On the Spot...Steve Severs

Managing Director of Saint-Gobain Glass UK since 2013, Steve Severs was recently announced President of British Glass. With members facing Brexit influencing market conditions, Mr Severs spoke exclusively to Glass Worldwide about the confederation’s objective to assist the UK glass industry to have the influence, knowledge and skills to be world leading and globally competitive. The full version of this article appears in the May/June issue *.

GW: What does it mean to you to be voted President of British Glass and what do you hope to bring to the role?

 In terms of meaning, then it is an honour for both myself and Saint-Gobain but above all, it gives me a chance to put further energy into British Glass and pay back some of the considerable efforts they have made in support of the UK glass industry. I hope to be able to aid British Glass in understanding what current factors are driving the behaviours, priorities and change programmes of the glass processing industry in the UK such as Industry 4.0, in order to support particularly the promotion of glass as a fantastic container and construction material.

GW: What do you consider to be British Glass’ key objectives?

Foremost to be the supporting voice for the whole industry and the primary conduit into Government for legislative change, as well as pushing for the recognition of the positive impact the glass industry and its products can make to the whole economy. More specifically for flat glass, it would be to improve resource efficiency to increase post construction glass for recovery and to improve energy efficiency and building effectiveness by pushing to raise the standards of installed glass products in the building fabric.

Of late, it has also been necessary to provide the most up-to-date perspective and advice regarding plotting a way through the various potential Brexit outcomes.

GW: In the coming months, what will be the primary focus of your tenure as President?

The key focus remains assisting British Glass to promote sustainability and glass’ endless recyclability ever further to a far wider and younger audience, along with making quantum steps in cullet recovery levels, particularly post consumer and post construction.


GW: In your opinion, how relevant are trade associations such as British Glass?

 I don’t believe there is a divine right for all trade associations to be considered as the absolute voice. Any trade association becomes relevant and earns that right as a consequence of the quality of its advice, its ability to inform its stakeholders and be a credible voice that brings together the views of the industry to share a coherent point of view and vision. In doing this, they have an opportunity to make themselves highly relevant.


GW: Over the years, what have been the main benefits of British Glass membership to Saint-Gobain Glass UK?

Saint-Gobain Glass UK has certainly benefitted from advice from British Glass on complex issues – with clear explanations to help our interpretation in areas such as energy trading mechanisms and also from performing the delivery of sector level roadmaps (such as UK glass decarbonisation through to 2050), which could not be undertaken at an individual company level.

It is also of benefit to know that a sector voice has been carried much further into Government by BG as part of an industry response.


GW: What more could the industry do to support British Glass?

The industry at an individual level needs to have a strategy to attract and retain high capability people to the world of glass and its possibilities. In turn, the industry would be stocked and prepared for the challenges ahead, including inevitable competition for capable and skilled people.


GW: What legacy did your predecessor Adrian Curry leave behind?

A straightforward one of professionalism and demonstration of a strong grasp of the real issues the industry is facing and what pragmatic, positive steps need to be taken to adapt to them.


GW: Is British Glass planning any specific initiatives to attract and retain young blood into the UK glass industry? What are your thoughts on the Glass Futures project, a brainchild of British Glass?

I’m fully aware of British Glass developing an operator level glass apprenticeship, which would provide training and development across the sector and bringing credibility to such a glass qualification.

Glass Futures presents an outstanding opportunity to showcase the glass industry as a whole and specifically for talent to see the dynamic and prosperous level that the industry functions at.


GW: British Glass is unusual in allowing suppliers and customers of glassmaking companies to be members. What’s the motivation for that?

The logic is based on what is best for the whole connected industry. The supply chain is an integral part of the industry and its needs. Priorities and what British Glass can have a positive input on will have a commonality with those of the manufacturing part of the industry. If not, then the relationship wouldn’t sustain in the longer term. For this reason, some suppliers in particular have opted to join British Glass.


GW: What importance do the Glass Focus Awards have on the glass events calendar and what did it mean for Saint-Gobain Glass UK to win the British Glass ‘Strengthening business through people’ 2018 award, sponsored by Glass Worldwide?

Just as a company should recognise, reward and praise individuals for their outstanding contributions, on an enhanced scale it is equally appropriate to recognise groups of individuals or the entity for excellence among its peers. The Glass Focus Awards have provided a day to debate and look into the future of glass, as well as a chance to recognise stellar performance. A business is only as strong as its people, so winning the award provided great recognition of an outstanding piece of work done at SG Glass in support of business development.


GW: How useful for members are British Glass’ seminars, such as the recent ‘Energy options for glass melting’ event and are there plans for future such seminars in 2019?

These give an unrivalled opportunity to gather expert evidence and insight and to form that for a message to deliver to Government, providing the correct insight on sector and glass supply chain issues.


GW: What is British Glass’ role as a member of Glass Alliance Europe, the European Alliance of Glass Industries?

British Glass brings the UK perspective to the wider EU position on burgeoning legislation, contributes to technical committees and working groups to provide resource when reviewing dossiers, consultations and details of impending changes. The UK has also been an influential part of the Brussels machine and BG contributes fully to this process on behalf of its members.


GW: And how does British Glass co-operate with other trade associations such as the Society of Glass Technology in the UK and other regional bodies in Europe?

British Glass will work with a range of trade associations (eg Energy Intensive Users Group, the All Party Packaging Group, British Soft Drinks Association plus a range of construction and glazing bodies) and where a common glass industry interest exists, they can combine to give a louder voice to Government.

SGT is a different relationship, in that it acts as a learned society, providing a valuable information and technical knowledge enhancement service, thus promoting very specific technical development for both mature practitioners and less experienced members developing their technical prowess.


GW: How does the consultancy arm, Glass Technology Services, contribute to British Glass’ objectives?

GTS provides professional and expert level services, especially in the analytical field, which is a clear recognised need for members to support leading edge business delivery. By remaining both expert and highly technical on behalf of its clients, GTS brings a strong credibility to our work at British Glass – it’s a rare but differentiating combination.


GW: Further to our interview last year, what are the prevailing market conditions for the flat glass industry in the UK?

Market conditions remain relatively firm, although both the commercial and domestic sectors could be destabilised if the Brexit outcome resets the value of the GBP £ and consequent consumer and investor confidence.


Further Information: 

British Glass Manufacturers’ Confederation, Chapeltown, Sheffield, UK

tel: +44 114 290 1850

email: information@britglass.co.uk

web: www.britglass.org.uk


Saint-Gobain Glass UK, Eggborough, UK

tel: +44 1977 666100

email: sgukinfo@saint-gobain.com

web: www.saint-gobain.co.uk

* The full version of this article appears in the bumper 148 page May/June issue, alongside a series of exclusive interviews with industry figureheads, topical market reports and technology updates. Subscribe now to receive the full paper and digital versions (subscribers receive a free copy of the Who’s Who / Annual Review yearbook!).

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