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“Without a clear purpose, people lose belief”: Keith Anderson, CEO, ScottishPower

“Without a clear purpose, people lose belief”

Keith Anderson
CEO of ScottishPower

Few industries are experiencing disruption more significantly than the energy sector. Headlines are dominated by the move from fossil fuels to renewables, representing a fundamental change to every part of energy creation and delivery. But there is also the challenge of large-scale digital transformation and the need to evolve complex relationships with multiple stakeholders from the Government to regulators and customers.

Keith Anderson, CEO of ScottishPower, is leading his organisation through these challenges. The company has already moved away entirely from coal and gas and is producing 100 per cent of energy from renewable sources. Last month, it symbolically demolished the chimney of the Longannet coal-fired power station, removing a longstanding visual reminder of its past.

Now ScottishPower is focused on an all-encompassing commitment to net zero.

“Every decision we make is through the prism of net zero 2050. That is our purpose in life. It filters through the entire company. Everybody understands their part in delivering against that objective.”

Recruitment and retention

Anderson believes a shared sense of purpose helps recruit and retain the skilled workforce needed to effect long-term change.

“Without a clear purpose, people lose belief,” says Anderson, speaking to PwC for the 25th Annual CEO Survey. “What I often say to our HR team is don't go and recruit lawyers, accountants and engineers. Go recruit people who can dream and imagine and create the future. Now that might sound daft, but it's the truth and people with that mindset are clamouring to get involved. When you start talking about innovation and research and development, and when you have a clear sense of purpose, it creates a wave of excitement.”

“Yes we need engineers, accountants and lawyers. But we need engineers who can look at how we create a grid system that allows interconnectivity between cars and solar panels and batteries and the heating system and delivering power to and from a grid. We are looking for people who understand what it is to innovate and create a new future.”

Building a skilled workforce is not just about new hires and competing for digital skills. Anderson is committed to developing his existing workforce, ensuring people whose jobs and whose families and communities relied upon coal aren’t left behind as the company evolves.

Creating a green recovery

His point about “interconnectivity” is also critical as Anderson seeks to not only create change within his own business, but to ensure ScottishPower is positioned to drive change more broadly.

That means playing a significant role in creating infrastructure that will create value throughout the economy.

“Infrastructure will help you create jobs. Infrastructure will help you get the economy back up and running. It will filter down through supply chain companies and generate economic activity,” says Anderson.

“But the critical thing here is to make sure it is also a green recovery. Let’s use this recovery to accelerate the road to net zero 2050.”

ScottishPower recently completed deals with two major customers, Amazon and Tesco, to provide both with their own wind farms, ensuring they are able to deliver on their own commitments to renewable energy use.

Wherever there is talk of sustainability, accusations of ‘greenwashing’ are never far away. Similarly, energy companies, even those who have moved away from fossil fuels, face cynicism as they switch from being seen as ‘part of the problem’ to ‘part of the solution’.

The need for trust and transparency

Anderson accepts it is his role to address that cynicism and any perception of ‘greenwashing’ through honesty and transparency and a focus on facts rather than rhetoric.

“We've been very focused on showing what we're doing, how we're doing it, and by when. We've had the Carbon Trust come in to do a massive review of everything we do as an organisation, from the way we procure goods, to the way we travel, to the way we run our buildings. Absolutely everything. And we're now looking at measuring our performance in terms of how we decarbonise our supply chain.”

Underpinning these steps is the fundamental issue of trust.

“Trust is about delivering on your promises,” he says. “Whether you're talking about customers, investors or stakeholders like the Government, when we come out and say something about who we are, what we do, what we stand for, what we're going to deliver, people have to trust that we will do that. If you want people to switch to electric vehicles they need to trust the infrastructure will be there. If you want people to switch to a heat pump, they need to know the company they’re dealing with will do it properly, and is trustworthy.”

That foundation of trust, and the ability to engage with customers and bring them along on the journey to net zero, will be critical to ScottishPower’s successful response to the disruption the energy sector is facing.

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Marco Amitrano

Marco Amitrano

Head of Clients and Markets, PwC United Kingdom

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