In uncertain times, people are the priority for HEINEKEN

October 05, 2020 | 08:30
HEINEKEN Vietnam recently joined the Vietnam Corporate Sustainability Forum, themed on sustainable development in the new decade and turning challenges into opportunities, and organised by the Vietnam Business Council for Sustainable Development under the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Alexander Koch, managing director of HEINEKEN Vietnam, talked to VIR’s Hoang Anh about the company’s priorities in times of uncertainty, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
in uncertain times people are the priority for heineken
In uncertain times, people are the priority for HEINEKEN

At the recent Vietnam Corporate Sustainability Forum (VCSF) event, HEINEKEN Vietnam discussed how the company navigated through the COVID-19 pandemic. Can you tell us about it?

During the pandemic, sustainability has continued to be a guiding compass to help us overcome challenges and stay true to our values. At HEINEKEN Vietnam, the health and safety of our people and partners was our priority. To navigate through the pandemic, it was crucial to approach this with agility.

As Vietnam went from the first wave to the second wave of COVID-19, we transitioned from a national approach to a more regional approach, specifically in the central region. That way, we could take appropriate safety measures to protect our people in the most vulnerable areas. From a business operation perspective, we also looked at how to quickly adapt to the new normal to serve our consumers and customers better.

How did HEINEKEN Vietnam ensure the health and safety of all employees across your six breweries?

To protect our employees during the pandemic, we set up a COVID-19 People & Safety committee and kept regular and open communications with employees.

With more than 3,200 employees across six breweries and 10 offices, it was critical to ensure everyone received information in a timely manner and knew what precautions to take. Two-way communication channels were set up so questions from employees were responded to by the company’s medical doctors and its management team.

All employees were equipped with masks, liquid sanitisers, and anti-bacterial tissues. Temperature checks were taken at all breweries and offices, and social distancing was applied to gathering areas such as meeting rooms and canteens.

HEINEKEN Global also committed to no structural layoffs due to the pandemic for the remainder of 2020. This was a decision applied across our network of companies worldwide.

How did HEINEKEN Vietnam support its business partners, as well as local communities, especially during the social distancing period?

The pandemic has presented all of us with unprecedented challenges. Beyond safety measures, we believed that we could do more to support the local communities in Vietnam and our business partners during this challenging period.

To support local communities in the fight against COVID-19, HEINEKEN Vietnam adjusted its product launch budget and instead donated a total VND12 billion ($522,000) and 22,000 masks under the Bia Viet and Larue brands. The donations went towards purchasing medical equipment and assisting healthcare workers and other frontline staff at medical centers and quarantine facilities.

To support business partner recovery after the period of social distancing, HEINEKEN Vietnam initiated both internal and external activities. We carried out an internal programme called “Join Hands to Recover,” where 440 of our office employees in 11 cities and provinces together with the sales team went out to the market to show support to over 100 outlet owners once they reopened.

Tiger Beer organised a programme for consumers called “Uncage the Street Vibes,” and gave away 1.5 million free Tiger bottles across 47 cities and provinces to encourage them to visit their favorite outlets after the social distancing period ended.

The recent VCSF event also discussed how businesses turned challenges into opportunities in times of uncertainty. How did HEINEKEN Vietnam utilise opportunities during this difficult year with COVID-19, as well as the new Decree 100 on drink-driving?

HEINEKEN Vietnam supports the government’s effort to take strong actions to address drink-driving in Vietnam. We have promoted responsible consumption for many years, before the new Law on Alcohol and Decree 100 took effect. For example, in 2019 we invested VND14 billion ($609,000) in responsible consumption campaigns. This year, we also launched Heineken 0.0 to support the government’s aim to reduce alcohol abuse and provide a non-alcoholic option for different occasions.

During the coronavirus pandemic, we have been able to quickly adapt to serve our consumers through expanding our e-commerce platform to Hanoi and Danang during the time that they were not able to go out for a drink amid the social distancing period. We also continue to support our customers by introducing new products like Bia Viet and Heineken 0.0 to help our customers attract consumers back to their outlets after social distancing.

By Hoang Anh

What the stars mean:

★ Poor ★ ★ Promising ★★★ Good ★★★★ Very good ★★★★★ Exceptional