Friday, 28 January 2011

On Board with British Gas again

During 2010, I volunteered to take part in British Gas' Customer Panel.  They selected a cross-section of around 30 customers to visit a range of their businesses, talk to lots of managers and staff and share our views on what the company can do better for its customers.

The reason I joined was my passion for energy efficiency and renewable generation: I wanted British Gas and its parent company, Centrica, to help all their customers use energy wisely and to lead the transformation of Britain's energy infrastructure towards a future of intelligent distribution of low carbon power.  

At our final presentation to the Board of British Gas last August, I posed a suite of direct challenges to the company on the theme of leading Britain to a low carbon future.  I am delighted to say that the company and its directors have been completely open to my suggestions and they have indicated their intention to act on the vast majority of these proposals.  Indeed, British Gas has committed to act on many of the recommendations that the Customer Panel developed, across all five themes - customer service, simpler billing, clearer prices, open communications and low carbon leadership.

This year, British Gas will continue to deliver the recommendations of the Customer Panel and has invited a number of panellists - including me - to join their new Customer Board, monitor the way that these improvements are implemented and continue to challenge their senior managers to serve British Gas customers better.

Some people wonder why I am giving my time to a commercial business in this way.  To be treated as a valued guest and shown around a major corporation is rewarding in itself and to develop cogent proposals for improving that business is an exciting intellectual pursuit.  My most important motivation for volunteering is the hope that this investment of time and enthusiasm will influence the strategy and performance of the company and that, as a result, millions of British Gas' customers will be made aware of the reasons and opportunities to save energy in their homes.  

The company tells us that it is "Looking after your world".  
To paraphrase Archimedes, I see the new Customer Board at British Gas as a fulcrum, a place to stand and press the case for clean energy and sustainable business practices, from a customer's perspective.  I might just have a long enough lever to move "your world", that British Gas looks after, a little closer towards the needs of Earth - the world that we all depend on for our very existence.  

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