PROFILE: Dominic Fry, Scottish Power - CSR steers Fry down award winning route

Corporate comms director Dominic Fry on his 'ideal' job at Scottish Power

Power corporate communications director Dominic Fry is still beaming with pride after winning the prestige Company of the Year award at this year's annual bash run by corporate social responsibility (CSR) promoter Business in the Community.

That honour, presented during the summer in recognition of commitment to improving and reporting its impact on society, satisfied an ambition Fry had harboured since he joined the company two years ago.

'I made a vow two years ago that we had to win something at the Business in the Community Awards. Now we've won, I'd like to win it again. That may sound aggressive, but what's the point in doing this just for a year?' he says.

In recent years, Scottish Power - which, since privatisation 11 years ago has grown into a global operation of four businesses (two regulated and two competitive) in the US and UK - has attempted to forge a reputation for innovative CSR work.

Fry, who says CSR has been 'part of Scottish Power's corporate DNA for a long time', can reel off an impressive list of small-scale schemes with which his firm has been involved. Such projects - which range from work with blind schoolchildren to helping youths in the Scottish Highlands find employment - have, he says, made it 'much easier to work with communities'.

But, he hastens to add, CSR initiatives must also have measurable bottom-line benefits. For example, he cites a rural tree-felling and planting programme that meant fewer electricity power-lines were brought down by bad weather and fewer hours of electricity distribution were lost.

Despite the recent BiTC award win, the past couple of years have not been plain sailing for Scottish Power. Compounding a tough 12 months for energy markets - the California energy crisis hit Scottish Power's US interests hard - the company has quit the financial services market, demerged its telecoms business Thus and sold off Southern Water.

But Fry - one of that rare breed of corporate communicators who has spent all his senior career in in-house roles - is no stranger to challenging working environments, having held top comms roles at AT&T from 1990 to 1994, leaving to join Eurotunnel for two years and, a four-year stint at Sainsbury's before joining Scottish Power.

'The complete making of me' is how Fry -a fluent French speaker - refers to his spell at Eurotunnel, where technical, financial and reputational troubles meant his PR skills were tested to the full.

Centrica European MD Simon Lewis, a friend of Fry's, says: 'Dominic's had tough testing grounds. Eurotunnel was probably the most testing - it doesn't get much tougher than when the banks are on your back.'

Fry is reluctant to talk on the record about his time at Sainsbury's, which he left when CEO Peter Davis brought in Jan Shawe, his former colleague from the Prudential, but, in hindsight, it seems his move to Scottish Power came at a good time, certainly from his family's perspective.

After almost 20 years of working in London, a job at Scottish Power allowed his family to move from London to rural Scotland.

He now lives, with his wife and two young children (aged three and ten months), in a village outside Glasgow. There he can enjoy his passion for walking and fly-fishing.

Fry admits his job now allows him the 'best of both worlds', as he spends most days in Glasgow, jetting down to London once a week and spending around five days per month in the US. He oversees around 40 staff, split between the company's headquarters in Glasgow, and US offices in Salt Lake City, Utah, and Portland, Oregon.

Maitland Consultancy founder Angus Maitland says Fry, with whom he worked when he was at Sainsbury's, has many qualities: 'He's a very professional operator, very loyal to whichever company he works for. He's also a man of integrity and a good motivator of people.'

Andrew Grant, the founder of financial PR agency Tulchan, which has a retained brief with Scottish Power, says Fry has applied the 'consumer ethos he learned at Sainsbury's to a utility firm. He looks at things from a truly corporate perspective and he loves it at Scottish Power.'

With Fry ambitiously setting Scottish Power's sights on a second Company of the Year award, he seems likely to stay at what he says is his 'ideal' job for some while yet.

HIGHLIGHTS

1990: UK comms head, AT&T

1994: Director of comms, Eurotunnel

1996: Group comms director, Sainsbury's

2000: Group corporate comms director, Scottish Power

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