IMPACT ON THE COMMUNITY RELATIONS ON THE
We recently sat down with Jim Kibler, AGL Senior Vice President for External Affairs and Public Policy, to learn more about the company’s commitment to building strong relationships in the community. Jim described how a strong community affairs program is vital to overall corporate reputation and success in the energy business.
What influenced AGL leadership to make community affairs an important management priority?
A great thing about our company is the desire and expectation to continually improve. It is part of our culture, our DNA, and it includes every aspect of our business, especially ongoing process improvements in safety and financial performance. We are always measuring, learning lessons, and looking around the corner for new things. This drives the creation of best practices and benchmarks for future performance. We apply a similar process-improvement approach to community affairs -- setting objectives, measuring success, and comparing to other projects over time.
What are some of the keys to a successful community relations program?
It begins by understanding the communities that we serve and reaching out in ways that are relatable to them within their culture, language, and priorities. I can’t emphasize enough that we are here to serve the community, that every employee has a personal responsibility to provide that service, and that we are all held accountable for doing so.
Our project managers engage with stakeholders in a meaningful way, including meetings with government officials and community groups, an online mechanism for citizen feedback and a system for problem resolution. And we stay involved and committed to the community for the long term.
What is an example of a time when your reputation had a direct impact on your work and business success?
Our reputation affects most of what we do, but perhaps it has the biggest visible impact during capital
projects and investments. We don’t start earning a return until a project is placed in service. Our customers depend on us to manage costs, and we are subject to regulatory oversight around the prudency of our expenses. We have a powerful incentive to know the concerns of people in the community, address them, and build understanding and support for our projects to avoid costly delays and sometimes even project failure.
Inconsistent community outreach and a lack of public involvement have a measurable cost to us in terms of delays, denials of permits and opposition to projects. We aren’t perfect, but our reputation - for being honest with people in the community and respecting them - is an essential part of our success.
AGL Resources is an Atlanta-headquartered, Fortune 500 energy company whose primary business is natural gas distribution. AGL serves approximately 4.5 million end-use customers in seven states.