A Message From Our CEO
There are no words right now that would excuse or take away the pain that Dan Robson felt whilst working at NGP due to the discrimination that he faced. Personally, I find what has happened to be awful and I am deeply saddened by it. To be absolutely clear, the comments directed towards Mr Robson were abhorrent, disgusting and in no way reflect my personal views and those of Northern Gas and Power.
I have thought about this intensely over the last few days.
Initially, I was defensive. I felt that the story described in the media did not offer a balanced view of the situation and portrayed the abhorrent acts of a small number of former employees as the culture of my entire organisation. I felt that the media had not taken the time to understand NGP’s true identity – even after invitation – which is one of inclusiveness and diversity. Instead, they crafted an image of an organisation full of hate, discrimination – a cesspool of toxicity.
What happened to Dan is a fact. These acts were committed by 4 individuals in an isolated incident in a small satellite office in Leeds. But what has since been written about us in the media has created a false perception of who we are as an organisation as a whole.
I am proud to say that over 50% of our people are from minority backgrounds, whether that be from LGBT or ethnic communities. I founded this company on a set of principles that hold a deep and personal meaning to me, based upon my own experiences as a young man, and the son of immigrants growing up in England in the 1980s.
My principles, and the fact that we are so diverse as a company, comes from a real place and a lived experience as a minority ethnic person in England.
My parents fled their home country where they were born during a brutal civil war and sought refuge in the UK. When they arrived, they could not speak a word of English and therefore could not communicate at all. When they arrived in the UK they were greeted by the far right and combat 18. Growing up, my family and I experienced first-hand racial prejudice directed towards my parents, in the form of racially motivated verbal and physical abuse, such as excrement being put through our letterbox and my parents being spat on. It’s not easy watching your mother cry because she was spat on by a racist. They had hoped that by seeking refuge in the UK they were fleeing from persecution, but the sad reality was that they had simply exchanged one form of prejudice and discrimination for another.
And that is not the only discrimination my family has experienced. My brother, as an openly gay man, has suffered both isolation and discrimination from his community.
From my first-hand experience of discrimination, I can understand how it can devastate lives. I would like to think I can understand what Dan experienced and how he feels. It has upset me deeply. But it categorically does not reflect the identity of this company. So, forgive my initial defensive position when the media is portraying my organisation as discriminatory.
That one person who spat on my mother; did he represent all white people?
I could have very easily taken my negative experiences and blamed every white person, but as I grew older and began high school (where I was the only ethnic minority person in that school), it taught me a valuable lesson; that certain people’s bad behaviour is not representative of an entire group, country or even workplace. So, I ask you – those individuals that caused Dan Robson such hurt – do they represent this entire company?
Sadly, what was written about us in the media was sensationalist and has unfortunately created more discrimination. Since the articles were published, my Global People Director, Scott High, an openly gay man has been repeatedly harassed online and even been called homophobic. Since the release of these press articles, some of our staff from the LGBT community who have voluntarily defended the company they love and helped build, have been called ‘scum’.
I do not believe that it has had any impact in increasing an understanding of discrimination or helping to address it.
I founded this company based on my own personal experiences with a strong set of principles of inclusion, diversity and acceptance – I did this because I did not want a single other person to feel what I felt growing up.
We have worked extremely hard, pushing the boundaries and it has taken a tremendous amount of work from everybody here. Nobody told us to put these principles in place. We created them on our own, because of the prejudices we have experienced, so we believe in them, they mean something personal to us. They are in our DNA. They are not a PR exercise and not to just tick a box.
These principles have grown organically, as the company has grown, and are continually improved upon. These sensationalist articles – by not giving context or balance – are tarnishing all the hard work put in to achieve these standards by our people, and our LGBT and minority communities.
We invited numerous media outlets to visit us and see first-hand our organisation, our people and our culture. Sadly, they have so far declined the offer. Instead, they have written numerous stories based on one incident which occurred in a young satellite office.
The perception of the company given by these articles could not be further from the truth.
Had the media bothered to take the time to learn about us they could have seen all of the good work we have done. We have paid for IVF for same-sex couples so they can have children and create families – on several occasions. We have employed an NLP psychologist, a well-being manager, and hired health coaches so that everybody can feel safe and included within our whole organisation and within society, as equals. They would learn how we have championed inclusion and diversity within our organisation. We do not shout about it because this isn’t a PR exercise for us, it is something we feel genuinely passionate about.
To have all of that great work rubbished has saddened everybody not least our LGBT community who have worked so hard to create an open and diverse organisation.
All it has achieved is to stir further negative emotions, and not to give a balanced view or seek to improve the situation.
This whole episode has taught us something extremely valuable. Yes, we are at the forefront of an inclusive and diverse culture. Yet, we know we must improve even more. That is just part of our natural desire to progress as a business.
I recognise that errors were made. We needed more structure in Leeds – which has since been put in place. We needed to root out these individuals – which we have.
My country, England, is a very different place from the England I grew up in, and that is because there has been a huge amount of progress in the areas of inclusion, diversity and acceptance.
It would be truly saddening to set this back. This is about being open and honest. Looking at and learning from this failing but also recognising and celebrating who we are – this amazingly positive company; this pioneer in the energy sector; this hugely diverse workforce. Let us focus on the positives. Let us get even better at this.
Because pulling us and our people backwards achieves nothing and perpetuates further discrimination. Allow us as a company and as a country to continue to progress towards making society more open, more equal, more diverse and more inclusive.
To Dan Robson, I sincerely apologise for any hurt that you have experienced whilst you were at the company I founded. I want you to know that this is not reflective of me, my company, or its culture. It will not take the hurt away, but I promise that I will personally contribute to the legal expenses you have incurred because of this.
Chief Executive Officer at Global Procurement Group