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BSI announces the first nine organizations to have achieved certification to the new Inclusive Service Kitemark™ demonstrating their commitment to supporting vulnerable consumers

25 January 2023

BSI, the business standards and improvement company, today announces that the first nine organizations have achieved certification to the Inclusive Service Kitemark to assure that they are providing an inclusive and flexible service that benefits all consumers, regardless of their personal circumstances.

The certified organizations, which all sit within the energy, water and financial sectors include:

  • Anglian Water Services Limited
  • Northern Gas Networks
  • PayPlan
  • Power NI
  • Santander UK PLC
  • Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks
  • SP Energy Networks
  • South East Water
  • Wales & West Utilities

The Kitemark covers topics such as the identification of customer vulnerability, inclusive design of products and services, as well as the adoption of AI (artificial intelligence) and data collection, protection and sharing to ensure that organizations are creating an inclusive service for all.

Natasha Bambridge, Global Consumer Promise Practice Director at BSI said: “Amid the cost of living crisis, and the growing number of vulnerable adults living in the UK, protecting vulnerable consumers has never been so critical. The Inclusive Service Kitemark demonstrates an organization’s ongoing commitment to offering an inclusive service for all at such a critical time.

“All of the organizations that have achieved certification have demonstrated they understand the impact of consumer vulnerability and provide an inclusive and flexible approach to address it. Therefore, these organizations are better able to meet a diverse range of consumer needs, making it easier for consumers to access information, services and products, make good decisions and achieve positive outcomes.”

The BSI Inclusive Service Kitemark focuses on protecting vulnerable consumers and the certified organizations’ have demonstrated compliance to the standard, BS ISO 22458 Consumer vulnerability – Requirements and guidelines for the design and delivery of inclusive service.

It has industry specific requirements which have tested the organizations’ processes with evidence they are meeting performance metrics in these areas. It provides a framework to help organizations and their employees understand the underlying factors involved in consumer vulnerability, and work to develop processes, implement services, collaborate with partners and look at new innovations to help overcome this challenge.

Additionally, the Kitemark aligns with regulators including Ofgem, Ofwat FCA, United Regulators NI and their strategies to drive organizations to do more to safeguard customers in vulnerable situations.

To achieve the BSI Inclusive Service Kitemark, the organizations were assessed by an expert auditor against the BS ISO 22458 standard and scheme requirements. This was a two-part assessment, which will involve a programme of ongoing surveillance now that certification has been achieved to assess continuing compliance.

Pete Holland, Director of Customer & Wholesale Services at Anglian Water Services Limited comments: “We are passionate about providing an inclusive service and are constantly looking for new ways to adapt to meet our purpose for the needs of our customers. Being externally assessed and acknowledged for the rigour and discipline we bring to all of our customer focused work shows how together we live our values and builds upon many years of improvement driven by the previous standard, BS 18477.

“Achieving certification to BS ISO 22458 and the Inclusive Service Kitemark will help assure that Anglian Water supports the needs of customers for years to come. We are so proud of everyone involved across the business who collaborated to achieve this outcome.”

Jill Walker, Social Strategy Project Manager, Northern Gas Networks comments: “Having held BSI 18477 since 2018, we were in a good position to transition to the international standard and Kitemark. We are both delighted and proud that our commitment to supporting customers in vulnerable situations has resulted in Northern Gas Networks (NGN) being one of the first Gas Distribution Networks to achieve the Inclusive Service Kitemark.

“At NGN, we take great pride in making every contact count with our customers and always aim to deliver more than expected, whilst continually looking to improve. Achieving the Kitemark is testament to the teamwork and ethos that runs through the business, when it comes to supporting our customers, in particular those who require extra help. This outcome required a lot of effort and commitment from people within NGN, so this is a fantastic achievement for our business and is reassuring for our customers to see that our work around inclusive service provision has been recognised and acknowledged by BSI.”

John Fairhurst, Director at PayPlan comments: “As the first debt advice provider in the UK to achieve this certification, we are delighted at this recognition of our work to champion the importance of supporting vulnerable customers and ensuring our debt advice is accessible to all. We are proud of our team's progress in this area and are committed to retention of the Kitemark and further development of our service to ensure we continue working hard to engage with our customers in the right way, at the right time and provide the very best support possible.”

Gwyneth Compston, CSR Manager at Power NI comments: “Power NI is very proud to be recognised alongside other companies from across the UK in achieving certification to the Inclusive Service Kitemark. This demonstrates our commitment to doing the right thing for our customers, which has always been a top priority in Power NI to support the most vulnerable in our communities. This is a significant achievement for us­­ as we strive to set the benchmark when it comes to providing excellent customer service and inclusivity for all. We would like to thank our teams for their continued dedication which has helped us to get through the rigorous assessment and achieve this certification.”    

Enrique Álvarez Labiano, Chief Customer Officer at Santander PLC comments: “We’re delighted to be the first bank to achieve this certification, illustrating our commitment to financial inclusion and ensuring our products and services are simple, personal, and fair. This has been a key focus for us and an indication of the progress we have made in supporting our vulnerable customers, and our dedication to continually improve and develop accessibility to our products and services for all our customers.”

Louise Jones, Social Obligations Manager at Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks comments: “SSEN has successfully achieved the existing BS18477 for 7 years so is thrilled to achieve certification to the Inclusive Service Kitemark. Our teams work hard all year round to ensure we help our customers, particularly for those who may find themselves vulnerable during a power cut, planned supply interruption or emergency situation. This certification is encouraging for both our employees and customers to know that we have been recognised by BSI for the work we do to provide an inclusive and flexible service.”

Kendal Morris, Customer Service Director at SP Energy Networks comments: “We’re committed to providing a fully inclusive service for all our customers, so I am delighted that our efforts have been recognised by becoming one of the first businesses to achieve the Inclusive Service Kitemark.

“More than ever before, it’s important to recognise and support vulnerable customers through fair, flexible and inclusive services that ensure the best possible outcomes for them.

“I’d like to thank BSI for the recognition and look forward to using the framework to ensure we continue to not only maintain but continue to innovate to provide a service suitable for all.”

Andy Clowes, Head of Customer Experience and Strategy, South East Water, said: “We are very proud to have again achieved this certification which shows our commitment to supporting vulnerable customers.

“We made a clear commitment across our organisation to transition to the new standard as early as we could to build on the previous standard when we became one of the first water companies to achieve certification.

“The new BSI Inclusive Service Kitemark has provided us with a great framework and focus for us to continually check we are doing all the right things to help identify and support our customers who need extra help.”

Nigel Winnan, Customer and Social Obligations Strategy Manager at Wales & West Utilities comments: We are delighted to be one of the first nine organisations to have achieved certification to the new Inclusive Service Kitemark. It will help us to further build trust with customers and demonstrate that our services are fully inclusive ensuring everyone is treated equally.

“We are especially proud as our certification covers our whole business including our leadership team, back office and operational workforce. Our colleagues are trained to identify customers who require additional support during our works and can refer them to our network of partnerships helping to tackle the cost of living crisis and ensure they are safe in their homes.”

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