Ask not how we do business, but why?

19th September 2018

Energy and services companies need to broaden their focus beyond traditional business drivers and understand why they do business, says Wilfrid Petrie, CEO of ENGIE UK.

As a business, ENGIE is focused on three key activities – energy, services and regeneration – and we combine these for the benefit of individuals, for businesses and for entire communities.

That is all very well and, of course, is the sort of corporate statement that might be expected from a company operating in our sector. However, I believe that ‘why’ we do business matters much more than the ‘how’ or the ‘what’. It is about being purpose-driven and measuring how our actions really improve the lives of people in their homes, neighbourhoods or workplaces.

So, in that context, how are we ensuring we are a responsible business?

A crucial element of this is the recognition that a successful organisation not only focuses on its financial performance, but also how it benefits society and the environment. A ‘fortress’ company that ignores the environment in which it operates is a company that will ultimately fail through the pressures of a range of stakeholders.

Thus, within a responsible business the aims of corporate responsibility and overall purpose should be aligned so that our mission goes far beyond profit creation. Performance with responsibility, creating harmonious progress with our stakeholders, is key.

At the same time, we must recognise that we don’t have all the answers. Achieving this harmonious progress, therefore, requires the collaboration and support of our employees (17,000 in the UK), our supply chain and the wider businesses and communities we serve.

Moreover, this philosophy needs to be ingrained at every level of our organisation – embedded within our governance and with senior people, not least my executive team, being held accountable for meeting them.

Rebuilding trust

In a post-Carillion world it is clear that trust has been lost and there is greater scrutiny on the partnerships between the public and private sectors. In this environment it is vital we find ways to highlight good governance and increase the transparency of how our work is delivered. Not only will this help to rebuild trust, it will also shine a light on the positive impact that a responsible business can have on society.

For ENGIE, and for responsible businesses across the energy and services sectors, a natural step is to look at ways of evaluating what is in place, outwardly promoting the hard work which is being done in the background and also examining what more can be achieved.

Responsible Business Charter

For these reasons, ENGIE has established a new Responsible Business Charter and independent Scrutiny Board, further underlining our company’s commitment to operate to the highest economic, social and environmental standards.

The Responsible Business Charter recognises and responds to the need for the business to demonstrate how it contributes to wider society and ensures that ENGIE will make commitments in four key areas. These are fair business growth, transparency & accountability, being a fair employer, and supporting our communities and the environment.

The Scrutiny Board, chaired by Lord Kerslake, will report to ENGIE’s UK Executive Board and it will be supported and independently validated by the Centre for Public Scrutiny. It is responsible for holding the business accountable against the commitments of the Responsible Business Charter. The four commitments will be validated by supporting Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) on key issues including speed of supplier payments, fair executive pay, customer satisfaction, pension obligations, environmental and social responsibility, diversity & inclusion, and living wage.

Operating in a responsible and transparent manner has always been absolutely fundamental to ENGIE’s operations, and I am proud that we have formally established this commitment through the Responsible Business Charter. I believe that the Charter and the work of the Scrutiny Board will establish a new industry standard, helping us to lead in responsible business practice.