NNL is a government owned national laboratory and a private limited company that operates major nuclear infrastructure. As such, stakeholders play a key role in decision making. By thoroughly understanding our stakeholder groups, we can factor their needs and concerns into Board discussions. The NNL Board therefore engages extensively with a wide range of stakeholders (further information on our stakeholders is set out later in this Statement). The Board’s approach has evolved significantly through 2019/20 and this is expected to continue.
Stakeholder interests and concerns are routinely considered for matters that require Board approval. Principal decisions in 2019/20 included those regarding strategy, customers, people, investments and governance/risk. Some examples of the way in which stakeholder interests and concerns were considered in decision making are set out below. Stakeholder input is also sought to ensure that NNL operational and safety approaches reflect best practice.
Agreement of new Corporate Strategy
The Board agreed a new corporate strategy which had been developed by working groups involving a cross-section of NNL people. A series of Board strategy workshops were held involving BEIS/UKGI stakeholders to align the strategy with emerging BEIS nuclear policy. The Board also supported NNL’s continued commitment to AIRTO and their participation in the UK Science Review by the Government Office of Science, the conclusions of which are reflected in NNL’s strategy.
Board agendas were revised to allow NNL’s Shareholder NED to set out developments in Government and the views of Government stakeholders, ensuring NNL strategy is aligned with Government policy. In response to feedback under this item, the Board agreed to revise the approach to the Quarterly Shareholder Meeting to drive improvements in the way in which NNL interfaces with Government.
Agreement of strategic developments in support of customers
The Board met with key customer stakeholders (including stakeholders at NDA/Sellafield Limited, EdF Energy, Rolls-Royce/MoD, BEIS and Westinghouse UK) to foster effective relationships.
The Board met with the MD of Westinghouse UK and agreed that the organisations should work closely together to develop Springfields site by optimising utilisation of NNL Preston Laboratory and jointly progressing development of the Clean Energy Technology Park concept with BEIS.
The Board met with the Chief Science and Technology Office of Sellafield Limited and agreed how to enhance ways of working to optimise supply chain utilisation. The Board also agreed to support the NDA/SL business case for relocation of SL’s Analytical Services function to NNL Central Laboratory; it is in the best interests of stakeholders despite the short-term challenges it places on the NNL business.
Westinghouse and Sellafield host NNL’s nuclear laboratories and therefore also represent key local stakeholder groups.
Agreement of a new People strategy and other key People matters
The Board agreed that a new People strategy should be developed and implemented by working groups involving a cross section of NNL people. This proved very effective at driving engagement and very significant progress has been achieved in its implementation. The Board also agreed to evolve the Remuneration Committee into a broader People and Culture committee in line with best practice.
The Board and Executive continue to involve leaders from across the business in work to transform NNL. Our colleagues bring a combination of critical nuclear sector knowledge and experience, awareness of issues previously raised through employee fora, and established good practice from outside the sector. This led to the Board’s decision to embed the Business Transformation programme in the business in 2019.
The Board met with the NNL Equality Diversity and Inclusion working group and agreed to sponsor their work with internal and external stakeholders. The Board listened to the working group and agreed that NNL’s aim is to fully embed ED&I in a business that celebrates difference. The resulting ED&I strategy was endorsed by the Board and aims to position NNL as a sector leader.
NNL’s Trade Union Forum is chaired by a Board Director and formally represents the views of most employees. The Forum was also involved in the development of the People strategy and leads negotiations on formal people matters.
Agreement of investments in programmes and infrastructure
The Board agreed to fund early initiation of the BEIS Advanced Fuel Cycle Programme following consideration of stakeholder concerns. This approach facilitated policy implementation and mitigated supply chain challenges to the maximum extent possible while administrative matters were resolved.
The Board agreed to sanction additional investment in improvements to Windscale laboratory to expedite its return to operation. Board members met with customer stakeholders (in particular EdF Energy and Rolls-Royce/MoD) to listen to their concerns, discuss the challenges to their programmes, and agree the way forward. The impact on NNL people in the laboratory was also recognised; approaches to facilitate a more open dialogue on such matters are being explored.
Agreement of changes to Corporate Governance arrangements
The Board agreed with government stakeholders to update governance arrangements in line with best practice. Where practicable the 2018 Governance Code has been adopted; a Framework Document setting out how Managing Public Money applies to NNL has also been agreed and implemented.
The Board agreed with stakeholders a revised approach to risk management including reformation of the Audit Committee and Assurance Advisory Board respectively as an Audit, Risk and Assurance Committee and Environment, Health, Safety and Security Committee.
The NNL Board engages extensively with a wide range of stakeholders including:
- MPs, Lords and Government officials in numerous departments
- Key Customers and potential future customers
- NNL’s employees
- Regulators (eg ONR, EA)
- National research bodies (eg UKRI)
- Major international nuclear players, supply chain companies and SMEs
- International partners and governments
- Key institutions and associations (OECD, IAEA, NIA, CBI, AIRTO, Learned Societies)
- Academic institutions
- Regional bodies (LEPs, county councils, borough councils etc)
Interactions with these stakeholders is reported to the Board and pertinent issues are discussed.
Connections with these stakeholders provides insight into the policy landscape external to the business at national and regional level, and this intelligence is fed back into the business to support operational activity and wider strategic thinking – up to the level of Executive and Board. Likewise, NNL’s views and priorities can be fed back through these networks to inform and influence the actions and positions of their own decision-making bodies.
Amongst all our stakeholders, Government, our workforce, and key customers have the biggest influence and impact on our decision making and we engage with all of them closely. The NNL Board aims to visit each of the company’s major locations at least once per year and, whilst there, takes the opportunity to meet teams and individual who are resident on each site to discuss their work and listen to their views and feedback. This activity is being further developed to create an environment that enables a better understanding of the interests and concerns of NNL people; in particular alternative approaches are being explored that offer the potential to facilitate more open dialogue.
The NNL Technology Advisory Board (TAB) was established as an informal Board subcommittee in 2014/15 and is a key mechanism for Board stakeholder engagement. The TAB provides advice on the strategy, effectiveness and impact of NNL’s science and technology programmes and NNL’s role in fulfilling government’s nuclear industrial strategy. The TAB is chaired by a non-executive NNL Board Director and its membership includes NNL Directors, and representatives from Government, key customers, partners, and academia. Other stakeholders are invited as appropriate including international partners and NNL people. The TAB met three times in 2019-20 and considered investment priorities, the internal R&D programme, skills and capabilities, and international collaborations. As an example, the TAB reviewed and provided input to the refreshed NNL S&T strategy ahead of its endorsement by the NNL Board in March 2019.
We also have direct engagement with a wide range of stakeholders through events such as our own SCITEC conference, held every year to showcase elements of the work NNL is doing and to promote NNL’s role as a convenor of the key stakeholders who impact our sector in respect of technology, innovation and policy-making. The event brings together senior stakeholders from Government, academia, customers, suppliers and our own colleagues. The interactions are both formal (through presentations and debate on stage) and informal (via the extensive networking opportunity which the event creates) and generate important insights into the views of our stakeholders, which then feed back into our own decision-making within NNL. For example, SCITEC 2019 involved partners in the NNL Innovation Programme who provided insight into the effectiveness of the Board endorsed Innovation strategy; the implementation approach has since been amended accordingly.
NNL hosts the Nuclear Research and Innovation Office (NIRO), a specialist unit, pursuant to a contract funded by BEIS and it provides technical advice and guidance to Government. NIRO is separated from the rest of the NNL business by a series of ethical barriers to ensure both client confidentiality of policy matters and that NNL does not benefit commercially.