Taking good care of our staff runs in our blood. It is important to us that our company feels like one big family for all our employees. In the past year as well, taking care of each other was important. We are, therefore, abundantly exploring and trying out new ways of working. This allows us to pay particular attention to maintaining the personal connection between colleagues. With the aid of technology, smart ways of working and an optimal workstation, we want to offer colleagues a safe and healthy working environment. As well as an environment where they can make a valuable contribution in an enjoyable way at every stage of their lives. It is with trust, connection and challenge, that we build our winning family culture.

Safety: Results 2021

Safety is
not about

Safety is not about one-off actions. The topic deserves ongoing attention, and to be on the agenda every working day, to ensure that the attention to safety is omnipresent throughout the company. Unfortunately, there are still too many accidents occurring at the brewery in Lieshout and the absenteeism per accident is also increasing. For this reason, we will be paying extra attention to the Lieshout location in this respect in 2022.

Our internal academy boasts many safety training courses tailored to the different locations. These are very accessible to current and future employees. 

Top safety priority in 2021 was the storage, use of and exposure to hazardous substances. These are themes that play out across all of our locations. In 2021, we secured the quality of the hazardous substances system. Safety is thus increasingly embedded in the way we work.  

Read more about various safety topics below.

  • COVID-19 and the Corona Crisis Team
    COVID-19 and the Corona Crisis Team
  • COVID-19 and the Corona Crisis Team

    COVID-19 has once again had a great impact on our staff and way of working in 2021.

    The Corona Crisis Team, immediately established in Lieshout at the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, remained active by necessity throughout 2021. The broad representation of management, facility, safety, HR and communications met on a weekly basis. In this way, we ensured that we could act decisively company-wide in the Netherlands. The situation in the various countries where we operate was so different that it did not make sense to form a “global” crisis team. However, the various national teams did exchange best practices.

    We initially started 2021 with a strict policy, aligned with the basic RIVM rules as in staying home when showing symptoms, maintaining one and a half metres distance and washing hands. These rules basically remained in place throughout the year, including in areas of the company where it presented a challenge. When the measures were relaxed in the summer, we adjusted our policy accordingly. More people were working from the office. Unfortunately, this only lasted until November when national measures were re-introduced due to rising infection rates. 

    Throughout the year, the crisis team kept employees directly informed via e-mail, the intranet and the video screens in public areas at the head office and at production locations. Employees received information and updates on the policy through a specially designed intranet page via which they could also submit questions. The 2021 pulse measurement shows that employees are positive about the internal communication regarding COVID-19.

    We are proud to say that there were no internal sources of infection. We managed to ensure both the safety and health of our employees as well as the continuity of production.

  • Ethiopia Crisis Team: Habesha, safety in the vicinity of our brewery <br>in Ethiopia
    Ethiopia Crisis Team: Habesha, safety in the vicinity of our brewery
    in Ethiopia
  • Ethiopia Crisis Team: Habesha, safety in the vicinity of our brewery
    in Ethiopia

    By the end of 2020, there was already unrest in Ethiopia where brewery Habesha is located. In 2021, the unrest in the country continued. In May 2021, Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, declared a state of emergency after the Tigray Defense Forces (TDF) had seized two towns en route to Addis Ababa.

    The armed conflict expanded and the front shifted towards our brewery in Debre Birhan. Fierce fighting and looting took place, causing much unrest throughout the country and amongst our people. Under the leadership of CEO, Omo Ohiwerei, a special crisis team was established for the continuous monitoring of the situation and the detailing of plans. The safety of our employees always came first. Because the situation was so unpredictable, various scenarios were devised for scaling down production, evacuating employees and, possibly, shutting down the brewery completely. From the Netherlands, the crisis team received support from a special team led by Stijn Swinkels. There was intense daily contact between the Dutch team and the colleagues at Habesha.

    In the third quarter, the situation in Ethiopia deteriorated and an armed conflict took place about fifty kilometres from the brewery. In response, most of our local staff and expatriates were relocated to safe regions or awaited the further course of the conflict in their home situation. Production was substantially scaled down to ensure the safety of our people. Thus, fewer people were needed at the brewery and fewer employees had to commute. Stijn: ‘It was a surreal and incredibly tense time. From the Netherlands, we tried to help our colleagues in Ethiopia in every possible way. We arranged airline tickets, gave technical advice on the correct way of scaling the brewery process up or down, and helped set up the evacuation plan. I am relieved that the situation is under control again and very much admire the positive and powerful way Omo and his team in Ethiopia have steered the brewery through this crisis. Of course, our hearts go out to all those suffering because of the situation or who have lost people because of the conflict.’

    Fortunately, at the end of the year the situation calmed down. The government army liberated most of the occupied areas and our brewery was able to safely scale up again. Habesha colleagues scaled back emergency measures in the last month of the year to prepare for the peak production season in January.

    Helping where needed
    Debre Birhan is home to about 250,000 Ethiopian refugees from the north of the country at the time of writing this article (January 2022). Habesha is one of the local companies committed to helping these people, in part by distributing non-perishable food. As more help is needed, we also make donations to the local aid organisation, specifically for the refugee children who need food and medicine.

    In 2021, we provided Ethiopian refugees from the North of the country staying in Debre Birhan with blankets and lighting, in order to give support.

  • Risk inventory per site
    Risk inventory per site
  • Risk inventory per site

    We tailor our safety strategy to the nature of our breweries and production locations. After all, a smaller community like De Koningshoeven is organised differently in terms of safety than a complex location like the one in Lieshout. Health & Safety Manager Kasper Sanders: ‘In 2021, a lot of hard work was done on an aligned safety strategy. As a result, there is now an up-to-date Risk Inventory and Evaluation (RI&E) at each location that addresses various topics on the subject of health and safety. It will also act as a baseline measurement for the coming years.’

    In 2021, the risks and priorities were assessed for each location. Kasper: ‘We’ve noticed that, at small locations such as De Molen, the same risks recur as at large, more complex locations such as Lieshout. Recurring themes include hazardous substances, ergonomics, CO2 and training and instructions. Lieshout is our largest and, in terms of safety, also the most complex location. Here we work with Safety Champions, employees who pay extra attention to safety in their departments. They identify potentially unsafe situations and advise on practical solutions to hazards.

    The establishment of the RI&E in 2021 ensures us that the right path is taken and we’re committed to that. An RI&E is forwarded to the prevention officer of the location in question, then to the HSE Committee and finally to the company doctor. Only then is the process complete. Subsequently, the implementation of the plan of action is initiated.’

  • Prevention Officers
    Prevention Officers
  • Prevention Officers

    It is our goal that safety lives in the minds of employees at each location. From 2022 onwards, we will be training prevention officers at the various locations, who will share their thoughts and ideas regarding safety issues in a structural manner, from Holland Malt in Eemshaven to the distribution centre in De Meern. A prevention officer is someone who has a good understanding of the group, knows what is going on in the workplace, and is more active in safety than others. In the first quarter of 2022, these prevention officers will jointly undergo a three-day training course. The course will help them gain more insight into the safety systematics, our way of working and the associated risks. In addition, we help them form a team. In this way, prevention officers from the different locations can support and contact one another.

  • Severity rate
    Severity rate
  • Severity rate

    In 2020, we introduced the severity rate, which allows us to determine the severity of major accidents. The number of days a person is unable to work due to an accident is set off against the number of hours worked. This gives us insight not only into the number of accidents, but also into the severity of these accidents. In 2021, we applied this severity rate for the second consecutive year. As a result, we were able to determine that not only has the number of accidents in the brewery, bottling plant and on-trade departments in Lieshout increased, but also the severity rate. We have not yet been able to determine a direct cause for this. It is, however, on the agenda for 2022. In time, we want to further break down the categories of incidents, the accident pyramid, in order to be able to analyse the correct structure. We did not get around to doing that in 2021 because of COVID-19.

    Table: Accidents and Severity rate

  • Road to Zero
    Road to Zero
  • Road to Zero

    Our safety policy is set up in such a way that safety will always be a top priority. Our ambition is to work without accidents. In response to several accidents in Lieshout, a safety campaign called “Road to Zero” (“On the way to zero accidents”) was set up by the Management team and the Health & Safety Department. Three paths have been outlined; behaviour, knowledge and skills, and tools and systems. Each path contains a number of highlighted topics that will receive extra attention in the years to come.

  • Safety observation intensified
    Safety observation intensified
  • Safety observation intensified

    Safety observation, as in surveillance of the workplace, is an important part of our safety policy. Employees walk around, monitor for safe behaviour and unsafe situations, and report on these if improvement is required. We want to consolidate these rounds into our safety system. In this respect, we focus on dialogue with the employee. We ask why someone works in a certain way and how he or she monitors safety. By engaging in conversation with each other, the reasons for a certain behaviour will become clear thus leading the way to improvement.

  • Storage, exposure and use of hazardous substances
    Storage, exposure and use of hazardous substances
  • Storage, exposure and use of hazardous substances

    With regards to the storage of hazardous substances, a step was taken in 2021. A new storage design was developed for Lieshout. As a result, by early 2022, the location with the most risks will no longer exist. In its place there will be entirely new storage facilities with new tanks and piping. This will make the process of storage and transport even more advanced, the result being a much safer location.

    In terms of exposure, all substances used throughout our company – amounting to over a thousand – have been listed and risk assessed in 2021. Substances that are most harmful such as carcinogenic, mutagenic and reprotoxic (CMR) substances are no longer welcome at our company locations. In many cases, these are substances used for cleaning or analysis. For all of these substances, we started looking for alternatives. This turned out to be quite a comprehensive project, as certain substances are sometimes used at multiple locations and in multiple ways, meaning that the use of it must be assessed on a situation-by-situation basis. To do this, we engaged in discussions with employees about application, frequency of use, by which employees and with which protective equipment.

  • Procurement awareness
    Procurement awareness
  • Procurement awareness

    An additional point of attention regarding the use of hazardous substances concerns “shutting the front door”. This means ensuring even more awareness in the procurement of hazardous substances. Before ordering a substance a new safety procedure must be adhered to. This will prevent employees from placing an order out of habit. It will also help to ensure that the safest variant of products or substances is chosen, whenever possible, and that only those substances are procured that are strictly necessary.

    Due to the size of this project, it will continue in 2022.

  • Accident reporting system
    Accident reporting system
  • Accident reporting system

    In 2021, preparations were made for the replacement of the accident reporting system. The new system is more advanced and user-friendly. Due to the major system change in the company in connection with the Intelligent Brewery programme, there was no capacity in 2021 to actually make the replacement a reality. It will be made part of the 2022 agenda.

  • Joint responsibility for updates
    Joint responsibility for updates
  • Joint responsibility for updates

    Kasper: ‘Safety involves constantly changing legislation, standards, certification and so on. Knowledge of this is spread across the organisation. For this reason we have now defined who is responsible for updating which knowledge. In the event of a new version, we know which content expert is responsible for updating the information and who needs to be informed of this. Safety experts provide a template and keep track of the situation. Keeping track of the specific information is the responsibility of our quality, project or engineering specialists. After all, safety is not limited to our safety experts, it concerns everyone and we are responsible for it together.’

We continue on the chosen path.

The plan for next year is to continue on the path we have taken and to professionalise the safety system even further.

Another goal for 2022 is to make the employees in the workplace even more focused on desirable and undesir­able behaviour through additional training. Research has shown that this contributes directly to everyone’s safe functioning. Special attention will be paid to instructions for the safe use of certain equipment, such as an electric pump truck and the trucks for order picking.

We will set up the “Welcome to the Plant” safety training course for all locations and make it available to them. This training course provides new employees with an introduction to the business and teaches them which rules and standards apply.


Keeping employees engaged
during a pandemic

We consider it important that employees feel like part of the family in our company. However, how do you maintain or achieve that, when teams largely work from home or when strict safety measures apply on site? In 2021, Internal Communications started initiatives to keep employees well informed, to stimulate the mutual bond between colleagues and to increase involvement, where necessary. Here, the focus was on communicating logically and consistently. 

The Corona Crisis Team determined company policy on a weekly basis and was the point of contact for questions about the effects of the pandemic. The members of the team collaborated with contacts at all locations, known as SPOCs (Single Point of Contact). The Corona Crisis Team communicated the ever-changing measures and company policies to managers and teams through various channels. For example, in addition to his usual Brew Talks, CEO Peer Swinkels regularly updated all employees via a video message on recent developments and their significance for our company worldwide. He gave his accounts from different Dutch company locations to emphasise the impact of COVID-19. For example, one time he was standing in an empty distribution centre which is normally a very busy place. The main message was always: ‘Safety comes before everything else. Take care of yourself and each other’.

The intranet also played a key role in informing employees. With the help of Q&A, up-to-date travel information and the “Stay home or go to work?” decision tree, employees could easily determine their safest course of action. 

Job satisfaction 

In addition to paying attention to safety, health and current information, we also focus on maintaining job satisfaction and team building. Employee responses from our triennial pulse survey showed that colleagues working from home missed their teammates while colleagues on site expressed their concerns regarding a safe working environment. It was therefore decided to organise activities for both groups. 

For example, during the lockdown we organised an online tasting called Beer & Bites and on a Saturday night a real online Swinkels Family Brewers game show with prizes. In addition, during summer, there was an outdoor bar on the grounds in Lieshout, between the head office and the brewery, which employees could visit in groups. An effort that was well appreciated. 

When the lockdown in the Netherlands was (temporarily) lifted after the summer, there was an After Summer event for all employees, to celebrate the fact that we could get together again. It goes without saying that the lifting of the lockdown was not only celebrated in Lieshout.

To celebrate Christmas, employees could come and collect a unique Christmas package, and this in a very safe way. Furthermore, several times a year when, for example, Uiltje Brewing Company was acquired and at the introduction of Bavaria 0.0%, they received packages at their home address containing new products. These are just a few of the various actions and activities that we organised for our people.

New way of working

COVID-19 gave us reason to start thinking about a new, effective and safe way of working. This also includes ample attention for employee engagement and job satisfaction. We are working hard on “This is how we work at Swinkels Family Brewers”, a programme that will start in 2022 in phases. 

Well-being: Results 2021

COVID-19 made us look at work and the working environment in a new way. This resulted in useful lessons. As is the case with many others, our company was still quite traditional with regard to workstations. The COVID-19 outbreaks forced us to do things differently which proved quite possible in a surprisingly good way. We gently eased into a digital way of working. After a short period of becoming accustomed to it, we were already receiving positive feedback from employees who wanted to maintain the option of working from home.


The COVID-19 outbreaks forced us
to do things differently,
which proved quite possible in a surprisingly good way.

Angelique Heckman,
Chief people and culture office
Angelique Heckman, <br>Chief people and culture office

Angelique Heckman, Chief People and Culture Officer: ‘We started thinking about effective new ways of working together. Employees with workstation-bound jobs (such as operators in the brewery or malting plant) simply continue to work on site on a daily basis. In the process, we do look at what we can optimise to make the workstation as nice, safe and effective as we can. As soon as COVID-19 measures allow for it, all non-workstation-bound functions will switch, in principle, to 50% office-based and 50% working remotely. This could be at home, but at another location as well. Where exactly the employees will be working (online or off-line), for us is subject to the agreements made within the team and the nature of the activity. Work that requires concentration can easily be done alone and remotely. Brainstorming, however, requires interaction and can be done much better in the office.’

‘It actually worked out surprisingly well when we were forced to work differently when the outbreaks occurred.’

Experimenting and facilitating
We realise that the choices we make for the new way of working are theory-based, which is why we are giving ourselves sufficient time to experiment and experience whether this works for us. We also support the ”new way of working” with knowledge and tools, by the way. Management and employees are given tips on the best way of working remotely. And in 2022, we will introduce an app that allows people to coordinate where they want to work and make the necessary reservations for workstations and meeting space.

Heckman: ‘The new way of working immediately constitutes an invitation for people to circulate more within the organisation. Working in multiple locations naturally creates new connections and interactions.’

  • Employee Code of Conduct
    Employee Code of Conduct
  • Employee Code of Conduct

    “Seeing the world as our family” is our moral compass (purpose). This sentence determines our behaviour, our way of doing business and the manner in which we work. We are an independent family business, which makes us unique in the world of brewing. And it is from that family perspective that we view ourselves and the world. Our code of conduct lists the rules of our family business. We adapted this code of conduct in 2021. The new code, which now incorporates our purpose, also applies to our colleagues in Belgium and Ethiopia. By using more concrete examples, we have made the rules and guidelines more accessible to our employees.

    In addition, we have included an external hotline for irresponsible behaviour in the code of conduct. Employees who suspect that certain behaviour by colleagues is unwise, could previously report this to their manager or supervisor, an HR employee or one of our compliance officers. Employees can now also approach the external hotline. Reporting this can be done anonymously, by phone or online.

    We have, in great detail, brought the updated code of conduct to the attention of all employees in 2021. Every employee received the new code of conduct in 2021, all supervisors and managers have received and signed the code and, in addition, the code was mentioned in the periodic employee update of the Executive Board. We also paid much attention to the new code of conduct in articles on our intranet and in the employee magazine as well as in training sessions for employees. This will be followed up in 2022.

  • Mobility
  • Mobility

    We are also going to revise our travel habits. COVID-19 showed us that we don’t have to jump into a car, a plane or a train to enter into consultations with each other. Of course, we want to keep the option to travel and visit each other open, but where possible we want to make this process smarter, more efficient and more sustainable. To properly monitor whether the new working methods and agreements are effective and pleasant for the employees, we use our pulse measurements.

  • Collective bargaining in times of crisis
    Collective bargaining in times of crisis
  • Collective bargaining in times of crisis

    Collective bargaining was scheduled for early 2021. Unfortunately, it was right in the middle of the second COVID-19 wave. With the initial experiences of the virus still fresh in our minds, it was clear that the beer industry would be hit hard. There was much uncertainty about the actual impact and especially the duration of the crisis. As an employer, we shared this perspective with employee representatives and unions.

    A more flexible collective bargaining agreement
    Heckman: ‘When it became clear that COVID-19 would be with us for much longer than expected, we decided, in consultation with the unions and employees, to start negotiations anyway. In the beginning we, employers and employees, exchanged various perspectives. In doing so, we expressed the ambition to modernise the collective bargaining agreements to such an extent that there would be more opportunities for employees.’ Not a fixed set of agreements that applies to every employee, but a more flexible arrangement that matches the different life stages and needs of employees. ‘For example, more emphasis on compensation for employees with young families, while making more vacation days available to older employees.’

    Discussion narrowed down
    Initially, the unions appreciated the fact that our company found itself in uncertain times. Gradually, however, the wage demand intensified up to the point of a strike threat. As we managed to keep on talking to each other, the strike was taken off the table.

    “Through attention, openness and dialogue, we have managed to to rebuild the bridge.”

    Bridge built
    Heckman: ‘Naturally, this situation has affected the atmosphere in our company. Despite the fact that it proved difficult in this case, it was through attention, openness and dialogue that we managed to rebuild the bridge. As a result, we are able to look ahead together again. We have agreed with the unions and Works Council to first give matters a chance to calm down and to take the time to further develop and implement the modernisation of the CBA.’

  • Staff turnover
    Staff turnover
  • Staff turnover

    We’ve observed a somewhat higher staff turnover rate (joined/left) in 2021; about 10%. The current social trend accommodates for this. For example, the labour market in 2021 experienced tremendous dynamics in the Netherlands. Due to the pandemic, people have had more time to think, have been at home more and have taken more steps than average in their work and daily lives. For many it has led to switching employers or jobs.

    Table: FTEs, turnover and women employed

  • Absenteeism due to illness in line with national pattern
    Absenteeism due to illness in line with national pattern
  • Absenteeism due to illness in line with national pattern

    Absenteeism due to illness in 2021 followed the national pattern. Employees being absent due to COVID-19 (recorded separately), fortunately turned out to be fairly limited. A few employees got infected with COVID-19, but it did not result in large numbers of infections – thanks in part to measures taken by the Corona Crisis Team. 

    Table: Absenteeism due to illness

  • Pulse measurements: Valuable tool
    Pulse measurements: Valuable tool
  • Pulse measurements: Valuable tool

    In 2020, we introduced the pulse measurement. This is a brief questionnaire intended for all employees that they can complete within a few minutes. We send these out quarterly. The pulses help us measure employee satisfaction consistently and allow us to ask one or a few targeted questions about a current topic within our company. The pulse measurements have a high response rate and have continued to be of great value in 2021. Various departments in the different countries have embraced the company-wide idea by submitting questions and organising their own pulse measurements.

  • Winning family culture
    Winning family culture
  • Winning family culture

    ‘Our purpose “Seeing the world as our family” says it all. We work with each other out of connectedness. As a family business it is part of our DNA. And, again, the pandemic showed us that we are all in the same boat. We shape our culture on the basis of three core values that are further explained below. The element of winning fits our company in the way we formulate ambitions, set goals and achieve targets,’ says Heckman.

    The foundation of Swinkels Family Brewers is entrepreneurship. Everyone agrees on that. Heckman: ‘We therefore have no shortage of enterprising minds. A great many ideas and plans are developed here; we have a talent for spotting and exploiting opportunities. This is something we cherish. However, we have said that we need to fit in our entrepreneurship in a more targeted manner as focus leads to better results. It became clear to each department in the last year what role it fulfils in the larger picture. This allows us to make better choices quicker and just go for it.

    The theme of collaboration has been the most challenging in 2021. COVID-19 has made it more difficult to keep connections optimal between colleagues and within departments. Let alone across departments. It’s all about the question: How do you keep the fine fabric that exists between people intact? How do we work together optimally as one family? One way we are addressing this is through the new way of working. We also gave more attention to facilitating managers with tips on how to give their team a positive boost, albeit with coaching, training or a small, warm gesture.

    Focus on results
    The focus on the results pillar is closely related to how we encourage entrepreneurship. Key here is that we no longer rely on gut feelings, but that we steer based on facts. This enables us to measure progress and results better. By increasing focus in the strategy house, we give more direction to our activities. We no longer do everything at once, but prioritise better with each other and achieve more goals. We also made this focus part of our target and bonus structure.

  • New Certainty initiative
    New Certainty initiative
  • New Certainty initiative

    As described in our ambition, we take good care of our employees and want to be a company where every employee can make a contribution in a healthy and safe way in every stage of life. We therefore joined the Nieuwe Zekerheid (New Certainty) initiative in 2021, which collects knowledge and best practices on sustainable employability and how to facilitate it optimally as a company. As a family business, it suits us to offer people a place where they can totally be themselves and live up to their potential until retirement.

We will continue to put the themes of connecting and collaborating on the agenda.

Angelique Heckman,
Chief people and culture officer

With regards to our well-being policy, we will continue the course we have set in the coming years. We will continue to pay ample attention to the trust and well-being of our employees and will continue to put the themes of connecting and collaborating on the agenda. For example, we are going to carefully guide and facilitate our people where two major organisational developments are concerned. The first is the Intelligent Brewery, a comprehensive project that will give us great insight using data from all of our processes.

The second is our new business strategy to be introduced in early 2022. This sets out the course we, as a company, want to follow in the coming years in order to be successful in the market, and with which we can offer our employees continuity.

Both developments mean adjusted roles for employees, new working methods and an optimised focus. We facilitate our employees in their development so that they can undergo these movements with ease so that, together, we will achieve the maximum result.