Corporate responsibility at National Express Group
National Express is fortunate as there is a coincidence of benefit in what we do. What is good for our customers is good for our business and good for society. We are a private sector company that provides public services. The better the services we provide, the more people use them, benefiting the environment and our economies as well as our shareholders.
Our Vision and Values are fundamental to who we are as a business and as an active corporate citizen. We know that a safe business is a better business, as it will be run more effectively than an unsafe one. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions makes sense – commercially as well as environmentally. Investing in people builds stability and loyalty. Customer service excellence is both right and helps grow our business.
We have defined our values to focus on four areas: ensuring the safety of our customers, our employees and the public generally; trying harder than anyone else for our customers; enabling our people to reach their full potential and give their best; and advancing the social, environmental and economic conditions of the communities in which we operate.
Corporate responsibility for National Express is living these values.
Nothing matters more than safety. It is our number one priority, and our ambition is to have the best safety record in the transport sector.
In 2010 we developed a five-year, Groupwide safety improvement programme called Driving Out Harm. The approach we are taking is rigorous and the standards we are setting are high – for example, the introduction of Alcolocks on our coaches. These breathalyser devices prevent the vehicle from starting until the driver has successfully passed a breath test. The limit we are using is exceptionally low – more than four times lower than the legal drink-driving limit – and, during 2011, we completed more than 50,000 tests a month in UK Coach alone.
Driving Out Harm is a major culture change programme, and for any such initiative to succeed requires visible commitment from the top. Driving Out Harm is being led by our Chief Executive, and during 2011 the frequency of site safety visits by senior managers tripled from four a year to one a month. Furthermore, all line managers throughout the Group have now completed formal training designed to equip them to manage the improvements in our safety performance.
At the end of the year our new safety management arrangements were independently reviewed by the leading safety consultancy company, Arthur D. Little. They found that the programme had 'achieved all that was expected so far' and that 'commitment to and strong leadership of safety is evident, and awareness of Driving Out Harm among the workforce is high.'
Overall performance against most of our key indicators was better in 2011 than in 2010 across all divisions and geographies. Particularly marked improvements were seen in the second half as the impact of the safety programme – still in its first year – began to be felt.
The programme is intended to deliver a 50% improvement in safety performance in the five years to 2016. Each of our businesses has annual targets and safety plans which provide both short-term focus and a strategic mechanism for achieving our longer term goal.
Service is at the core of our business. The better the service we provide, the more likely people are to switch to us either from our competitors or from their cars. Our vision is to create real customer loyalty. We want people to travel with us as often as possible. Increasing customer satisfaction will increase our revenue.
So, by the end of 2014 we aim to be the customer service leader in the transport sector, as part of a longer term plan to be a provider of world-class service by the end of 2017.
While this is an ambitious target we are starting from a fairly high base. Recent research from the Institute of Customer Services indicates that National Express in the UK is already considered to be a top quartile service provider across all industries, with UK Coach second only to Virgin Atlantic in the transport sector.
Even world-class service is not rocket science. It is about delivering the basics well – but doing it every single time. It is about politeness as well as punctuality; making sure that toilets are clean; that our staff are knowledgeable and helpful; that they smile – and mean it. We aim to provide service of great consistency so that customers feel they are getting exceptional value for money when weighing the price that they pay with the experience that they have.
During 2011 we put in place the tools to help deliver excellence. Group-wide service standards have been launched and action plans developed for staff at all levels of each of our businesses. We have begun a rolling audit programme at our coach stations, assessing behaviour as well as infrastructure. Progress against our KPIs will be reported to the Group Executive every month.
2011 saw the launch of the Group's vision for its people:
- enabling them to reach their full potential and to give their best as individuals and in teams; and
- behave towards each other with the same respect and dignity that we expect for ourselves.
We launched five standards and supporting programmes relating to recruitment, induction, performance and talent management and to workplace rights. These are designed to modernise the management culture of the Group and ensure that at every level of the organisation we get the right people in the right jobs doing the right things in the right ways. We conduct regular surveys of employee opinion to keep in touch with the views and feelings of our people.
As part of the talent management programme, each of our top 100 managers has been given an individual development plan, with over half of this cadre also receiving highly tailored one-to-one coaching.
Emergency and scheduled succession plans have been established for all of our senior positions. In addition we now have around 100 people – generally frontline managers – on our high potential programme as a means of growing our own senior managers of the future.
During 2011, we also developed a rigorous performance management process and a management blueprint which defined what we want managers to do – and not to do. The intention is to encourage a specific set of behaviours that, in turn, will improve levels of workforce engagement.
In 2012 we will be extending our talent management training to include all managers, from frontline supervisors upwards.
Our 2011 environmental performance is something we are proud of.
Our new Birmingham coach station, for example, is the only one in the country to be accredited to the BREEAM Excellent standard. BREEAM is the world's leading design and assessment method for sustainable building. We are aiming to achieve the same rating for all new developments, which will include two new bus garages and a coach garage in the next two years. Our intention is that these new developments will have zero net CO2 emissions and will therefore be carbon neutral. This will be achieved by investment in energy efficiency measures including smart meters, building insulation, and onsite renewable energy regeneration.
We are also working with the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers and Liverpool John Moores University to create a system for the rail industry to benchmark property efficiency and sustainability. No such system currently exists.
Investment in our c2c rail business has already seen us become the industry leader in energy efficiency and in waste recycling – and coaches are the greenest form of transport. We have medium-term targets for reducing our carbon emissions – and deliberately so. We believe mediumterm targets are more meaningful than targets set many years hence, and make us more accountable. During 2011 we installed voltage optimisation equipment at all of our bus garages, which has resulted in a saving of 1 million kWh or 19% of the electricity used at these sites, and almost 550 tonnes of CO2 a year.
Gas consumption has fallen even more steeply. Installing automated gas control systems at our bus garages saved almost 2,200 tonnes of CO2 and cut gas usage by 55%. We are now looking to roll this out to our coach and rail operations.
As well as emitting significantly less carbon than other modes of transport, our buses, coaches and trains significantly reduce congestion – and its economic cost. For example, a third of all commuters in Birmingham travel on National Express operated buses. If they were to drive instead, that would add a traffic jam equivalent to the distance between Birmingham and Moscow.
National Express is an international business, and takes its community responsibilities seriously wherever it operates. Across the Group, more than 100 community organisations and charities were supported, either through a donation or support in kind. A total of £228,000 was donated to charities during the year. In Morocco, for example, we are supporting a UNICEF project which focuses on improving the care offered to mothers and newborn children with the aim of reducing neonatal mortality.
In the USA, 14 of our school bus fleets have achieved Green School Bus Fleet Certification from the National School Transportation Association. This is the only programme of its kind to recognise school transportation companies for providing environmentally responsible transportation through the use of new technologies.
Throughout our North American operations we launched an Adopt-a- School programme in 2011. This has seen our employees volunteering to help schools in their communities from New York to New Mexico, California to South Carolina, and Oklahoma to Ontario.
The range of activities varies greatly, from collecting food, clothing and toys for needy families to taking part in reading programmes. But they are all based on finding ways to build strong relationships with our communities and our customers.
In the UK, our Employee Charity Panel continues to encourage staff to get involved in the community, with a total of £20,000 donated during the year.
Overall, we made real progress across our community agenda during 2011, and have the structures in place to do even better in 2012.