Simon Henderson was Director of Corporate Responsibility and Digital Media at Centrica plc, working for the company from 1988 until 2012.
I joined what was then British Gas plc in 1988. At the time, British Gas was split into regions, each region having responsibility for the gas supply network, emergency call outs and the supply and servicing of gas appliances. I was based in our Eastern region which had its main office in Potters Bar, Hertfordshire but whose geographical boundaries included Norfolk, some of Suffolk, Essex, Beds and Herts and parts of North London. I joined as a graduate trainee and then worked in various marketing roles until late 1995 when Centrica was formed following a demerger from British Gas plc. The formal demerger was completed in February 1997.
Doing the milk round at University, I was attracted by the quality of the graduate training scheme compared to other companies; there were lots of opportunities to do a number of roles within the marketing function. British Gas had been privatised in 1986 so there was quite a buzz about the company despite its many years of heritage.
I attended the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST) with my degree being in Management Sciences. The course offered a good range of subjects ranging from maths to economics to sociology, ideal at the time as I didn't know what my future career path would be.
I've been fortunate to do a wide range of jobs during my time with the company and have been part of some great teams in both marketing and corporate affairs. Highlights include working on the launch of the Goldfish credit card, the introduction of energy market competition and, more recently, the development and communication of Centrica's corporate responsibility strategy and overseeing Centrica's external website.
In recent years, there has been increasing expectation from a range of stakeholders that businesses understand the impact their activities have on society and the environment. Managing and exceeding these expectations through the continual development of our corporate responsibility approach has been both a challenge and an area of work that I'm most proud of.
I'm very fortunate to work for an organisation where there is a strong commitment to the view that a principled approach to doing business wins the trust of our customers, regulators, investors and other stakeholders. It also helps us to attract and retain talented and committed employees and it's great to hear new graduates tell us that our CR approach played a part in their decision to join the Centrica team. The main emphasis of our CR strategy is to identify ways in which Centrica can contribute to reducing the levels of carbon emitted into the environment; a role we are uniquely placed to fulfil through our customer relationships, the skills of our service engineers and our expertise in sourcing energy and generating power. CR is about business opportunities as well as managing potential risks and we see significant new market opportunities in helping to deliver a low carbon society and want to ensure that British Gas and Direct Energy are the energy services providers of choice. Building trust in this area will enable use to grow our business while delivering environmental and social benefits to society. Being a small part of this story is a key factor in wanting to work for Centrica.
I'd strongly recommend that new graduates try to learn as much about the organisation as possible and try new challenges - working outside of your comfort zone or area of expertise is a great way of developing your skill base. Also try not to be too fixed on what your next career move will be; Centrica is a very diverse organisation with lots of opportunity to develop so don't be blinkered in your approach and seize every possible opportunity. Working in the corporate responsibility team is a great way to see many different parts of the business!