“Brexit does not impact our work, but we certainly consider it a business risk. We buy and sell energy in England, but it is clear that there is no turning back; we are here to do our best, just as we have done in Italy.”
These are the words of Sabrina Corbo (Executive Vice President of the Green Network Group), the enthusiastic woman behind the project and head of Green Network Energy in the UK, which she founded in 2003 with her husband Piero Saulli. After moving to London, the businesswoman started with a forward-looking vision and created the company with a certain disillusion. Everything is oriented towards men in the energy sector, with its history serving as an exception, a testament to determination and courage.
A wife and mother of three children, Sabrina has always sought to combine work and family, pursuing her own goals without sacrificing anything with regard to her loved ones. A new business vision was created that was more people-friendly and more attentive to working teams, with relationships in the foreground (the group’s claim is “Energy in People“). It placed a focus on people, the environment and social matters.
The challenge in Great Britain revealed its full potential from the very start. Green Network Energy currently has 45,000 customers, just eight months from its opening. A major partnership with BP Global and the right mix of strategies leverage continued growth despite Brexit.
“I first studied the English energy market and realised that it was opening up thanks to Ofgem’s investigative action on the price cartel created by the Big6 over the years (the Office of Gas and Electricity Market, editor’s note). It is worth stating that we are a start-up company in the UK market, but only from a temporal point of view; we have experience, know-how and a real awareness of what we are doing,” said Sabrina, at the bright office in the St. Paul area of London, with stained glass windows.
Customer-oriented, flexibility and competitiveness are the three features that Green Network Energy uses with respect to English competitors. What is the key to this success?
“I took the Italian employees with me, choosing talented people who were even second and third down the line, giving them the opportunity to grow together. 45% of our staff is Italian, and this will not change. The other half includes the rest of the world. I’m looking for talent, regardless of where it comes from.”
With a pragmatic business approach, Sabrina Corbo has intimate knowledge about the investment in talent. For example, in order to promote the well-being of her employees, she founded a company for family services (babysitters, nannies, housekeepers, caretakers and more) and a corporate daycare immersed in the greenery of the Italian capital that today boasts 120 children from 4 months to 6 years of age, offering them a trilingual experience (www.asilolefateturchine.it).
“This is how I have a zero turnover within the company. Employees cannot go to work if they have familial problems, as it definitely decreases their performance. I support productivity in my company and my business position, which made me a better mother; I understand how much balance is required to work for one’s family to be solid, while and at the same time focusing on the person’s well-being for increased performance in the office”.
What similarities or differences do you find as an Italian entrepreneur with three years of being an “insider” in the English market?
“We are 10 years behind in Italy. This is a much more liberal, democratic country. If we are talking about liberalisation in the UK, it is a fact that exists, and is real. When the supervisory authority here has to punish the Big6, it does so in a serious manner. If it has to withdraw an operating license, it does so without looking anyone in the eye.”
The reticence of the Italian system is due to 85% of the distribution market share still being in the hands of the public supplier. Looking at the English market, however, it is paradoxically seen that in the last three years there has been a new push to open up to the Big6. Nevertheless, from an infrastructure point of view, the UK market is still behind, linked to analog metering and far from the smart1 or smart2 digital meters, which are now commonly used by Italians.
“These discrepancies are a strength to us, because we seek to be a bridge between the UK and Italy that is more advanced from an industrial point of view; however, at a business policy and legislative level and with regard to equal opportunities for operators, the Italian market plods along, especially if compared to a much more agile and mobile market, as the English one.”
From the Eternal City to London City, Green Network Energy has become the first independent Italian Energy Company to operate in the UK, and thinking all’italiano was only natural.
“The Italian Touch” is the slogan used in the UK, with offers designed to add something extra to the generic energy supply, an added value with an eye out for the more than 600,000 Italians living in the UK. It offers competitive rates, a clear and exhaustive website in both English and Italian, a simple and instant online switching procedure (to switch from the old supplier to the new one), and a bilingual call centre, with operators always available to provide information and assistance in Italian in addition to English.
Along with the standard Light and Gas package, Green Network Energy offers the Green variant, which is 100% produced from renewable sources. The environment, the silent protagonist of the energy chain, has always been at the centre of Green Network Energy’s business policy, through the exploitation of renewables already on the market and the creation of state-of-the-art plants, in line with the concept of Green Economy.
In the future of Green Network Energy, Sabrina plans to continue to grow throughout Europe. “There are new markets that are opening up, and we would like to go and replicate this experience. Countries like Germany, Poland and Switzerland are certainly of interest”. Find more information at www.greennetworkenergy.co.uk.
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