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Word from the Board of Directors

A year of geopolitical conflicts, climate impact, high energy prices and inflation led to much social unrest in 2022. Thanks to its solid foundations, Unica happily remains an exception, that has suffered little impact from the setbacks that occurred in such rapid succession. Thanks to the strategic course followed over the past few years, the company’s crisis resilience has tangibly improved and Unica is less sensitive to the economic developments that have so disrupted the market and society.

For the third year in succession, revenue at Unica grew by double figures to €758 million, an increase of 14% compared with 2021 (€663 million). The focus on improving the rate of return resulted in 2022 in an EBITDA of €72.9 million, 29% higher than in 2021 (€56.4 million). With a rate of return percentage of 9.6% (2021: 8.5%), in 2022, Unica enjoys a healthy return position appropriate for a company of our size.

Five years since the establishment of the strategic vision on the basis of which operations have been conducted over the past few years, a strategic reassessment was carried out, in 2022. The primary conclusion of the reassessment is that the core of the strategy requires no adjustment. The attention Unica has for its people, its focus on innovation and digitalisation, its striving for customer excellence and the acquisition agenda will remain unchanged. Sustainability is another key spearhead within the company’s operations and services, and it has become clear that the increased attention and social focus across the board have acquired decisive importance.

Within its growth strategy, Unica continues to follow an unchanged ambitious Mergers & Acquisitions agenda, aimed at businesses that deliver excellent performance, with a view to expanding the company’s regional presence and reinforce its specialisations. Another essential precondition in selecting acquisition candidates is a sound culture match. In 2022, two leading companies were added to the Unica network. EAL, the Dutch market leader in the development and implementation of security management and access control systems was integrated in the Unica Access & Security cluster. The company Working Spirit, with 150 IT specialists a major player in the national market for ICT secondment, was placed with the Unica ICT Solutions cluster. Both additions offer these specialist clusters new perspectives for further growth in their markets.

Alongside acquisition, retaining the attractiveness of the company on the labour market is a crucial element of Unica’s growth strategy. Major social challenges like the energy transition and digitalisation call for engineering specialists, of which there is still a real shortage. The priority in securing labour capacity lies with the current workforce. Dedication and retaining own staff are cornerstones of the company’s HRM strategy, which is reinforced with broad opportunities for further training, possibilities for advancement within and between the companies in the network, and a clear focus on diversity and inclusivity. Offering a safe working environment in every respect, from physical through to social safety, is integral to the strategy. As well as focusing on existing employees, Unica’s growth ambition requires a structural expansion of the workforce. Unica is therefore involved in a whole raft of recruitment activities, including attempts to reach out to entirely new target groups, for example via social entrepreneurship and lateral entry from other sectors.

Never before have the unavoidability of the energy transition and the necessity for sustainability been so clear-cut as in 2022. Influenced by geopolitical developments and market conditions, the call for climate action has become more urgent in every respect and as a partner in the sustainable transformation, Unica can make a positive difference. With its in-depth knowledge of the market and state-of-the-art technical solutions, Unica is in a perfect position to assist clients in achieving their climate goals and ambitions.

How Unica can help to achieve the maximum sustainability impact is described in the company’s corporate sustainability strategy. Unica reports key social results in this annual report according to elements from the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) guideline. A new materiality analysis was conducted in 2022, to discuss how Unica can structurally reinforce its process of sustainable development over the coming years. The outcomes were translated into the core spearheads of Unica’s sustainability strategy: Energy & Climate, Circularity & Environment, People & Society and Innovation & Digitalisation. Ethics and Integrity forms the fifth spearhead in this policy. In 2023 and beyond, Unica plans to focus specific attention on implementing this Sustainability Framework and the related programmes.

A number of initiatives currently being undertaken within internal corporate operations tie in with the framework. A targeted focus on CO2 reduction, for example, has become a priority for Unica, and the chosen vehicle for streamlining these efforts is the CO2 Performance Ladder. Mobility is a major contributing factor to Unica’s CO2 emissions. Since 2021, a new mobility policy has been in place, aimed at ordering no more petrol-driven vehicles by 2025, as well as offering more space for flexible transport, and experimenting with sustainable service logistics for the field services. Furthermore, many Unica locations generate their own energy, for example with solar panels and ATES systems. The offices in Bodegraven were renovated in 2022, and are now fully sustainable. Following these major sustainability efforts, the 50-year-old building was awarded an A++ energy label.

Both far away and closer to home, Unica is following the principles of sustainable business practice in its approach to society, too. In 2022, Unica entered into a partnership with the Nationale Park De Hoge Veluwe, to assist that organisation in achieving its aims of conserving nature, art and culture. Furthermore, each individual Unica company supports social initiatives in its own region, thereby showing their promise to always operate close to their customers, in the local communities of which they form part. The Unica Foundation, now in its 15th year, is the most eye-catching example of social action. The foundation, established in 2007, supports technical aid projects in developing countries and has improved the living conditions of more than 40,000 people.

Whereas in 2022, high energy prices resulted in a delaying effect, the energy transition is expected to fully get up to speed, in phases, in 2023. With its integrated approach, Unica is able to support organisations in almost every aspect of their sustainability ambitions. In combination with its innovative capacity, reflected among others in the Unica Innovation Center as a centre of knowledge and driving force for the digital management of building functions, the prospects for Unica are looking ever more favourable. With its fundamental ICT knowledge, Unica can support the digital transformation in technical service provision with practical applications. The combination of knowledge from a variety of domains also results in surprising and sometimes valuable disruptive applications.

The range of services provided by Unica places the company in an excellent position to help solve the challenges facing society, such as the energy transition, staff shortages an ageing population, health and safety. Attracting the necessary labour capacity remains a constant area of priority. Career prospects within Unica must be utilised to the maximum extent, in combination with the opportunities of lateral entry, training programmes and social business practice in the efforts to expand the pool of technical personnel.

The growth potential and multidisciplinary character of the company place Unica in a strong position. Unica accepts the responsibility that position brings, and as such gives due prominence to its own efforts in the field of sustainable business practice. From that starting point, Unica is in the perfect position to deploy maximum effort in further broadening the range of services the company provides to both its customers and society, over the coming years.

John Quist (CEO) en Ron van Laar (CFO)