alexandra Deschamps: We want to spend time with the children. Time during which we get involved. My task is to find employees to do this. But to be honest, it does not take much effort on my behalf, as the staff are enthusiastic about our partnership and are quick to put their energy into helping out.
How do the members of staff spend time with the children?
Alexandra Deschamps: The ideas are endless. Our Sales Representative Salim Nadifi-Guelon decided to give the children a Christmas surprise and took them out for a bite to eat. The children loved it – and Salim has been hugely committed to the organisation ever since! He also inspired other colleagues: one member of staff would like to organise an archery session, another wants to invite the children to a race-car track. Lots of things are possible.
I guess the fact that a company is behind the commitment is something the children find less exciting?
Alexandra Deschamps: It depends. The really young children are clearly not yet interested in these connections. But a visit to the Nantes plant is naturally fun for the kids. They stare in amazement at the machinery, which they have never seen before, and are fascinated by the production processes. These kinds of open-door days have an entirely different meaning for the teenage inhabitants of the SOS Children’s Village: they get an insight into working life and see that our company can offer them good future prospects. To be specific, we offer them the opportunity to start vocational training with us or to do an internship.
And if they want to choose a different career?
Alexandra Deschamps: In such cases, the teenagers receive support from our HR management team. For example, with application documents. We are also trying to bring our partners from associations, subsidiaries, suppliers and skilled trades on board – so that the young people can choose from the broadest range of areas.
SOS Children’s Villages urgently depend on donations. Does the Vaillant Group help out in that regard, too?
Alexandra Deschamps: Of course, and in a rather sporting manner! We organise events such as the “Go Sport Running Tour” with an employee race around the Palace of Versailles. A donation was made for every kilometre run and all of the participants received a T-shirt with the logos of Vaillant, Saunier Duval and, of course, SOS Children’s Villages. It was a fun family event in front of a huge number of spectators. Some employees even brought their children along so that they could also join the race in aid of the good cause.
How many kilometres did you manage?
Alexandra Deschamps:(laughs) Now you have caught me off guard! No, it really was not that bad. I trained a little beforehand and ran five kilometres. I will get further next time, I promise
Thank you for the interview, Ms Deschamps!
“SOS Children’s Villages and the Vaillant Group go together perfectly.”
Mr Lippert, how did the partnership between the Vaillant Group and SOS Children’s Villages Worldwide come about?
Frederik Lippert: It all began in Hungary. In autumn 2011, the heating system broke down in the SOS Children’s Village in Battonya. Our Hungarian colleagues responded quickly and organised everything. The project went extremely well – for both the SOS Children’s Village and ourselves. At the time, we were also on the lookout for a flagship social responsibility project. On seeing the report from Hungary, we realised that we had taken the first step towards something much bigger. After several internal discussions, we had a number of meetings with the children’s aid organisation to establish the foundations for long-term cooperation and agree upon joint goals. In the end, we entered into a five-year agreement.
How does the partnership fit in with the Vaillant Group’s CSR strategy?
Frederik Lippert: Our strategy defines target groups, fields of action and tools. As a family business, the Vaillant Group consciously focuses on families as well as educational and social institutions. Furthermore, all cooperative and funding projects have to meet binding eligibility criteria. In our core business, we can provide support with our products and expertise so as to specifically promote climate and environmental protection. SOS Children’s Villages and the Vaillant Group go together perfectly.
What exactly does the partnership entail?
Frederik Lippert: The partnership is based on two pillars. The first of these is a Group-wide licence that makes us the exclusive partner for providing free heating technology. The individual sales companies work on implementing local projects, which also centre around heating technology. However, we can offer other forms of support as a second pillar, too. We do not want to provide mere flash-in-the-pan, one-off commitment but to use well-established technological support to create the foundations of a long-term partnership.
In what way?
Frederik Lippert: Hungary is again a good example here. The employees offer training to the children who are leaving the SOS Children’s Village. In other words, they support the children further. Several ideas have also been introduced in France and there is a whole array of support services that we can provide with our expertise. This is the responsibility of the individual country managers.
To what extent has the partnership developed to involve the entire Vaillant Group?
We are extremely pleased with the way the partnership has developed. The project is still in its early days as the agreement was only entered into in August 2013. This year, China, Poland and Romania will play active roles. Ukraine has already started implementing things and Hungary is planning its second project. In Germany, funding projects are currently in the planning stages. We are finding that the spirit of Battonya is being borne by the whole company. This was a strategic decision.
What role do the employees play in the matter?
Frederik Lippert: When it comes to social responsibility, the employees play an extremely important role. Firstly, we want to use such activities to further improve our attractiveness as an employer. Serious social responsibility is a recruiting factor. Secondly, however, such activities are impossible without passion and commitment from the employees. We have noticed that the partnership has been extremely well received by the staff, who actively support it, including through personal commitment. For example, by a country manager asking for donations to SOS as a birthday present and a purchaser privately supporting a sponsored child at SOS.
Thank you for the interview, Mr Lippert!
- Vaillant Group sustainability report 2016 pdf, 6.94 MB
- Vaillant Group sustainability brochure 2016 pdf, 3.02 MB