Opinion of the Alliander stakeholder panel
True to tradition, Alliander convened a stakeholder panel to review its annual report. We are pleased to have been given this opportunity to provide feedback on the annual report, which we believe will enable Alliander to gear the report more closely to the wishes and needs of the stakeholders and society in general.
Alliander is an organisation that faces a considerable challenge in the energy transition. This makes it even more important to continue to engage in open and transparent dialogue. Not only does such dialogue lead to more understanding for the goals, dilemmas and challenges the network operator is working on, but dialogue is also increasingly important to all stakeholders, including the financial market, particularly in view of the forthcoming international statutory accounting guidelines. The information in the draft report generally provides an extensive, readable insight into Alliander’s activities, results and challenges. The link that is made with broad well-being and the SDGs is a plus. Nonetheless, the report could present more clear-cut lines. Urgent themes are addressed extensively but are scattered throughout the report, giving it a lack of cogency. Moreover, the report could make it clearer which strategic choices are required to respond to the most significant challenges. The panel also asks for an explicit explanation of the organisation’s stakeholder approach: how and according to what process are stakeholders involved in strategic and materiality choices, implementation, discussions on dilemmas and reporting?
In addition, the panel misses a certain vigour in the message. We understand that Alliander’s – sometimes tricky – position in relation to its social role forces it to be diplomatic or cautious in many cases. But it is less and less easy to remain neutral – nor is it desirable in our opinion – given the organisation’s social task, and need to maintain access to the capital market. The organisation could therefore display more courage and guts in debates which are important for its own future and that of society. We hope to see this reflected in the Management Board’s foreword, or in a separate chapter containing challenges, strategy and value creation.
Topics which the panel believes deserve a more in-depth discussion are sustainable finance, affordability, innovation and access to energy. Perhaps the most significant topics could be presented in the form of fact sheets, or something similar, to reach a broader audience.
Vision for the future that spans generations
Alliander has a number of dates sharply in focus. By 2025, the company wants to have eliminated all its backlog. By 2030, the Netherlands as a whole must have achieved a 55% reduction in CO2 emissions compared to 1990. Much of the information in the report focuses on the short term. There is little to be found in the report which spans future generations, to 2050 or even 2070. It would be advisable, where possible, to offer a glimpse of the scenarios envisaged up to those dates.
Energy networks are part of a chain which includes suppliers of products and services, and other partners. Alliander could be more precise about the responsibilities when mentioning topics. It is understandable that direction and coordination are required in the work needed for the energy transition is understandable, but if this is not Alliander’s job, then whose is it?
Significance of results
Alliander reports many results of activities, but it is often unclear what these results signify. Is the organisation on course? Are things going better than expected? What was disappointing and why? What is Alliander’s level of ambition in relation to the various political and institutional contexts in which Alliander operates? Alliander could be more outspoken, certainly where things are not yet going as they should. This would add a dimension to the report.
Focus on diversity
The stakeholder panel feels that the focus on diversity – the key to being future-proof – could be more comprehensive and more refined. For example, what is Alliander’s vision in terms of empowering women and increasing the share of young women in the technical professions, rather than simply the focus on women in a managerial position? Furthermore, we expect to receive more focused information on other diversity factors in terms of gender, age, level of knowledge and origins.
Like last year, the stakeholder panel took time to reflect on a number of Alliander’s dilemmas: 1) planning based on realism versus the sustainable ambition; 2) creating capacity to achieve long-term goals or prioritising short-term tasks; and 3) system efficiency versus broad support from society. We recognise and endorse the dilemmas discussed, which make it abundantly clear what a difficult role Alliander has to play and its limited influence in the regulated domain. We would like to read more about the practical possibilities in the ambition and realism quadrant. Is there an optimum, and what is its impact on the company’s financial position? How does Alliander view the coalition agreement? After all, the urgency of the transition requires legal facilitation. The choices to be made are ultimately essential for creating broad support. We recommend that Alliander makes the elaboration of its dilemmas more compelling by using concrete facts and figures to underpin and illustrate its account.
A final word
Alliander’s reporting is of a high quality, as confirmed by its excellent position in the Transparency Benchmark. We hope that our contribution will help to retain this high level of transparency. We would like to thank Alliander for its positive attitude towards its stakeholders, for giving us the opportunity to give meaningful feedback on the draft version of the annual report and for the substantive dialogue with the Management Board.
On behalf of the stakeholder panel,
Teresa Fogelberg - sustainability leader, former deputy chief executive of GRI, chair of the Transparency Benchmark, Impact Economy Foundation
Heleen Keur - local council member for the Municipality of Den Helder
Arthur Krebbers – head of Sustainable Finance Corporates, NatWest Markets
Werner Schouten – former chair of Jonge Klimaatbeweging
Margot Weijnen – Professor of Process and Energy Networks, Delft University of Technology
Response of the Alliander Management Board to the feedback from the stakeholder panel
“We have taken note of all the stakeholder panel’s reflections with great interest and have accordingly made alterations in a number of regards in the annual report.
To start with, we have been more explicit about the position we wish to take and in specifying our expectations with respect to other parties. We have pointed out the great importance of coordinating planning and programming with the national government, the provinces and the municipalities in the section entitled ‘Our Network’. We have provided details on the progress made in the RES programme and what still needs to be done. In the same section, we have elaborated on the requirements for the new Energy Act in order to be able to tackle the major challenges facing network operators.
The stakeholder panel makes a valid point about Alliander’s long-term vision and objective. The section entitled ‘Our Strategy’ refers to our new Corporate Social Responsibility policy and its basic principles, including broad well-being. This should be read as a promise that we will focus more attention on our long-term impact on society. This promise is reported in ‘Our impact on society’.
With reference to the comment about diversity, we have amended the ‘Attractive Employer’ section. In addition to providing concrete data on the composition of the organisation, we show in more detail how we are working to achieve an inclusive and culturally diverse organisation.
The panel’s feedback is valuable input for the choice and refinement of dilemmas in our annual report. At the request of the panel, we have been transparent about the effect of the ambitious climate policy on our operations. We have taken note of the suggestion to provide substantiating facts and figures and this will be an ambition for our next annual report.”
The stakeholder panel
The stakeholder panel that assists us with the annual report forms part of our ongoing stakeholder dialogue. We shared a draft version of the 2021 annual report with the panel members in December. It was discussed during an online meeting held on 20 December 2021, attended by our CFO Walter Bien. The feedback was used to improve this report, and will also serve to further enhance the quality of our reporting. The stakeholder panel is independent. Perhaps you, too, would like to talk to us about the annual report or the issues confronting Alliander. We are open to dialogue and also regularly organise roundtable sessions with our stakeholders. Please contact us on email@example.com.