Last summer National Grid was named Responsible Business of the Year by Business in the Community (BITC). Since then, how has the company used the honour to make even greater strides in the field of corporate citizenship? Dr Maeve Chappell, the programme manager tasked with overseeing the company’s response to its award win, looks back on a transformative 12 months.
A matter of responsibility
“As well as the undoubted kudos, we were very conscious that National Grid had to raise its game even further as a company and do justice to the title.”
Dr Maeve Chappell, Programme Manager.
National Grid is ‘a company that is on a significant journey that continues to make real progress with an appetite to inspire others’.
Source: Business in the Community judging panel, July 2014.
When the Business in the Community judging panel announced National Grid as Responsible Business of the Year in July 2014, their citation said we had a ‘compelling vision based on trust and connectivity’. It went on to say that we are ‘a company that is on a significant journey that continues to make real progress with an appetite to inspire others’.
They were gratifying words, and it was a tremendous accolade to get that recognition – any independent endorsement like this is always fantastic. But more than twelve months on, as we pass the baton to the 2015 winner Fujitsu, how has National Grid continued on its journey of progress? And what lessons can be learned from the experience?
The biggest lesson is that being named Responsible Business of the Year brings just that: responsibility. As well as the undoubted kudos, we were very conscious that National Grid had to raise its game even further as a company and do justice to its new title.
People were now looking to us as beacons of good corporate citizenship. So we decided that this wasn’t just a PR opportunity to be maximised, but a chance to do things even better than before, to think even harder about what we stood for as a business, and to redefine what it means to be a good ambassador for our industry and the corporate world in general.
Trust and connectivity
Those two words used by the judges – trust and connectivity – have defined everything we’ve done since. In today’s business environment, trust is one of the biggest issues of all. Every company must earn the trust of its customers and stakeholders because without that, failure is inevitable.
As a company that sits at the heart of the energy infrastructure in the UK and the US, trust is obviously critical to our operations. People rely on us to meet their energy needs today and tomorrow in a way that’s safe, efficient, reliable and good for society
So becoming Responsible Business of the Year was a chance to remind ourselves and others of the many things we already do to build that trust – from our community initiatives, our safety record, our infrastructure investment, to our employee wellbeing programmes. Naturally we used the pink planter logo as much as we could, from pin badges through to email signatures, from Christmas cards to site hoardings.
It’s a simple touch but one that’s had many advantages – reminding employees what has already been achieved and what they’re part of, encouraging them to live up to the title in everything they do, displaying National Grid’s credentials to society and, equally importantly, raising awareness of Business in the Community and putting good corporate citizenship even higher on the agenda.
Keeping up the momentum
Winning something like this is always a collective effort and something that we wanted every employee to take pride in, so we also used the award as an opportunity to thank our employees. And the greater sense of pride fostered no doubt played its part in the highest ever engagement scores we recorded as a business in February; up by 4% on last year. One of the biggest lessons we’ve learned is that the positive impact such a success has on employees – in terms of their attitudes and how they perceive themselves and what they do – can’t be underestimated.
Externally, we continued to support initiatives like City Year UK, and the I Will campaign. We were also closely involved in the new exhibition at the Science Museum ‘Engineer your future’ which opened last December. We kept up the momentum throughout the year with greater commitment and focus on employee volunteering too, something which peaked during Responsible Business Week in April, in which we took a leading role. Success really did breed further success.
A common theme among many of the causes we support is helping young people to reach their potential. Energising and inspiring the next generation is a natural extension of what we do, and it’s a cause championed by our chief executive Steve Holliday who has long argued for better STEM skills training and careers advice for young people. We know that we can’t just hope that the UK will have the right mix of skills and talents to maintain the nation’s energy infrastructure in the future. We need to proactively create the solutions and support programmes that access hidden talent and the value it brings.
Stepping into the spotlight
So it was significant that, when National Grid was asked to sit on the judging panel for this year’s Responsible Business of the Year awards, the next generation was closely involved. Elizabeth Olofe, a young volunteer with charity City Year UK, joined Steve Holliday, Vincent de Rivaz, CEO of EDF Energy, and Ruth Grant, Partner of Hogan Lovells, to help pick the winner. It proved a fitting end to a year that, at its heart, has always been about leaving things better than we found them.
So what opportunities await Fujitsu, the Responsible Business of the Year for 2015? The firm can of course enjoy the honour, pay tribute to the employees who’ve made it happen and raise awareness of its credentials to the wider business community. But it can also turn the spotlight onto itself and the whole question of what makes a responsible business. By doing so, it will not only learn more about itself as an organisation, but make the question of good corporate citizenship more important to society than ever before. The journey continues…