Performance measurement Leadership

2021 CEOs Who 'Get It'

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2019 CEOs Who Get it
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Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite

Mark Vergnano

President and CEO
The Chemours Co.
Wilmington, DE


Accomplishments

  • Mark has built a culture in which employees uphold Chemours’ core values, one of which is “Safety Obsession” – the belief that only when its workplace and employees are safe can Chemours operate profitably.
  • He actively participated with frontline employees in a day-long workshop on hazard identification and mitigation. This included a simulated field exercise that challenged everyone to spot multiple staged safety hazards in a maintenance shop.
  • At the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, he made it clear that Chemours’ “North Star” would be the health and safety of its employees and their families. Mark then went on to bring that commitment to life by communicating with Chemours’ global workforce at every step through self-recorded videos, vlogs, emails and live-stream conversations.

The Chemours Co. is a global leader in titanium technologies, fluoroproducts and chemical solutions, providing its customers with essential solutions in a wide range of industries. Chemours’ ingredients are found in plastics and coatings, refrigeration and air conditioning, mining, and general industrial manufacturing. The company has approximately 7,000 employees and 30 manufacturing sites serving approximately 3,700 customers in more than 120 countries.

 

Describe your personal journey to becoming a CEO who “gets it.”

Prior to leading Chemours, I spent 35 years with DuPont in a variety of roles ranging from technology to operations to sales to business management, so I have seen what it takes to keep our people safe while operating some very complicated and potentially hazardous processes. It only takes one conversation with an injured employee’s family to make you realize that any injury is one too many. Protecting our people is a clear and inspired purpose, and it’s one of my most important jobs as a leader.

 

What is the biggest obstacle to safety at your organization, and how do you work to overcome it?

At companies like ours, it’s crucial to have strong processes in place to identify and manage workplace risks and to avoid any temptation for complacency. We tackle this through the combined efforts of our safety team and the diligence of our entire workforce. At Chemours, we empower – and expect – all our employees to speak up and stop a job if they see something unsafe. We reinforce this in our trainings, in our coaching and in the way we operate every day. 

 

Why is safety a core value at your organization?

At Chemours, “safety obsession” is one of our five core values. “Obsession” means we are never satisfied with where we are and constantly seek opportunities to raise the bar. Our diligence in this regard is important to our people, and it’s also why many of our customers choose to work with us. At the end of the day, our obsession with continuous improvement is good for our people and good for business.

 

How do you instill a sense of safety in employees on an ongoing basis?

We have a shop floor safety team, which captures ideas and feedback from frontline employees. We have safety champions who promote a safe workplace. And we talk about safety every day, involving all 7,000 of our employees in the improvement conversation. Safely operating is a requirement for all of us who want to work at Chemours.

 

How does your organization measure safety? What are the leading indicators that show you how safe your organization is, and where do you see room for improvement? 

We measure safety in many ways, including near-miss reporting, identifying and tracking hazard elimination, safety stops and audits, and a regular National Safety Council Safety and Culture Survey that captures input from employees. When employees speak up to stop or pause a job when they see something unsafe, that’s when we know the message is getting through, and that allows us to take appropriate action in real time. Getting constant feedback allows us to improve faster.

 

What role does off-the-job safety play in your organization’s overall safety program?

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a strong reminder that we can’t let our guard down at the end of the workday, because it’s important to minimize the hazards we’re exposed to outside the job as well. We continue to work with employees to provide them the resources and flexibility they need to navigate new off-the-job dangers, like those posed by the pandemic.

 

What have you done to support employee mental health and well-being within your organization?

Chemours has changed its definition of safety to not only include physical safety, but also psychological safety, something we refer to as “holistic safety.” We want our people to feel physically and mentally safe in their jobs so they can bring their best self to work every day.  That requires us to create the right inclusive environment and support our employees with training and programs that improve their overall health and safety.

 

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