Here at Centrica, ensuring we act with integrity is vital to how we do business and I believe it’s paramount to our continued business success. To help achieve this we’ve developed our Business Principles which set out our commitment to operate professionally, fairly and with integrity wherever we work in the world.
So who do the Business Principles apply to and what issues do they cover?
The Business Principles are applicable to all of our employees, including anyone working for us under a contract or on a temporary basis. And where we have a minority interest, we strongly encourage our contractors, suppliers and joint venture partners to uphold our Principles. This approach ensures that we all have a shared responsibility to raise industry standards, which in turn helps us earn the trust of our stakeholders, including our customers and the wider communities in which we work.
The Business Principles span eight core issues associated with our operations such as ensuring openness and transparency, respecting human rights and protecting the environment. These Principles are set out in our ‘Building a better business’ guide, which lays down the behaviours we expect throughout our organisation and creates a clear framework that guides decision-making and enables our principles to be put into practice.
To heighten awareness and drive compliance with the Business Principles, we run an annual declaration process. Historically, this has been delivered to all middle and senior-level employee managers who then cascade learnings to their teams. In 2014 our ambition is to expand the declaration to include all of our junior level managers for the first time, which will increase the number of people completing the declaration by around 4,000 people. I believe this is a really important development which will strengthen our ability to embed integrity in a greater number of business interactions and help reduce the risk of contravening our Business Principles. In 2013 we achieved a strong completion rate of 98.9%, which exceeded our 95% minimum target as well as the previous performance of 98.6% (note 1). Despite delivery to an increased population, my team and I are endeavouring to secure similar high-levels of completion for the 2014 declaration due later this year.
But what does the declaration entail? The online declaration begins with a section dedicated to raising awareness about each of the Business Principles, followed by three realistic ethical workplace scenarios which test understanding of the Principles by requiring employees to choose the most effective action to take that addresses the dilemma. The declaration then concludes with an agreement to uphold our Centrica Business Principles and sign-posts areas for further support and information.
To further enhance understanding and compliance, we also run a similar e-learning module which is completed as part of the on-boarding process for new starters. And while anti-bribery and corruption (ABC) is covered by the Business Principles, we also run a further declaration process dedicated to giving managers the tools they need to safeguard the business from these important ABC issues.
So what happens if an employee is concerned about unethical, illegal or improper behaviour? We actively encourage anyone with a concern to vocalise them so that we can take appropriate action. In the first instance, employees should speak to their line manager but we also provide a confidential and independent 'Speak Up' helpline where employees have the option to maintain anonymity. And what about the consequences for failing to uphold our Principles? Failure to respect our Business Principles is taken very seriously and could result in employee disciplinary or dismissal.
I’m proud of how we do business and I’ll work hard to ensure the continued adoption of the highest ethical standards by embedding the Business Principles throughout our organisation. If you’d like to find out more, have a look at our ‘Building a better business’ .
1 Completion score relates to 2011 as no declaration was conducted in 2012.