Get to know the man who leads the way in keeping the 96,000 people who work at SGS safe so they can go home to their loved ones every night.
Group Vice President of Operational Integrity, Business Continuity Planning & Integrity Programs, Alain Denielle, encountered a life-changing moment 30 years ago that led him to a life-long, successful career in health and safety.
Q. Hi, Alain. Please introduce yourself and tell us more about how you ended up where you are today?
A. Hello. I'm 60 and was born in the north of France. I’ve three wonderful children and now I'm also a grandfather. My initial background is an engineering degree in electricity and nuclear, but I started my career as a manufacturing engineer, on the field, in the glass industry. I’ve had the chance to work in many industries, in various positions including manufacturing, quality, mergers and acquisitions, strategic projects, and of course HSE, from an operational and corporate perspective, and all over the world. All this prepared me for my position at SGS which is such a diverse and complex company.
My role now, in Operational Integrity, or more commonly known outside of SGS as Health, Safety and Environment (HSE), allows me to use all of this experience and the skills I’ve acquired along the way to keep SGS people safe, as well as the communities in which we work. My attraction to health and safety originated almost 30 years ago when I was working in manufacturing and I experienced a very severe accident where a colleague was hit by a train. I was Site Manager at the time and so had a huge responsibility to manage the situation and all that came with it. From practical things that needed to happen, to looking after the emotional health of those involved, it was a challenging time but gave me some sound experience for my career.
Q. At a dinner party, how would you describe your job?
A. I keep it very simple: I take care of people to ensure their safety and integrity. I’d add that I also take responsibility for our assets, our buildings, our labs, the environment we operate in and also SGS’s reputation. And of course, it feels even more relevant in recent times, I’m responsible for business continuity so we’re ready for if things go wrong or when unexpected changes happen.
Q. What does Operational Integrity mean at SGS and tell us more about the team you work with?
A. My role, along with my team, is to establish safe and healthy workplaces. It’s more than just HSE at SGS. The reason we use the term, ‘Operational Integrity’ is because these two words give a clear picture of our mission. We’ve a lean team of around 20 corporate people, plus colleagues in the regions and countries, but I would say the richness of my team is its international diversity, with experts based across different regions, who are highly skilled and experienced.
Of course, the safety of our own people is very important to us, but it’s also important to our customers, investors and other stakeholders. To be a better company, we must align our values of safety and integrity with our clients too, which ensures we build confidence and trust so we can work better together as partners. By adding this value, we achieve a competitive advantage. We are often ahead of our customers when it comes to operational integrity and so show great leadership in this field by sharing best practices that they can implement across their companies too.
Q. If you could choose one key accomplishment, what would it be?
A. After all my years working and the experiences I’ve been through, I could not choose one individual moment, but I would say it is the whole journey. I know over the years, the teams I have worked alongside have saved many lives. This is the ultimate accomplishment, right? There is great satisfaction knowing you have played an important part in making sure people leave work and go home safely and in good health to see their families.
Q. What are you passionate about?
A. I can summarize this in three points. Firstly, my job. You cannot hold my position, which is emotionally demanding, if you aren’t passionate about keeping people safe. Second, would be my children and now my grandson, too. And finally, being out in nature. I love to spend time in the mountains, at sea, trekking, diving, skiing, climbing. I began these activities as a youngster and still find great value in doing them today. These three things keep my life in balance.
Q. What keeps you awake at night?
A. What keeps me awake at night? I would say my job. I'm really afraid of the phone ringing in the middle of the night and the person on the other end of the line telling me about a fatality or serious incident. This is why my team and I work so hard every day, and have a vision for the future to make SGS an even safer place to work, with zero accidents.
Q. Where do you see the future of Operational Integrity at SGS?
A. I’m proud to say that we’ve worked hard over the last eight years since I started at SGS. When I began this role, we had a lot of work to do in terms of building the health and safety infrastructure needed across our various sites at a technical level, such as processes and procedures, to enable people to remain safe. I’m pleased to say that I feel we’ve successfully accomplished this first phase, based on our statistics.
More recently, we’ve reviewed our vision and so now we’ll transition to the next stage in this journey. We need a cultural shift which will only be achieved through dialogue and management involvement. It involves a change in mindset or the “DNA” of the company. This is the only way we will achieve our ultimate goal which is to report zero accidents. We need employees to care about themselves and others around them. It’s only when we all care about each other that we will achieve our goal. It’s an exciting but challenging time ahead and I’m confident we can do it.
We are SGS – the world’s leading testing, inspection and certification company. We are recognized as the global benchmark for quality and integrity. Our 96,000 employees operate a network of 2,700 offices and laboratories, working together to enable a better, safer and more interconnected world.