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There can be little doubt that 2020 ended up being a year like no other. As reports emerged from China in January concerning a potential virus outbreak, little did we know the immeasurable impact this was to have on the lives of each and every one of us since.

With a renewed optimism and positivity following a fruitful 2019, Spectra began 2020 looking to build momentum on the previous year’s successes. It was also a time to prepare for the two key challenges that lay ahead, namely the uncertainty surrounding Brexit and the on-going debate on plastics and the environment. 

The year began positively with yet another successful trade show appearance in Paris at PCD, which drew significant interest from visitors from around Europe and beyond. Soon after, Spectra exhibited again in the UK at a busy Packaging Innovations show in Birmingham, where there was widespread interest in our environmental packaging displays. One explained the benefits of open and closed-loop recycling. The other highlighted the responsible measures we have taken to reduce our environmental impact, along with our steps to encourage sustainable packaging solutions.

The company's socially responsible ethos also came to the fore in the lead up to Christmas 2019 and January 2020. Staff kindly donated warm clothing for the local homeless through the Salvation Army, an initiative instigated by employees Jayne and Chris Smy, who both help the charity in their spare time. 

The beginning of the year also saw Spectra become the focus of an environmental packaging feature on national TV in Italy, with a film crew from RAI TV spending the day visiting the factory, filming the various processes involved.

Yet despite the positive start to 2020, Asia's escalating health crisis strongly indicated we were all soon to be affected by an on-coming global pandemic known as Coronavirus or COVID-19.

As the virus began to take hold and spread, the government, guided by public health authorities, strongly advised regular hand washing to minimise infection. As a result of this advice, consumer need for hygiene products such as liquid soaps or hand sanitisers put enormous strains on supply chains. Many retail outlets, including supermarkets, struggled to meet demand, with many rationing purchases, with others often running out. Consequently, the supply of plastic containers to ensure availability of these products became critical.

Spectra ramped up production with round-the-clock shifts to counter the ensuing demand, producing millions of bottles, primarily used for anti-bacterial hygiene products. Indeed, many others within the plastics industry went to extraordinary lengths to ensure they continued to operate through often challenging circumstances to maintain vital supply chains for crucial products. Along with hand hygiene products, other essential plastic items such as medical packaging, components for ventilators, social distance screens and PPE equipment were also badly needed. Others repurposed their production lines to produce much-needed items. It was clear that the plastics industry stepped up to the challenge to assist in a time of national crisis.

By March there was emerging evidence of the scale of COVID-19's impact on the elderly and in particular, care homes, with many struggling to contain the virus amongst residents and their carers. With antibacterial packaging production running at full tilt, Spectra felt it needed to offer direct support to local care homes in Norfolk and Suffolk, by providing much-needed supplies. Initially working alongside customer Malibu Suncare, as well as local customer Herrco Cosmetics, Spectra donated hundreds of bottles of filled hand sanitisers to care home staff to show gratitude for all their endeavors during particularly challenging times and often life-threatening dangers.

Similarly, throughout March and April, Spectra, in association with Herrco and labeller Olympus Print Group, went on to extend support to other essential frontline services, including schools, the Fire Service, Prison Services and the Police. These partnerships with Malibu, Herrco and Olympus clearly showed that great things could be achieved when companies worked together. Additionally, Spectra made provisions for urgent requests from healthcare providers, often re-adjusting production and planning schedules on short notice to accommodate those in urgent need.

During this time, enormous strains were being put on essential workers who had to continue working to keep the country operating during the pandemic, such as supermarket staff, emergency services, public transport workers and of course those on the frontline in the NHS. As a provider of essential products, Spectra staff also admirably stepped up to the plate, working tirelessly through often testing workplace challenges.  

As the COVID-19 crisis took hold, the company's senior management had to make many difficult decisions to ensure it could continue operating to provide essential products while safeguarding the health of its valued workforce. With this in mind, Spectra implemented several measures to ensure this, with a number of employees working from home to help maintain social distancing recommendations in the workplace. Other endeavors included employees moving from their usual working areas to different factory locations to ease social contact along with staggered office shift patterns to keep numbers to a minimum, with everyone playing their part.

Conversely, Spectra stringently carried out COVID-safe measures to minimise the threat of infection. Staff were encouraged to diligently cleanse desk surfaces; door handles and other frequently used items hourly on rotation and provided with antibacterial hand sanitisers for personal use. Without doubt, Spectra's staff rose to all the challenges thrown at them, from the beginning of the pandemic to the present day. 

It is clear to see that the impact of COVID-19 has enforced a wide range of changes that will probably be commonplace from now on, as we all come to terms with new ways of working, including home working and virtual on-line meetings.

As the country continues to go in and out of lockdowns, adjusting to these new working ways have been made all the more challenging for many of Spectra's customers. For this reason, the company has strived during the year to ensure constant customer contact and support throughout the crisis, offering pre-pandemic levels of service, aimed at both helping and working alongside customers the best they can.

Despite the challenges of COVID, Spectra continued to work through some of the difficulties created by the UK’s imminent departure from the EU, with strong growth that exceeded expectations. The company also continued to innovate with new products and never lost sight of its commitment as a responsible manufacturer, with continued measures aimed at minimising its environmental impact.

Joe Maynard, Managing Director at Spectra, said, "There is no doubt that 2020 was a highly challenging year and the hurdles that lay ahead in 2021 will undoubtedly test us further as we hopefully look beyond the aftermath of COVID". 

He added, "What was clearly evident from last year was the sheer power of human strength in the face of unprecedented challenges, with incredible acts of kindness, bravery and resolve through genuine sadness. For us, 2020 was incredibly busy and often unrelenting; however, without the wonderful work of our dedicated, selfless staff and our supportive, understanding customers, it would have been all the more difficult. Here's hoping for a better year ahead for all of us".