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Why is it important?

Integrity is one of our core company values and this means that we conduct our business lawfully and ethically. We strive to uphold the highest standards of ethics and act with integrity in accordance with our values.

Good governance is key to ensuring the Group's long-term sustainability. The board has overall responsibility for the Group's sustainability strategy and determining its risk appetite. The level of risk it is considered appropriate to accept in achieving the Group's strategic objectives is reviewed and validated by the board. The appropriateness of the mitigating actions is determined in accordance with the board-approved risk appetite for the relevant area. This process includes the identification and management of climate-related and other sustainability-related risks.

Our sustainability committee

Following the launch of our sustainability policy in 2020, we established a sustainability executive working group to focus on the evolution of our sustainability strategy and to set the Group's sustainability targets and metrics in accordance with the UN SDGs. This is now a fully-fledged executive board committee, meeting bi-monthly, and continues to engage with a wide range of senior managers and colleagues across the Group to oversee the day-to-day implementation of our sustainability strategy and report on the progress of the Group to the executive committee, who ultimately reports to the board.

This gives us a well-defined management structure to help us achieve our sustainability objectives with oversight of all strategic sustainability risks and opportunities affecting the Group.

Management approach

Business ethics and compliance with the Group's policies and procedures, which establish the rules of conduct within Severfield, are all extremely important. We ensure compliance by ensuring all our colleagues are fully trained on the content of our key corporate policies, including modern slavery, human rights, anti-bribery, competition law and whistleblowing (see below for further details). These policies are reviewed and updated every year.

These policies require all colleagues not only to operate in compliance with applicable laws and regulations, but also in accordance with internal controls and reporting requirements. They are regularly reviewed and updated and frequent training via our e-learning platform, Cognito, is provided to all relevant colleagues. The Group's suite of policies is available on our website.

As set out in our Group assurance map and compliance framework, the board also relies on our financial controls, compliance with the Group's authorisation policy and general management oversight and review of financial and other reporting. All our businesses operate local processes to ensure policies are effectively implemented.

Our progress against our targets

We have a comprehensive Group-wide supplier accreditation process which involves reviewing and scoring supplier performance on criteria such as quality and safety and providing them with constructive feedback. During the year, we maintained our 'A' rating in the CDP's annual supplier engagement rating. This is designed to evaluate and drive action on corporate supply chain engagement on climate issues. The scope of the review includes governance, targets, value chain emissions and supplier engagement strategies.

In 2022, the Group, again, had no incidents of bribery or corruption confirmed during the year (either relating to 2022 or previous years) and there were no incidents of discrimination reported during the year (either through HR or whistleblowing disclosures). In addition, the Group received no fines or sanctions imposed for legal or regulatory breaches (including health, safety and, environmental) or relating to non-compliance with laws and regulations during the year.

During the year, over 90 per cent of our colleagues, including all office and senior factory and site personnel, completed regular ethics training (using Cognito) based on the Group's following policies:

  • whistleblowing policy,
  • anti-bribery policy,
  • competition law compliance policy,
  • health and safety policy,
  • equal opportunities and diversity policy,
  • share dealing code,
  • information security policy,
  • social media policy,
  • sustainability policy,
  • modern slavery statement.

Modern slavery

The board annually reviews and approves the Group's modern slavery statement. The 2022 statement is available on our website and explains the actions taken to ensure that we provide the appropriate level of training to members of our workforce, raise awareness of modern slavery among all members of staff, and do not undertake activities or engage suppliers or subcontractors who undertake activities that may be in breach of the Modern Slavery Act 2015. This year we continued to focus on our supply chain, refreshed and added to our training of relevant staff in awareness of modern slavery and encouraged key suppliers to undertake training through the Supply Chain Sustainability School.

Human rights

We remain committed to protecting and respecting the human rights of our colleagues and those who work throughout our supply chain. As a company operating within the UK, the key human rights issue we face is equality, which we address with training and promoting inclusivity. This year we have also taken steps to collect diversity-related people data to help us to continue to improve in this area.

Anti-bribery and corruption

Bribery and corruption are criminal offences in the countries in which the Group operates. We have a responsibility to our stakeholders to conduct our business in an honest and ethical manner. Our Group policy prohibits all forms of bribery, both in giving and receiving, wherever it operates. This includes our colleagues and any agent, contractor, consultant or business partner acting on our behalf or under our control.

Whistleblowing

We encourage effective and honest communication, and we respond immediately to any malpractice brought to our attention. Our whistleblowing policy enables anyone to raise genuine concerns about malpractice in the knowledge that their concerns will be taken seriously and that they will be protected from possible reprisals by colleagues and management. We also publish details for Protect, an independent charity, allowing colleagues to raise concerns or seek advice from someone outside of the Group. Any whistleblowing report is immediately reported to the Group's legal director, Group HR director or Group SHE director, as appropriate, and is investigated quickly with appropriate feedback provided to the whistle blower.

Tax transparency

The Group is committed to compliance with all applicable tax laws and regulations across all the countries in which we operate. We focus on ensuring that, across the wide remit of taxes, the Group has comprehensive governance and risk management processes in place to allow us to meet our obligations.

We maintain a good, open and honest working relationship with HMRC, seeking to clarify any areas of potential uncertainty in relation to new or existing tax legislation at an early stage, and we have regular meetings with them to update on the Group's performance and structure. We do not engage in any aggressive tax planning or tax avoidance schemes.

We have rigorous procedures in place for preventing the facilitation of tax evasion and ensure that all relevant colleagues are trained in the key aspects of the relevant legislation. This year we completed our comprehensive programme to ensure readiness for the changes to the IR35 rules which came into effect in April 2021.