Wales & West Utilities

Principality Building Society's Responsible Large Business of the Year Award, Winner 2016

Every day Wales & West Utilities does its very best to keep 7.5 million customers safe and warm, with a gas network they can rely on and a level of service they can trust. 

Good for business

  • The firm now has a happy and engaged workforce with a significantly lower than average turnover of staff. This engaged workforce actively contributes to business decisions and changes.
  • The company has been recognised by third party bodies and regulators for its significant environmental achievements – leading to higher public profile and an industry-leading reputation.

Good for society

  • The company's suppliers are paid within an average of eight days, compared to a 30 day industry average.
  • The firm’s commitment to reduce CO2 emissions by a further 16% has been recognised by Ofgem as being twice the business carbon reduction of any other gas distribution network company.

Overview

Wales & West Utilities (WWU) doesn’t sell gas; it uses its extensive network of pipes to transport gas to homes and businesses throughout Wales and the south west of England.  It responds to gas emergencies, and invests £2m every day across the network, connecting new properties and replacing old metal pipes with new long lasting plastic ones. 

WWU has carried out various community-supporting activities in Wales and the West and has plans to do even more in the future.

More than 11,000 homes have already been connected to the gas network via WWU’s Warm Home Assistance Scheme and there are plans to connect another 9,000 by 2021. This is 200 above the firm’s original projection. Each household can save as much as £700 per year by connecting to the gas network.

WWU also runs gas safety and carbon monoxide (CO) awareness campaigns and has provided over 18,000 CO alarms to vulnerable customers. This is more than double that of any other UK gas distribution network.

Working in partnership with community interest companies WWU supports income and benefits checks, making sure customers are on the best tariffs and getting whole-home energy assessments undertaken.  The firm plans to extend its focus to include private rented homes because evidence suggests these are worst for energy efficiency.

Background

With more than 35,000km of mains, Wales & West Utilities transports gas to 2.5 million homes and businesses in Wales & the South West of England, across a geography covering one sixth of the UK. The firm’s core business is running and maintaining the gas distribution network, which serves a population of over seven million people. 

In addition to laying new pipes, making new connections, moving and replacing pipes and meters, its engineers respond to gas emergency calls, providing a 24-hour 365 days a year service to keep customers safe and warm.

Looking forward together

In 2014, WWU’s Executive Team, led by CEO Graham Edwards, took the decision that the priorities and values of the organisation should be refreshed, revisited and updated, in order to stay up to date with the shifting marketplace. The firm wanted to maintain its commitment to its customers and communities.

Over 600 colleagues participated in a strategic review which included online surveys, workshops and interviews. This uncovered some key areas for improvement, including a number of opportunities for colleague to get more involved in the day-to-day running of the business.

Management

WWU’s responsible business practices go beyond statutory, regulatory and contractual requirements and are incorporated into daily operations, targets, deliverables and ethos of the business. Targets are set at board level and are linked to values to ensure that everyone throughout the organisation, from board to front line engineer is working in line with company values.

Performance is reported quarterly to all members of staff via infographic with round table meetings to discuss areas for improvement. Feedback is captured by team leaders and shared on the intranet.

This forms the basis of future improvements and initiatives and is supported with a Team Talk communication tool. Colleagues at every level of the organisation understand how they are supporting the business. They understand their place in the model.

Wales & West Utilities' Chief Executive said:

“For Wales & West Utilities (WWU), delivering a safe and reliable gas supply is our number one priority. This centres around the communities our infrastructure serves.  We are always looking for new and innovative ways to engage both internal and external stakeholders to improve our responsible business practices, reduce our impact on customer bills and that of our operations on the environment – this is crucial to how we operate as a business. We are not complacent, and are committed to the continuation of this programme and further build on our reputation as a responsible large business.”  - Graham Edwards, Chief Executive, Wales & West Utilities