Everyone likes to feel their views count, especially when decisions are made or actions taken on issues that could affect them. We agree - and that’s why we believe that engaging and listening to the views of our customers and the wider stakeholder community is central to how we do business.
Through collaboration with stakeholders we can grow our understanding of their concerns, which helps us learn from and respond more effectively to their needs. This forges stronger relationships and makes us become a better business by enabling us to have a more positive impact in our local communities. In turn, this assists our ability to earn the trust and respect of our stakeholders, which despite our best efforts, is at an all-time low.
Raising levels of trust is essential: we need the trust of our customers to continue to choose us as their energy supplier and the trust of local communities to make us their operator of choice. We also need the trust of governments, NGOs and partners to work better together to overcome some of society’s biggest issues - tackling fuel poverty and delivering effective solutions that will balance the energy challenge of securing affordable supplies of energy while reducing our carbon footprint.
How do we do this? We prioritise material issues that affect both our stakeholders and our business – we then develop regular, open and balanced dialogues to build understanding and ensure we take responsible action on issues of greatest concern. Learnings from these engagements are fed into our business decisions to minimise adverse operational impacts and maximise the positive opportunities we can bring to the communities in which we operate.
We use a wide range of methods to engage our stakeholders, such as one-to-one meetings, workshops, customer service calls and formal committee meetings. Our Chief Executive, Sam Laidlaw, also recently responded to crowd-sourced internal and external stakeholder questions on how we do business, spanning key issues from what we’re doing to rebuild trust to how we ensure we have a responsible supply chain.
I’ve outlined some of our key engagement activities below:
- Improving how we do business –Our British Gas Customer Boardprovides valuable input on strategic and policy decisions such as embedding the Standards of Conduct, which is helping us improve the products and services we provide. We also seek feedback from over 350 business customers through the British Gas Business Engagement Panel, so that we can take action to give them a better deal. Additionally, the Corporate Responsibility Advisory Group, consists of experts from our priority stakeholder groups, and meets three times a year to inform our business strategy and discuss important issues like Centrica’s interest in natural gas from shale. Their advice is shared with our Corporate Responsibility Committee, enabling stakeholders to influence the decisions made at the very top of our business.
- Building local community relationships – To optimise and effectively manage our impact on communities where we operate, engagement with stakeholders is an integral part of our everyday activities. In Centrica Energy, project managers and issue specialists work alongside key stakeholders to ensure each project fully assesses, understands and manages potential impacts. We also conduct formal community consultations and in 2013, sought views on our proposed Rhiannon offshore wind farm1 through monthly drop-in sessions, five public information days on the island of Anglesey and we have ten more planned this month.
- Growing stronger communities –We work closely with stakeholders who share our ambitions, enabling us to maximise our positive contribution to society. For example, British Gas’ partnership with Shelter is working towards raising the standard of 1m privately rented homes throughout the UK, helping us reach a greater number of vulnerable people in need of assistance. To do this, we are combining our skills and expertise to improve household energy efficiency as well as gas and electrical safety. Our partnership with National Energy Action also helps combat fuel poverty while reducing carbon emissions.
- Supporting and developing our talented workforce – Our annual engagement survey seeks feedback from our people on how we can create a caring and high-performing environment. We are now putting in place plans to further improve our performance by focussing on areas identified as lower scoring, such as reward and recognition.
We remain committed to listening and responding to our stakeholders. In doing so, I hope we can continue to make a positive contribution to society, both now and in the future.
Want to learn more? View our 2013 CR Performance Review.
1 The proposed 2.2GW wind farm would be capable of serving the energy needs of around 1.5m homes.