Dear reader,The year 2020 will be remembered in world history books as the year of the COVID-19 pandemic. For Uponor, it will go down in our history as the year in which we broke financial performance records in the post global financial crisis era. Year 2020 is also a testimonial that our strategy and its execution bears fruit.
Reflecting back on 2020, in the early months we were happy with how the year had started. However, this first quarter tailwind rapidly turned into a crosswind when it became evident that COVID-19 is a pandemic that will have an impact on the lives of people in all geographies. Our focus shifted from our normal modus operandi to efforts to safeguard the health and safety of our employees. After this was achieved, we secured our ability to serve our customers, many of whom were, like us, busy safeguarding their people and operations. After a confusing period in April and May, our end markets calmed down somewhat. Construction was deemed an essential industry in most of our geographies and the funda-mental needs in society for new or renovated buildings and infrastructure were recognised. From June onwards, we saw stable growth in most of our markets, which carried us through the remainder of the year.
Both we at Uponor and our customers have continued to safeguard the health and safety of employees. This has significantly changed the ways of working and interacting. Working from home whenever possible, avoiding physical meetings and especially any bigger gatherings has been a key ingredient of the new normal. A giant leap in digital technolo-gies has facilitated keeping businesses running and enabled people to interact while respecting physical distancing. We have created new ways of maintaining and fostering customer contact, set up virtual curricula for our training programmes, and developed digital product launch events.
In late 2019, we announced the launch of an operational excellence programme. Even though at that time we could not predict what was coming in 2020, it was clear to us that ways of working are continuing to change, there are greater opportunities to utilise the benefits of digitalisation, and customer expectations are continuing to evolve, also in line with our strategic shifts towards the commercial segment. Execution of the operational excellence programme commenced in late spring 2020 and the programme has advanced in line with our earlier laid out plans, improving the agility and efficiency of our business operations.
Business travel has seen its worst crisis due to the pandemic. The flip side of that coin is abundantly evident in the steep decline in the travel-related emissions, and I strongly believe that the post-pandemic times will demonstrate our and other businesses’ ability to operate with lower emissions, certainly not only with respect to travel. In 2020, we worked hard on climate change related issues and after reaching the targets set in 2015, we signed the UN Global Compact Business Ambition for 1.5°C Commitment with science-based emissions reduction targets.
Our purpose statement states that we are “Rethinking water for future generations” – like water, but also success in fighting climate change are prerequisites for enabling future genera-tions to live their lives sustainably on planet Earth. Hence, we see it as our duty to do our utmost as a business to fight climate change.
In 2020, we also worked on a refresh of the Uponor brand – a logical continuation of our work in 2019, when we revisited our purpose and vision statements. In our refreshed brand, we have tried to capture the true colours of Uponor: passion, performance, smart and care. We want to provide our customers quality solutions and set the new standards without compromising what is good for the planet. That is why we are “Moving Forward”. Our new brand slogan aptly summarises 2020 for me – despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, we worked hard to deliver on the confidence that our customers have made the right decision, for today and tomorrow. This is also relevant to our shareholders, to whom I promised at the Annual General Meeting in March 2020 that we would take the best care of their company during the pandemic. Thank you for your confidence.
In these exceptional times, I would like to extend my warmest gratitude to our employees for all their hard work and dedication to deliver that confidence and advance us on our journey towards our vision of being the recognised leader in sustainable building and infrastructure solutions.
Our brand slogan “Moving Forward” will be relevant also for me. My career of some 25 years with Uponor, of which last twelve years as CEO, will end later this year. I would like to thank all our stakeholders for their trust in us during these years.
President and CEO