As a leading energy company operating on both sides of the Atlantic, I believe we can make a valuable contribution to society by building relationships of mutual interest which benefit our customers, our local communities and our people. One of the ways we’re doing this is by focussing our community investment in areas most closely aligned to our business expertise so that we can maximise the impact we have. That’s why we concentrate on building the skills of young people to generate the energy innovators needed for the future, support those most in need to keep vulnerable households warm and well lit, while helping people use less energy to reduce energy’s impact on climate change.
To do this, we increased our community contributions by 4% in 2014 to £406.5m, up from £392.4m in 2013. This is comprised of three components – mandatory (£361.7m), voluntary (£40.0m) and charitable (£4.8m) - which I’ve explained more about below.
As you can see, the majority of our spend went towards mandatory contributions which predominantly consist of debt advice, relief and energy efficiency improvements that we’re required to make by the UK Government to support alleviate fuel poverty and help meet carbon reduction targets. This encompasses initiatives such as the Warm Home Discount scheme where over 500,000 of our most in need customers received a rebate of £140 on their energy bill during 2014. The energy efficiency measures we installed through the Energy Company Obligation during 2014, is additionally set to save vulnerable people nearly £510m in energy costs and generate lifetime carbon savings of 5.5mtCO2e. Further contributions are made up by Centrica Energy, to benefit communities local to our power stations, wind farms and oil rigs in the UK and Canada.
Alongside these investments, we also make voluntary contributions for our customers. This includes some of the £12.8m* contributed to the British Gas Energy Trust in 2014, which has supported around 26,000 of our customers and non-customers with energy and household bills. And in North America, nearly 3,000 of our customers benefitted from grants totalling more than $538,000 (£335,170) through our Neighbor-to-Neighbor bill assistance programme in Texas.
The remainder is our local and strategic charitable investments**. For example, through British Gas’ five-year partnership with Shelter, we estimate that we are half-way towards meeting our shared goal of raising the standard of 1m homes across Britain. And in recognition that the same talent and skills that make our business a success can also create a meaningful difference in society, we encourage all of our people to volunteer.
And I’m proud to say that our employee volunteering rose by 37% in 2014, to over 66,700 hours***. Of this, British Gas increased their volunteering and are on target to achieve one in three volunteers by the end of 2018. Meanwhile, Direct Energy exceeded their 14,000 hour volunteering target having completed 21,260 hours. Employees can get involved in a range of activities such as investing their expertise to grow the impact of Energy Entrepreneurs in society through Ignite, while generating new skills as part of the process.
Across all of these investments, we hope we can help build a better society. Find out more in the launch of our 2014 CR performance later today.
* Contributions in 2014 were split across mandatory and voluntary classifications.
** Based on methodology from the London Benchmarking Group and is comprised of cash and in-kind donations, cost of volunteering during work hours and core costs for managing community programmes.
*** Includes volunteering time during and outside of business working hours when enabled by Centric