2021 was also dominated by the serious consequences of the COVID-19 virus, which led to major disruption of society. The effects on the operating results of Unica were limited, but nonetheless demanded considerable adaptability from the workforce. The Board of Directors wishes to express its huge appreciation for their efforts in adapting the work process to minimise the consequences for clients and colleagues.
Their dedication was a key contributing factor to Unica’s success in extending its growth in revenue into 2021. The € 663 million in revenue generated in 2021 represented a rise of more than 24% (2020: € 539 million). The large-scale acquisitions by Unica over the past eighteen months meant that the acquired growth in 2021 contributed to the growth in revenue, as well as the solid organic growth achieved in 2021, as compared with previous financial years. Even more positive was the improvement in return. Due to a combination of economies of scale, lower operating costs and improved margins, EBITDA in 2021 rose to € 56 million (2020: € 41 million), an increase of more than 36%. The return percentage rose to 8.5%, as compared with 7.7% in 2020. Over the past five years, the return has grown twice as fast as revenue, placing Unica in an ever healthier return position.
Based on an ambitious Mergers & Acquisitions agenda, Unica has focused on strengthening its regional presence and specialisations. In May, Unica acquired Pranger-Rosier, a leading installation business in the Northern Netherlands with offices in Dokkum, Leeuwarden and Sneek. This, the largest acquisition in the history of Unica, gives the company access to a new client base in the Northern Netherlands and reinforces the company’s position in technical management and maintenance, that today is provided by a national network of offices at 17 locations. Later in May, Unica also acquired Gerco and Applicom. The solutions offered by these market leaders in passive fire protection are installed in more than 30,000 buildings, and are hallmarked by a high level of digitalisation. Unica already had considerable knowledge of active fire safety, and thanks to this acquisition is now able to supply integrated total solutions for fire-safe buildings. Within the specialisation ICT, too, Unica strengthened its position in 2021 with the acquisition of In2Scope. As a result, Unica is able to more easily realise full-scale implementations of Microsoft Dynamics, a suite of software solutions for integrated optimisation and analysis of business processes.
The Unica Innovation Center, as a separate division, is a major driving force for the strategic focus on innovation. The team is also available to clients who increasingly call upon the expertise offered by the Unica Innovation Center. By organising an annual Innovation Challenge, suppliers are encouraged to improve service in the chain. Innovation programmes are also undertaken within Unica’s regular business operations. One example is the ‘Battery Power Supply’, an integrated fire safety solution that combines a wide range of products and services.
For Unica, the employees are the company’s calling card for its clients. The continued dedication of the workforce is reflected in the results of the employee survey. Above all the rise in the eNPS is an indicator that many employees are positive about their employer, and are happy to recommend Unica as an employer to family, friends and acquaintances. Being a good employer entails a degree of responsibility for health and safety. Despite COVID-19, absenteeism due to sickness rates continued to fall in 2021 (5.1% in 2021 versus 5.2% in 2020). This is the result of an improvement programme in which the focus was shifted from absenteeism to prevention and employability. Supervision by a new health and safety at work service made an important contribution, as did the implementation of the ‘Your DAY’ programme, concentrating on vitality and balance, which is already bearing fruit.
By way of confirmation of the importance of safety, Unica reached the second step of the Safety Culture Ladder in 2021. This instrument is a tool that encourages businesses and their suppliers to improve awareness of safe working practice. Part of the certification is the Safe Unica App, which was developed in 2021 as a means of simplifying the reporting of (near) accidents and incidents. Unica also occupies a prominent position in the Governance Code for Safety in the Construction Industry (GCVB), a sector code that was established in 2014 together with market-leading construction partners and their clients.
The future proofness of Unica as a company goes hand in hand with sustainable development. Against that background, every year Unica reports in its annual report on the key social results from elements of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) guideline. The already solid foundations for sustainable and social entrepreneurship were included in the strategy for 2021 as an integrated spearhead, with a view to long-term value creation. On that basis, Unica will be in a position to further enhance its impact, and continue to deliver a relevant contribution to society over the coming years. Within that process, efforts within the company’s own operations will receive attention, but also the way in which those efforts can be translated into chain cooperation and service provision.
With its deep-rooted knowledge of the energy market, sustainability concepts and financing models, Unica is active at the heart of the energy transition, that is starting to accelerate rapidly. The affordability of sustainable solutions is constantly improving under the influence of market volatility, legislation and regulations, and geopolitical developments. As a consequence, the switch from traditional fossil solutions is becoming increasingly attractive. The climate ambitions and the large scale of the sustainability challenges facing clients, and the technical solutions that make meeting those challenges possible, can all be realised by Unica. Smart building applications to make buildings more sustainable, more comfortable, safer and more (cost) efficient make an important contribution. The fundamental ICT knowledge available within Unica in this field is deployed on behalf of clients in the implementation process.
Major social challenges, like the energy transition and digitalisation, call for more engineering specialists, but there are huge shortages. Further improving the attractiveness of the company on the labour market is a key priority within Unica’s strategic policy. The character of a family-run business that is still clearly present in the company’s DNA at every location, helps underline this attractiveness, but at the same time social entrepreneurship, diversity and inclusion play an important role. Unica is constantly on the lookout for lateral entrants from other sectors, as well as offering employment to people who are distanced from the labour market. The Performance Ladder Social Entrepreneurship (Prestatieladder Socialer Ondernemen PSO) for which Unica was certified in 2021, is evidence of the serious manner in which Unica embraces its social responsibility. Gender equality and inclusivity are spearheads for the diversity platform Unique, and in 2021 received a real boost with a mentor programme and (digital) meetings for female talent within Unica.
The prospects for technical service in general continue to be extremely favourable. With its network of companies, all of which are leaders in their own specialisation, Unica is perfectly positioned to guide its clients through innovative and sustainable transformation processes. Integrated solutions make a real difference when it comes to complex challenges like the energy transition. As a result, cooperation across the board remains essential. The entrepreneurial spirit represented by the more than 35 companies that make up the Unica network remains a success factor that helps the company demonstrate its successful approach in the region and in specialist domains. As a group of companies, Unica still has huge growth potential. The company’s multidisciplinary strength guarantees a solid position for offering an even broader range of services to society and delivering real added value over the coming years.