Having a good relationship with our environment is very important for our ‘licence to operate’. We maintain strong ties with a large number of stakeholders, such as the shareholder, representatives of national, regional and local politics, authorities, regulatory bodies, employees, the Works Council, our customers, suppliers, the local community, the media and nature conservation and environmental organisations. We are committed to striking the right balance between the interests of everyone involved.
Structural stakeholder dialogue
Good communication within a company leads to better cooperation and increases the involvement of employees at all levels of the company. This is not just a matter of efficiently providing information. Dialogue among employees also improves the working process and mutual cooperation. That is why this has become a key objective in our internal communication policy.
Our intranet, methaNet, plays a central role in our internal communications. In 2013, we significantly expanded the functionalities of methaNet. It has become more personal and more interactive: people can now comment on messages and respond to each other’s questions and remarks. Employees can create their own profile, in which they say something about their work. This makes it clear to others who to turn to for specific matters. Employees can also create and manage special interest groups (forums), which can be used to share knowledge and discuss relevant topics.
We regularly organise employee meetings that focus on the exchange of information on a wide variety of topics. Besides meetings for people from all over the company, we also hold more specific meetings for departments, business units or managers. In addition, we organise themed sessions, for which employees can sign up. At the end of 2013, for instance, we held a number of ‘pizza sessions’ about the core values of our company. We find the feedback we receive from such meetings very valuable.
We often have a shared interest with external stakeholders, even though we may sometimes have a different perspective. We always try to find constructive ways to keep in touch with our stakeholders, and to this end we create various platforms and opportunities for discussion.
Good relationships with local residents
We consider it very important to maintain good relationships with the people who live near our locations, pipelines and installations. We own and manage one of the most elaborate and densely packed gas transport networks in the world. Over 15,500 kilometres of pipelines lie under the ground in the Netherlands and Germany, in one of the most densely populated areas in the world. This means that we have many ‘neighbours’, and we want to treat them all with respect. Our reputation for doing so, built up over the years, is good – and we would like to keep it that way. That is why, as far as possible, we involve the people who live close to our operations in our plans. We create opportunities for dialogue, such as information and discussion evenings and Open Days. We attach great value to the feedback we receive from our stakeholders during these consultation sessions.
Supply chain partners
We also maintain close relationships with our customers, shippers and companies directly connected to our network through regular annual meetings for these groups. In 2013, GTS again organised ‘Shipper Meetings’ and ‘Industry Days’. These serve as information meetings and networking platforms for the stakeholders involved. During these meetings, we exchange ideas with customers about developments in the gas market and within GTS.
Governments and authorities
Various parts of our company maintain regular contacts with authorities at many different levels. On the one hand, laws, regulations, policies and other government decisions have a large impact on our activities; on the other hand, due to our role in the provision of energy, we form an important discussion partner for the government. We want to be a serious, constructive partner for governmental authorities. Our activities mean that we frequently need to consult with local and other authorities (e.g., on legislation, regulations and licences), and we are often also involved in consultations at the political level, in particular through our offices in The Hague, Berlin, Brussels and Moscow. On the one hand, our local presence there helps to foster good long-term relationships with governmental stakeholders; and on the other hand, it is easier for the authorities to use our local representatives, who have a great deal of specialist knowledge, as a single point of contact for their questions on gas and gas transport.
Cross-border or cross-sector policy issues are usually discussed through industry organisations. For this reason, we are members of a number of such organisations, such as Netbeheer Nederland, ENTSOG, and GIE. We are also represented on the board of many of these organisations.
Customer satisfaction survey
Through an annual customer satisfaction survey, carried out in the Netherlands by GTS, we ask our customers for their opinion on various aspects of our services. Customers gave GTS a score of 7.2 (out of 10) for its services during 2013, the same score as in 2012. For certain aspects of our services (e.g., customer service through our new website and our Customer Desk), our scores in 2013 were higher than the year before. However, customers felt that some areas (e.g., following up on appointments, and the search function on our website) could be improved.
We wish to play an active role in the energy debate so that we can exchange ideas on important themes. We are therefore proactively seeking contact with relevant stakeholders. To an increasing extent, these are parties who are involved in the provision of energy from a social point of view (e.g., NGOs and lobby groups) or on the grounds of their profession (e.g., architects or scientists). As a result, we are increasingly present on ‘new’ platforms. In 2013, for instance, we became an active participant in the annual sustainability festival, Springtij, on the island of Terschelling.
In carrying out our operations, we take our surroundings into account as much as possible. Any complaints we receive – by telephone, email or otherwise – are directed in the first instance to our Corporate Communications department, who then deal with them in consultation with the relevant department. We aim to respond as quickly as possible and to the satisfaction of all parties concerned. Customers of GTS can address their complaints to the GTS Customer Desk.
Strategic Environs Management
We frequently need to carry out works at new and existing locations. Since we are committed to maintaining a good relationship with our neighbours, prior to embarking on new projects, we carry out an analysis of the surrounding area, and contact stakeholders at the earliest possible stage. In 2013, as part of our CSR policy, we started developing a Gasunie-wide approach for environs management. In doing so, we also look at what has been achieved with Strategic Environs Management (SEM), an approach that has successfully been used by large organisations such as the Port of Rotterdam. We also started pilots with social media to find out, for example, how we can use Facebook and Twitter. Our new website, Gasuniebouwt.nl, plays a central role in this. The first results are very promising.
Strategic environs research
In 2013, we hired a specialist agency to examine what key stakeholders think of our company. We felt that our 50th anniversary was a good time to commission a comprehensive study to find out how strategically relevant parties view Gasunie and how they think and expect Gasunie will develop in the future. More than forty stakeholders from our political, industrial, policy-making and social environs participated in this study. The stakeholders said that they see an important role for Gasunie in the European energy infrastructure, in the transition towards a sustainable energy supply. They also showed interest in our company’s strategy and vision for the future. We intend to repeat this study in a few years’ time, so that we can measure how we are developing in relation to our surroundings.
In our work, we are continuously balancing the interests of different stakeholders. We only expand our network if our customers ask us to do so: our primary aim is to guarantee security of supply. Similarly, we carry out maintenance work on our pipelines and installations. The activities that follow from this can sometimes cause a public nuisance. This results in dilemmas that, each time, require a good balancing of interests and good dialogue with the people who are directly involved.
Pipeline route Bergambacht: alternative location
In order to ensure stability in the supply of gas in the Netherlands, we wanted to lay a pipeline through the village of Bergambacht. The plot of land through which we had planned to lay this pipeline was zoned for agricultural use. This meant there would be nothing to prevent the pipeline being laid through it. However, during discussions with the local council, it turned out that, in due course, the council intended to build a small residential area at this location. The council had included this residential area in its municipal planning document, but had not yet drawn up a zoning plan for the intended location. The council then proposed an alternative route for the pipeline. We considered this carefully and decided to adopt it as our preferred option. These adjustments lengthened the preparatory phase, but the pipeline is now located such that it does not thwart the council’s plans.
New General Terms and Conditions for Laying Pipelines
In 2010, the existing system of building leases (with rent paid to the owner for the right to lay pipelines through his land, e.g., agricultural land) was revised. At that time, Gasunie and LTO agreed to also revise the General Terms and Conditions for Laying Pipelines. LTO represented some 50,000 agricultural entrepreneurs. We have a relatively large number of pipelines in agricultural land, which is why LTO is an important stakeholder for us. We have an interest in reaching a good, objective arrangement that, as far as possible, does justice to the interests of all involved and can as such be applied by everyone concerned. LTO has an interest in an arrangement which also takes account of the interests of its members.
During the negotiations, we turned out to have different expectations and interests with regard to possible legal developments regarding annual rent. At first, our points of view seemed irreconcilable. But eventually, the two sides focused on improvements and adjustments, separate from any annual rent. This helped us to arrive at a transparent arrangement that works for everyone involved. We agreed to meet again whenever changes in legislation make it necessary.