Phoenix Natural Gas - Eye on Corporate Social Responsibility

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Eye on Corporate Social Responsibility

Eye on Corporate Social Responsibility

22 May 2017

Corporate social responsibility may be a corporate buzz word, but for Phoenix Natural Gas, responsible business has long been considered the very backbone of the company.

As a utility provider, Phoenix Natural Gas has a responsibility to its customers from a commercial perspective to operate and maintain a robust network and facilitate the transmission of natural gas to the 200,000 customers currently connected to its network.

Beyond that, however, the company actively engages in a corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme to add deeper value to the communities that it serves.

The focus for CSR has never been to simply improve the company’s image or pay lip service, rather its role is entwined with the business strategy, and seeks to build a long-term, sustainable business that creates real economic, social and environmental value.

The focus Phoenix Natural Gas puts on corporate social responsibility as a business is intrinsically linked to the nature of its product, natural gas. By its very make-up, natural gas is a fuel with inherent environmental benefits and, since becoming available in Northern Ireland over 20 years ago, has helped contribute significantly to the environmental objectives of the NI Executive.  

The arrival of natural gas in Northern Ireland in 1996 lit up the path to a greener future for local energy consumers. Northern Ireland’s homes and businesses were given the opportunity to switch to an energy source that is up to 50% less carbon polluting than the non-regulated oil and coal alternatives.

Environmentally around 3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) has already been prevented from entering our atmosphere by natural gas consumers in the Phoenix Natural Gas Licence area, with continued savings of around 270,000 tonnes of CO2 per annum, or the equivalent of removing approximately 100,000 cars off Northern Ireland’s roads every year.

It’s little wonder then that Phoenix Natural Gas has established natural gas as the fuel of choice in its licence area of Greater Belfast in this time.

The company is proud of its environmental credentials and, by extension, is firmly focused on ‘doing good’ not only in the wider environment, but in the communities that it serves. This includes some 330,000 consumers in its original licence area of Greater Belfast, and an additional 28,000 in thirteen towns in County Down where the company is currently working to extend the natural gas pipeline.

It's something of which the company is extremely focused on and dedicates considerable time to developing, explains Jonathan Martindale, Phoenix Natural Gas Director of Sales and Marketing.

“Phoenix Natural Gas embraces its corporate social responsibility and embeds it at every level in the organisation. Driven from the top, it is a concept that has long been led at the highest level and adopted by senior management and staff alike. It’s this transformational thinking that we believe identifies us as an organisation that embodies responsible business, as evidenced by the company having received the Business In The Community’s ‘Big Tick’ award for Corporate Responsibility excellence for the past ten consecutive years.”  

“Since its inception, Phoenix Natural Gas has operated a corporate responsibility programme known as LIFE – which stands for Leadership in the marketplace, Investing in our people, Fostering our community and Environmental responsibility.”

“The Phoenix LIFE programme exists to enable the company to positively impact the marketplace, workplace, environment and community, in line with main business objectives. This is an initiative driven by staff so it’s something the entire company gets behind and supports, with various initiatives undertaken throughout the year, both internally and externally.”

Internally, Phoenix Natural Gas runs an internal staff engagement initiative, known as Phoenix 15. This monthly session provides an opportunity for staff learning through interdepartmental knowledge sharing sessions and external presentations by guest speakers.

Charity fundraising is a key focus for the company and various events are led by staff to raise vital funds and meet staff health and wellbeing objectives, including park runs, sponsored walks and volunteering days where staff have the opportunity themselves to ‘give back’ to the local community. This is seen as a key CSR initiative - even beyond the sense of fulfilment staff gain from the experience, the majority of staff also feel that volunteering has enhanced a number of their job-related skills.

Phoenix Natural Gas has been a leading proponent and supporter of the need for an educational focus on STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths). These are subjects that the government has identified as being key to a successful future economy. A large amount of work has been done to date to encourage people to consider a career in engineering, including school visits, pupil tours of Phoenix's operations and guest lectures by senior Phoenix personnel at Colleges and Universities.

Educational outreach is a key focus for Phoenix Natural Gas and the company currently participates in Business in the Community’s ‘Time to Read' and 'Time to Count' programmes. This involves a commitment to attend the local schools once a week for a full year playing a key role in helping to improve the literacy and numeracy levels of children by reading books with them and developing learning based scenarios

In addition, Phoenix Energy Services has taken on around 100 apprentices over the last 13 years throughout local communities in Northern Ireland, providing training and long term employment opportunities. Of the 50 plus fully qualified gas energy services engineers employed, over 60% have come through the Phoenix apprenticeship programme.

Phoenix Natural Gas has a long history of supporting young people and providing them with as much help as possible in meeting their potential goals in life. Through its sponsorship of the Ulster Rugby Academy, Phoenix Natural Gas has helped a number of former graduates reach their career goals, including some of Ireland rugby international stars. In addition, the company also offers sports bursaries to high level athletes as part of its commitment to developing local talent.

Phoenix Natural Gas has also set up the Energy for Children Charitable Trust to provide financial support to groups and individuals that may slip through the net of the wider charity network.

Founded on the principle that ‘all monies raised go directly to local children and young people’, the Trust aims to reach deeper into the heart of local communities throughout Greater Belfast and beyond in order to really make a difference to disadvantaged children’s lives.

Although the Trust was founded initially by the natural gas industry, it is now supported by a variety of different sectors and organisations locally as it continues to grow. Since its formation in 2005, the trust has helped over 6,000 local children and every month continues to help those who need it most.

As the company expands its natural gas network into the new licence area of East Down over the next number of years, there is an increasing focus on CSR within these new areas.

Recognising its responsibility to local communities where construction is taking place, Phoenix Natural Gas has again launched its ‘Play Safe, Stay Safe’ campaign for local schools. This initiative was first launched during the initial Greater Belfast build programme with great success and is now being relaunched to target primary school children in County Down. The educational session informs primary school children about the potential dangers associated with construction sites and aims to keep children safe whilst works are ongoing. In addition, pupils are educated on the importance of environmental responsibility through a ‘Phoenix Eco Warriors Schools Initiative’ to communicate the environmental credentials of natural gas and encourage environmentally responsible behaviour.

Phoenix Natural Gas seeks to forge new relationships with key partners in this area to implement CSR initiatives that will bring real benefit to local communities. This was recently demonstrated through a partnership with Lagan Rivers Trust, where Phoenix Natural Gas installed a new river bed at a location in Lisburn to help increase river spawning and bring new life to the Lagan.

As the company continues its network development in thirteen new towns, Jonathan Martindale says to expect more from the company as it seeks to engage with new audiences in this area; “Phoenix Natural Gas is committed to operating at the very highest ethical standards and our commitment to responsible business continues to be a key driver for our CSR programme both in the Greater Belfast licence area and within County Down. For us, our CSR commitment really is for LIFE.”

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