COVID-19 and UL
A lethal, microscopic pathogen brought the world to a standstill in 2020, shutting down businesses and limiting traditional human routines while inflicting devastating losses of life and livelihood. The global COVID-19 pandemic, the largest health and economic crisis in a century, continues to reshape how we live, work and play.
UL’s work is essential, and thanks to our employees, UL never closed. Our designation as “essential” imposes a set of responsibilities. We’re essential to the safety of healthcare workers and their patients, fire and police departments, the energy grid and utilities. UL is essential to the safety of the global supply chain. The UL Mark instills trust in our customers’ products and services and reassures consumers around the world. In the face of uncertainty and even conflicting debates about how to combat the virus, safety and safety science have never been more important.
Steadfast in our mission of safety, UL employees worked together to meet the enormous challenges of the pandemic. We altered work schedules and workplaces to permit our laboratories and field services to continue to operate. We developed innovative ways to serve our customers, enabling them to keep their essential businesses operating and bring their new products to market quickly.
From the very beginning of the pandemic, UL was on the ground helping our customers. I’m so proud of the way we rapidly refocused our operations to meet the needs of our customers. Our total impact is too great to list in detail, but a few highlights include:
Expedited the testing and certification of a new COVID-19 filtration system for hospitals and nursing homes.
Developed virtual food safety audits, improving the safety of grocery store and restaurant food supplies.
Worked with a laboratory-grade refrigeration equipment manufacturer to certify the minus 70 degrees Celsius storage systems that process biological products and help advance vaccine development.
Advanced UL Verified Healthy Building Mark to offer proven indoor environmental quality (IEQ) testing and verification, helping businesses provide reassurance to employees and safely stay open.
Assisted the broader business community to safely return employees to offices by developing and distributing the Start Safe Playbook, a set of industry best practices regarding safety, environmental and public health measures.
Our Strategy and our Ambition
As a 126-year-old company, UL celebrates its proud legacy but also embraces its stewardship to customers and employees to ensure that UL will continue to prosper for the next century. To this end, we had already begun refreshing our strategy when the pandemic struck.
We had a choice to make, and we kept going. We were determined that this crisis would not be wasted; we would come out of the downturn stronger, evolving to focus our portfolio and remain professionally relevant. We named our evolution the “Alpha Strategy.” Our research and analysis confirmed that UL has an enviable set of core capabilities, fueling enormous potential for us to extend our value to our customers by working with them to solve the modern safety challenges they face.
We regard our core capabilities in safety science — fire, electrical and energy safety — as our crown jewels. Our core is the place of our biggest competitive advantage, and it’s how most of our 90,000 customers first got to know us.
Our core also provides the foundation to move into new and attractive adjacency markets. It’s an increasingly interconnected world, and we are ready and willing to work with our customers to provide solutions for addressing those new risks where they need and want our help.
At the forefront of Alpha Strategy is our Ambition, a clear statement of who we aspire to be: We will serve as our customers’ most trusted, science-based safety, security and sustainability partner.
Our Ambition is grounded by our mission to help to make the world a safer place. We direct this mission toward customers who are turning to us to help them better understand and address the interactions between components, products, systems and assets and create safer solutions. Our customers want more of UL’s science and technical expertise. They want a partner to help them solve their biggest innovation challenges.
Equally critical to our Ambition are our employees who perform so admirably, taking pride in their performance. “We are really carrying out our mission, making the world a safer place,” one employee emailed. “If this is our blueprint for going through a crisis, we are showing our true colors with excellence.”
"We are really carrying out our mission, making the world a safer place. If this is our blueprint for going through a crisis, we are showing our true colors with excellence."
Our Ambition concludes by articulating a focus on leadership in all of our businesses and delivering best-in-class stakeholder returns through continued growth coupled with operational excellence.
In addition to the pandemic and the resulting economic crisis, 2020 was not an easy year for any of us in the U.S. as protests against long-standing racial and social injustices erupted across the country. At UL, we paused and asked all employees around the world to connect with each other; almost 1,000 employees joined inclusion conversations. We listened and reflected on the emotions many of our colleagues felt in the wake of injustices that they themselves experienced throughout their lives. Drawing on these inclusion conversations, we developed the UL Diversity + Inclusion activation plan, a true commitment to action. UL is dedicated to providing a physically and psychologically safe workplace where all employee contributions are recognized and rewarded and where all employees can learn and grow.
In summary, despite the many challenges of 2020, UL achieved profitable growth by developing new innovations that enhanced our service delivery, controlling expenses, and gaining market share with many of our industry-leading offerings. Additionally, we continued to evolve by overhauling our operating model to support the Alpha Strategy.
I feel extraordinarily privileged to lead one of the world’s most important organizations. UL’s mission and work matter. We live our mission every day.
We’re evolving in pursuit of our Ambition. The best is yet to come.