COVID-19: a year later
A year ago, the world was about to undergo an upheaval that was as sudden as it was profound. We were heading into an unprecedented public health crisis, one that has impacted virtually all sectors of the economy, especially air transport and therefore the entire aircraft production industry.
This electric shock halted a growth trend that had started nearly 30 years earlier. Safran's youngest employees, who didn't live through the recession in the 1990s, have never experienced anything like it. As is often the case, people rise to the occasion most effectively when faced with the most trying situations. And Safran indeed reacted very quickly to cope with the crisis.
Right from the outset, our top priority was to protect our employees' health, while also maintaining our essential activities to support our customers and safeguard Safran's future. Thanks to the various measures implemented at the time, we continued to meet our production and customer support commitments, while helping national health authorities in their efforts to transfer patients and transport medical supplies.
We also drastically reduced expenses and costs, while protecting employment wherever possible. At the same time, we deployed the resources needed to help our suppliers and partners, who had also been heavily hit by this crisis. And of course we joined the collective effort to fight the pandemic by donating protective equipment and by using our facilities to help produce these items.
All of these measures helped us overcome what we hope was the peak of the crisis. Today, the context is still uncertain, and it's hard to tell what will happen in the months ahead, but we have built very solid foundations to help us weather this turbulence and be ready for the recovery when it comes.
Make no mistake, the recovery will come. But how will we address it? Everything seems to indicate that we will tackle it as a deeply transformed organization. And we must sustain the efforts we have made in recent months.
Our roadmap will also be shaped by the fallout from the crisis. First, based on the commitments we made to the government as part of the recovery plan, as well as the public's expectations, reducing our products' environmental footprint is more than ever a key challenge for all Safran companies. Our efforts didn't begin overnight. For instance, since well before the crisis, three-quarters of our research & technology spending has gone to reducing the environmental impact of air transport, directly or indirectly. Our objective is clear: we must be at the forefront of the transition towards decarbonized aviation, whether through the development of disruptive technologies to reduce fuel consumption, the use of sustainable fuels, developing other propulsion modes (hybrid electric, fuel cells, etc.), or implementing ambitious measures to reduce carbon emissions during production.
This is a pivotal challenge, and also a guiding principle in our corporate purpose and a pillar of our corporate social responsibility policy. In tomorrow's world, deeply altered by the crisis, it will help mobilize our employees and stakeholders around a very meaningful shared vision.
The second challenge will be to offer products and services that help safeguard our customers' sovereignty on land, at sea, in the air and in space. Operating in an increasingly uncertain world, Safran's mission is to help build a sovereign Europe. We can do this by guaranteeing access to space through our role in the Ariane launch vehicle program, as well as by playing a key role in European defense programs, including the Future Combat Air System, Eurodrone, Rafale, etc.
The third challenge, and far from the least, will be to accelerate our digital transformation. Spanning all of our businesses, this initiative must allow us to create even more value, higher performance and quality by unleashing the full power of our data, whether in design, production or support. The digital transformation will also help reduce our products' environmental footprint.
A year ago, we were gearing up to face the worst. Today, we still have a long road ahead to restore sustained growth, but we've stepped up to the challenge and we're looking to the future with confidence. Building on our assets and talent, the solid foundations we have constructed and an ambitious roadmap, we will emerge from the crisis stronger than ever.