So, as we continue to reposition the Company, I believe we are beginning to demonstrate the potential for a recovery in our fortunes. But I recognise that the short term remains painful and I’m very aware of the impact that has on our colleagues. Many of those affected by the ongoing reduction in roles have been with us for a long time and have helped to create the brand and develop the Company. That’s why as Chairman I wanted the Board to get closer to our people. In September we held a Board meeting in Stockport, where our UK home services operation is based, for the first time. It was fantastic for us to listen to our colleagues talking about what they have achieved and what they care about despite the changes they are facing.
I also visited our contact centre in Greater Manchester and listened to our team there looking after vulnerable customers. I continue to marvel at the skill and the professionalism with which they interact on sensitive issues, such as household income, and find ways to support our customers and advise them on government grants and other help available. When I was there, colleagues had just been told that they would be affected by changes in the business. But you wouldn’t have noticed it from the way they spoke and interacted with customers on the phone. These are the things that make the brand. These are things that we do which many of our smaller competitors do not. Simply put, in any business, it always comes down to people in the end. What makes the real difference is people. A brand is only as good as the service that people deliver when they’re associated with that name.
All organisations today must place a much greater emphasis on their purpose, what they stand for and their impact on all stakeholders, including shareholders. A responsible company must think about its impact on the environment, on its employees and on wider society. There is an increasing focus from fund managers on environmental, social and governance performance. In these areas we are consistently among the top quartile of UK companies. We have been identified as a world leader for strategic action and disclosure on climate change by CDP, an international NGO reporting to investors, achieving a place on its prestigious ‘A List’, based on our reporting on this area in 2019. We are also continuing to actively engage with politicians and regulators in all jurisdictions where we do business, on important policy issues that will shape the new energy sector. However, policy makers and regulators also need to play their part by ensuring a competitive environment that provides an adequate return on the substantial investments that will be needed to meet important societal needs, including the challenge of decarbonisation.
There were several Board changes during 2019. Margherita Della Valle stepped down after eight years as a Non-Executive Director and I would like to thank her for all she has done. Sarwjit Sambhi was appointed Chief Executive, Centrica Consumer and joined the Board in March. Pam Kaur joined the Board as a Non-Executive Director in February and Kevin O’Byrne joined the Board and became Chairman of the Audit Committee in May. Heidi Mottram also joined as a Non-Executive Director in January 2020. It has been a pleasure getting to know my new fellow Board members and working with them. We appreciate their refreshing input.
Our Chief Executive Iain Conn will be stepping down in the course of 2020 after over five years at the helm. It has been a very tough role to undertake at a particularly challenging time for the Company and I would like to thank him for everything he has done. He has led the re-positioning of the Company back towards the customer and our core strengths, and towards making a major contribution to a lower carbon future. This has not been easy and required significant changes to the portfolio, reduction in costs
and the size of the team, as well as strong attention to cash flow and our debt levels. During this time we have seen material improvements in safety performance and customer outcomes. There have been heavy external shocks during his tenure, many that could not have been anticipated, and he has navigated the Company through them bravely and we appreciate that highly. As we address 2020, we are in a much stronger position from which to build for the future.
Looking ahead, we believe our medium-term prospects remain bright and the potential long-term growth opportunities are significant. Our immediate focus on maximising our distinctive strengths in energy supply and optimisation, and on services and solutions centred around energy, is we believe correct. Embracing the challenges of climate change, and being at the forefront in tackling it, is the right thing to do. The course is set. Now we must deliver on our promises and seek to make this Company one that our employees and customers can be proud of. I would like to conclude by thanking all my colleagues and co-workers at Centrica for their dedication and hard work in challenging circumstances. They are our greatest asset.