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ES25_EC_AENORRafael García Meiro

SPAIN - Economy

Rafael Garcia Meiro

CEO, AENOR, Spain

Bio

Rafael García Meiro as CEO of AENOR since 2017, leads the ambitious transformation that the Entity is developing. Previously he exercised senior management responsibilities at Telefónica, where he was Global Director of B2B channels and Director of Business Development at Telefónica Digital. Before that, for six years he was an executive at the multinational technology company Cisco Systems. García Meiro began his professional career in the consulting services company Accenture, as a business strategy and change management consultant, developing projects in Spain, Chile, Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Peru, and Turkey. He chairs the Board of Trustees of the Ibero-American Foundation for Quality Management (FUNDIBEQ), is a member of the Corporate Social Responsibility Commission of the Spanish Association for Standardization, UNE, and is a member of the Standing Committee of the National Accreditation Entity (ENAC). He also participates as a trustee of the Sanders Foundation, with the aim of supporting extracurricular programs for children at risk of social and economic exclusion. A graduate in Law and Economics and Business Administration (ICADE E-3), he has completed IESE’s “PDD”, “From Executive to Board Member” and “Responsible Boards of Directors” programs. He also completed Harvard’s “Leading Professional Service Firms” program and Stanford’s “Executive Program for Growing Companies (EPGC)” program.

"AENOR originated in 1986 as a non-profit association aimed at standardizing and certifying the Spanish industrial market."
TBY talks to Rafael Garcia Meiro, CEO of AENOR, Spain, about the company’s milestones, ESG initiatives, and goals for the coming year.
In 2017, AENOR split from the Spanish Association of Standardization. Can you outline its journey, highlighting key milestones?

AENOR originated in 1986 as a non-profit association aimed at standardizing and certifying the Spanish industrial market. In 2017, the standardization activity remained in the non-profit association -now called UNE, and the certification transitioned into a for-profit company, prompting my involvement to lead this transformation. I joined the company during a pivotal transition: shifting from non-profit to for-profit. This transformation required a redefining of our cultural, marketing and digital approaches. For example, we needed to adopt a competitive mindset, hire more marketing professionals and articulate our value proposition. Simultaneously, we overhauled our technology infrastructure developing a strong investment and evolving how to address our needs. Balancing this evolution with our company’s DNA was crucial. Our initial focus was on cultural change, process refinement and market strategy development, all essential for this transition. Essentially, we started to put the customer at the centre. Our second milestone was achieved through strategic mergers and acquisitions, vital for sustainable growth. We realized the importance of generating positive EBITDA to avoid increasing losses during expansion. Recent transition into a holding company structure enables us to diversify into consulting, expanding beyond our traditional certification market. This structural shift allowed us to offer additional services to our customers while maintaining our core certification business. Our purpose is still very much alive: “to contribute to the transformation of society by building trust between organisations and people”.

AENOR spans 90 countries across America, Europe, and Latin America. Could you detail its global expansion approach and handling of diverse regulations?

AENOR was founded to standardize and certify Spanish companies. As these firms expanded into Latin America, particularly in telecommunications and utilities, they sought our assistance in ensuring their subsidiaries adhered to Spanish standards. This expanded our services beyond verification, adding value to companies in those regions. Our presence in Latin America evolved strategically to serve the local market, and now our brand is highly regarded in the region. We are also a relevant player in Italy and Portugal, here with a focus on the Iberian market. We’ve established subsidiaries in regions such as Central America, partnering with local investors. Our aim extends beyond Spanish companies; we strive to add value wherever we operate, even in China, primarily supporting Spanish firms there through a joint venture. Accredited in 150 areas, including telecommunications and utilities, we ensure our team comprises professionals with relevant backgrounds. Certification requests specify accreditation requirements, aligning with local regulatory bodies’ standards. Some certifications are essential for government contracts, while others cater to industry or proprietary standards. Quality perception varies globally, with Japan often employing its own rigorous standards alongside ISO. AENOR’s role is to verify companies’ compliance with public and proprietary standards, maintaining trust through demonstrated rigor and reliability. Spanish ENAC and other national accreditation bodies endorse our expertise, bolstering market trust, while our commitment remains steadfast in upholding stringent standards and practices for our customers.

How do these company certifications contribute to the development of the industrial market?

In AENOR’s early days, spurred by Spain’s drive for competitiveness before joining the EU, the Minister of Industry sought counsel from European peers, stressing the need for quality models akin to France, Germany, and the UK. This led to the collaboration of industry associations to establish the Spanish Association for Standardization and Certification, initially focused on industry and construction to elevate Spain’s product quality for European markets. The emergence of ISO 9001 in 1989 further underscored the importance of quality processes, prompting many Spanish firms to seek certification. In discussions with a Latin American counterpart, I emphasized the role of quality certification in global competitiveness, and how the level of ISO 9001 certifications often correlates with the position of an economy in the global environment.. Prioritizing quality certification allows local industries to compete with multinationals, fostering excellence and growth. The World Bank’s introduction of green funds in 2000 supported ISO 14001 certification, focusing on environmental impact reduction, particularly in sectors like petrochemicals. Funds also supported R&D projects, linking certification to grants. Compliance with industry standards, such as food safety, is vital for exports, facilitating entry into European and Anglo-Saxon markets. Today, companies pursue certification to affirm their values, notably in ESG, countering greenwashing practices.

How does AENOR ensure the transparency and success of these companies’ ESG initiatives?

Currently, 40% of our revenue stems from certifying companies to new standards, reflecting their adherence to established norms. Upholding European and Spanish values, particularly freedom, equality, and the rule of law, is a source of pride. While we don’t certify political or judicial matters, we focus on ESG principles outlined in the Spanish Constitution, fostering credibility and combating greenwashing for companies. Initially centered on security and processes, our focus has evolved to integrate values, ensuring tangible impact. Customers now prioritize circular economy, carbon neutrality, and social sustainability. We promote a 360° approach to Sustainability as a competitive differentiator . Carrefour, for example, sought certification for its zero-waste food distribution process, aligning with sustainable development goals. Through repurposing surplus produce and donations, Carrefour addresses business profitability and societal benefit, demonstrating double materiality. The global CEO’s involvement underscores Carrefour’s commitment to these principles and their positive impact.

What strategies does the company employ to attract and retain top talent?

This is crucial for us. Our turnover rate is only 4%. When I joined, I initially wanted higher turnover, but realized the value of retaining knowledge. Even though we offer average pay, being the leading certification company attracts talent. We emphasize purpose over money, as our work benefits Spanish society. We’ve adapted to attract younger talent, allowing auditors to work remotely full-time. Other staff have a flexible schedule. We prioritize gender equality through ambitious programs, including flexible work arrangements. This flexibility is crucial for balancing work and family responsibilities.. Flexibility, along with leadership and purpose, forms a key part of our value proposition for fostering employee growth.

What are AENOR’s key goals and objectives for the upcoming year?

Post-restructuring, our focus at AENOR is on fortifying our risk strategy and operations. We are enhancing processes to address identified risks and optimizing services to meet 80% of customer needs efficiently. From inception to certification, we are dedicated to guiding clients through transformational journeys. Formalizing our approach and aligning our value proposition are pivotal in executing our strategic vision. We’ve evolved from being centered on boosting Spanish industrial products to embracing diverse objectives such as decarbonization and food waste reduction, developing tailored certification services. Alongside traditional expertise in sustainability and safety, we specialize in emerging areas like ESG, technology, and healthcare. Challenges in these realms prompt our consulting services to devise improvement strategies and provide certification, while respecting due independence between the two activities. For example, in addressing the Sargassum issue in Caribbean countries, we devised a unique business model leveraging CO2 certification expertise to monetize emission reduction credits. Integrating drone and helicopter inspections for critical infrastructures allows us to create digital twins, ensuring safety while promoting tree growth. Our aim is to enhance processes, integrate services, and deliver impactful solutions more efficiently.

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