In a world of conflict, displacement, natural disasters and lean commercial operations, Ecolog International delivers mission-critical services, creates local opportunities for communities who need them most, and enables customers to focus on their core business. Behind the company’s success is an unparalleled commitment to reliability and a 12,000-strong global workforce whose safety is paramount. One man has the task to protect them.
Deploying thousands of employees to remote oil and gas fields, conflict zones, disaster-hit sites and other challenging environments is a major responsibility not many are prepared to shoulder. For Ali Vezvaei though, keeping everybody safe comes with the territory. As the newly appointed CEO of Ecolog International, a market-leading provider of integrated support solutions and logistics services, employee safety is his most important priority.
With a global workforce of over 12,000 people, Ecolog has carried out over 1,100 projects serving governments, major oil & gas companies, defence sector and humanitarian organisations in over 150 locations around the world. Its clients include the likes of the United Nations, the US Army, Shell, KBR, the French Army, the Bundeswehr, EUFOR, Flour, and even NATO.
When dealing with natural disasters or peacekeeping missions amidst conflict-ridden landscapes, bringing order can be a major challenge for those on the ground. There are safety and security risks that must be managed immaculately. Local communities’ trust must be secured as their buy-in is key to the overall safety equation and operational success. Since joining Ecolog in 2019, Ali has quickly had to embrace the system and how to rely on thousands of employees whose job it is to interact with local communities, in foreign lands with varying languages and customs. Underpinning this system is a robust compliance management system, built upon Ecolog’s culture of integrity and codes of ethics and conduct, governing all of its engagements and operations around the globe.
“The first rule in business is trust and respect. We have to earn the respect of the people we are there to help, and this in turn provides a certain level of safety to deliver our services. The best way to achieve this is to bring local communities into the mix by creating opportunities for employment, training and local supply chain development. This ideology is not coincidental. It closely aligns with our voluntary commitment to the UN Global Compact and by extension, the UN Sustainable Developmental Goals. Where we can buy local goods and services, or train and employ local talent, we will. Not only do we improve our operational performance, but also we leave behind a sustainable legacy by investing in these communities. This commitment to transparency and sustainability is at the heart of everything we do at Ecolog. This focus, together with our culture of integrity are the guiding principles by which we navigate our complex business environment.”
The scope for mismanagement or corruption across the supply chain is all too real, especially when working in communities challenged by poverty or conflict, or where governance structures and the rule of law may be sub-optimal. Ecolog is responsible for building completely new infrastructure, including roads, to allow for the delivery of essential supplies to remote locations, catering facilities to feed thousands of workers, food distribution logistics, accommodation and fuel supply: a completely integrated solution that relies on getting things in and out timely, efficiently and transparently. The company has successfully completed a due diligence standard known as TRACEcertification. This provides compliance credentials for international companies, and delivers certain reassurances to prospective clients and partners that Ecolog is somewhat “pre-vetted”. Sound security infrastructure is also paramount in enabling things to run smoothly without disruptions in the value chain caused by theft or corruption.
Safeguarding the physical security of facilities and employees, however, is only part of Ali’s remit together with the company’s Management Board. Protecting the mental health and ensuring the well-being of employees who have been deployed to risk-exposed or remote locations is something the company takes extremely seriously, and which Ali recognises as a priority. There are multiple measures in place designed to look after the mental health of its workforce. Rotation is important, providing employees with downtime offsite, to return home to see family and friends. Extended periods of isolation or exposure to distressing human conditions can have long-term impact, which is why rotation is a mandatory company practice. The company also has dedicated mental health professionals, who visit sites to proactively speak to employees to assess and identify any vulnerability. “Their primary focus is to engage with colleagues, to assess the team spirit and their state of mind; and then in consultation with the leadership team, put in place mitigation and improvement plans.”
Being adept at working in tough physical and mental conditions may explain why Ali felt he could handle the pressure. For over two decades he has worked in the energy, hydrocarbon and engineering industries in global leadership positions with responsibility not only for the financial health of the companies he has managed but also for the welfare of people, communities and the natural environment. Forbes magazine recognised his capabilities by awarding him as one of the top executive leaders in the MENA region for two consecutive years. Interestingly, he had previously come across Ecolog – so he knew what he was getting in into. “Ecolog is at the nexus of some incredibly complex operations, including environmentally sensitive oil and gas fields, mining, energy or infrastructure projects. Many of these impact thousands of local residents and workers and that’s what makes this challenge, delivering reliable and safe solutions, so significant and rewarding.”
Building trust and stability in the midst of humanitarian disasters, conflicts and large-scale industrial sites may be Ecolog’s raison d’être. However, as the geopolitical world becomes ever more fraught with the social and environmental effects of climate change play out, Ali Vezvaei has his work cut out for him. It is a challenge he is all too happy to step up to.