What is responsible business?

Posted on: 28/04/2017

We won BITC Cymru Responsible Business of the Year in 2016 and as BITC’s Responsible Business Week draws to a close I thought it might be a good idea to think about what being a ‘responsible business’ means in practice.

Responsible businesses do things the right way. As a values driven business, that’s something we’re always trying to do. Whether it’s going above and beyond for our customers – internal or external, or in the work we’re doing to prepare for the future of energy, we’re focussed on doing things the right way for the right reasons – putting the needs of all our customers first.

Being a responsible business means that people – customers and colleagues, are at the heart of everything we do. We serve communities’ right across Wales and the south west of England – like Mark said on Monday – some of the most beautiful countryside in the UK.  They all have diverse needs and it is our responsibility to meet their needs and expectations. As our recent British Standard and Institute for Customer Service accreditation shows, we do a good job, and it is up to us to continue to deliver outstanding service to our customers, whatever their situation.

Being a responsible business also means that we make Wales & West Utilities a great place to work, and we focus on the wellbeing of all our colleagues. Last month we launched our new, comprehensive Wellbeing Strategy that takes into account our colleagues as whole people – because we know that you can’t be efficient, effective or deliver in work without things going well outside work too. And this is demonstrated in our new focus on mental health. Our occupational health strategy has always been to try and resolve the health challenges that our colleagues face, and traditionally as an engineering company this has been bumps and bruises and stretches and strains. Our focus on that – and our drive to improve safety for our colleagues (as our fourth successive ROSPA Gold medal demonstrates) means that the biggest health challenge our colleagues now face is mental, rather than physical. And we’re able to help you – whether you’re working in operations or in the office – with the same comprehensive support as we do when your physical health is affected by work too..

Responsible businesses prepare to face the future. Chris spoke about how we’re doing that in our operations, my focus is on the future of our people, so we’re a flexible, capable and competent team keeping the gas flowing to 7.5m people and delivering the levels of gas safety, reliability and customer service the communities we serve expect. 

This means that we continue to recruit apprentices – 23 this year, to be the teams, technicians and managers of the future.

Our values based approach to doing things has also driven us to change how we recruit people, operational and office roles alike.  What you have done in the past is important, but we look at how you do things, how you think and the way you work. We now recruit based on our values of energy, pride, teamwork and customer service and focus on what you can do if given the tools and the opportunity. Alongside this we’ve removed academic qualifications for jobs where possible – we know formal education isn’t for everyone. As long as you’re motivated, driven to succeed and want to learn – we can teach you what you need to succeed.

And as well as recruiting new people, being a responsible business preparing for the future means we have development opportunities available for our colleagues. We’re growing future leaders and managers – through our successful managerial traineeships, our Business Analyst programme and our graduates, along with our ‘Pathways’ coaching programme. We’re committed to help our people grow and develop.

A responsible business should also add value and go above and beyond in the communities it serves. And we certainly do that. Year on year our colleagues are raising more for charity – last year we raised £65,000 – with over £22,000 provided in match-funding. We’re committed to supporting the charitable work you’re doing and the causes that are obviously so close to our colleagues hearts.

We’ve also built links with local schools – John Frost School in Duffryn for example, where we deliver CV and careers advice. We have Reading Buddies programme at the school, where colleagues help pupils between 11-13 with their literacy skills. And that’s not all, through BITCs Business Class programme we’re working with the schools leadership team to see if we can share best practice in management training, to make sure they can deliver for their customers – children – more effectively and efficiently.  And while this is focussed on a local, Newport school as a pilot – it’s something we’ll be considering for other schools across our network over the next few years.

So for me the way to define a responsible business is simple. It’s a business all about people – our colleagues, customers, and the communities we serve. They are what make us who we are. Without them, Wales & West Utilities is just a name and 35,000km of pipe!

Sarah Hopkins

Wales & West Utilities People & Engagement Director