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Feb 13, 2017

Corporate Governance Awards 2016: Best CSR disclosure - Xcel Energy

The right mix 

In the last two years Xcel Energy has marked several milestones: increasing its wind power capacity by 15 percent by 2015, being presented with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Climate Leadership Award, and ceasing coal operations in Minnesota and Denver. But it matters to the firm’s leadership that it communicates these milestones back to its stakeholders.

‘We’re an energy company, and corporate responsibility is important to our customers, our community and our investors,’ explains Judy Poferl, senior vice president and corporate secretary at Xcel Energy. ‘They are so interested in these aspects of our business – particularly our environmental impact. We want to be really transparent about what we’re doing and how we’re doing it.’

Xcel Energy has published a CSR report each May for the last 11 years and has complied with the Global Reporting Initiative guidelines since 2008.

The last report published in 2016 had 19 pages, many of them dominated by images and graphics. In the spirit of transparency, the report has key disclosures about CO2 emissions, customer energy efficiency results and employee safety.

Understandably, one of the areas people are most interested in when looking at the CSR report is carbon emissions.

Xcel Energy has gone to the effort of verifying and registering its greenhouse gas emissions with the Climate Registry, a non-profit environmental reporting agency. This year, the CSR report was made available through a new website that made it easier for readers to navigate to specific sections.

Xcel Energy built its report around a theme: The Right Mix. This was specifically selected to apply to several different aspects of its business, emphasizing its broad portfolio of energy sources, commitment to diversity and the strides it’s making in affordable, highquality energy for its customers.

‘We picked the theme to work on many levels,’ Poferl explains. ‘It applies very easily to our energy supply mix, but it’s meant to be much broader than that.’

Over the next 10 years, half of Xcel Energy’s staff will be eligible to retire. In an effort to get the right mix, the company’s leadership sees this as an opportunity to drive diversity of thought and a culture of inclusion. One area it has prioritized is hiring veterans; 15 percent of its new hires in 2015 were veterans.

‘It’s a great example of how the tone from the top can sharpen an organization’s focus to deliver results,’ Poferl says. ‘It’s not enough to have a goal. You have to stick with it and continuously communicate it.’

Xcel Energy’s leadership has also championed the firm’s Journey to Zero campaign – a commitment to sending employees home injury-free every day; in the last year, employee injuries are down 50 percent. ‘

We’re extremely proud of our progress,’ Poferl says. ‘But this is a culture change and that takes time. It has to be our priority today, tomorrow and the next day.’