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Practice what you preach

10 February, 2023

What comes to mind when you think about a purpose-driven organisation? We’re guessing it isn’t a company that carries out a practice that directly contradicts them and in the face of the facts, maintains that “this is not who we are.” We’re talking about British Gas and the recent investigation carried out by The Times. That’s British Gas owned by Centrica, whose purpose is to “help our customers live sustainably, simply and affordably”.

Despite having been warned against the practice, British Gas continued to contract with companies that forcibly installed prepayment meters when customers failed to pay. Operators, moreover, whose contracts with British Gas meant they were heavily incentivised to carry out the installations. The result being that some the most vulnerable people in our society have been effectively cut off from their energy supply, because prepayment meter tariffs carry a significant premium. Not sustainable, simple or affordable.

British Gas has insisted that “this is not how we do business” and it takes just a quick search to see it positions itself as a company that is “making a difference”. But as commentators have rightly pointed out, this is patently not the case when it effectively ignored the economic reality of many of its customers during a cost-of-living crisis by taking advantage of a loophole in the legislation that prohibits energy suppliers from disconnecting customers. Actual behaviours speak louder than words. Much louder. And this is a company that is expected to announce an eightfold increase in profits this year.

The investigation points to wider systemic failings, and of course an energy company would argue there are many good reasons why a prepayment meter is more suitable for some customers. But a purpose is for life, not just for the annual report. And if your business practices don’t align with your purpose, it’s the business practices, and not the purpose, that tells the world who you really are.

By Jovontae Catline

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