While the majority of engagement with stakeholders takes place within the business divisions and is led by divisional management, the Board engages directly with certain stakeholders. The Directors are also kept regularly appraised of all stakeholders’ views through divisional reports to the Board, so that Directors are able to have regard to such views in their decision-making, as illustrated by reference to various stakeholders’ interests in our Section 172(1) statement on page 38 of our 2021 annual report.
Understanding and balancing the respective needs and expectations of our stakeholders over the past year has been more important than ever and we remain committed to doing so as we emerge from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and look to our recovery and future growth.
Ensuring our customers are at the heart of our decision-making is crucial to our strategy. Understanding their changing needs, preferences and behaviours helps us to ensure that our offering remains safe, fair, current and appealing.
We host, serve and engage with our customers each and every day by means of digital interfaces and conversations in our venues and remotely. This includes discussing their overall experience, safer gambling, affordability and welfare. We also regularly engage with our customers through quantitative and qualitative research to seek their views, opinions and insights into how we can improve our products, services and user journeys.
Our people are the heart and soul of the business and central to its success. We depend on their passion and commitment to implement our strategy and ensure our customers are served in the best possible way.
We seek an open dialogue culture and host forums throughout the year to enable the exchange of opinion between colleagues and the sharing of views with senior management and the Board. Other engagement methods include, but are not limited to, monthly Group and business unit Town Halls, frequent newsletters and corporate communications to share news and developments, employee surveys (postponed during 2020/21 due to the majority of colleagues being furloughed), regular performance and development reviews and venue visits by Board members and senior management (although limited this year due to closures).
We also continue to offer a confidential whistleblowing hotline to all colleagues.
Community links are as important to Rank and its people as they are to our customers. Our businesses are more likely to succeed when they are part of healthy and supportive communities and we are committed to making a positive contribution to them.
Our venues are community hubs in which people spend leisure time and engage and interact with other customers and with our colleagues. The strength of our business is in part due to the long-term trust and relationships which exist between our colleagues and customers, who very often will have known each other for many years.
We engage with the local community through volunteering, charity work and providing employment and work experience opportunities.
We are particularly proud of our seven-year relationship with Carers Trust.
Regulators and legislators play a key role in shaping the gambling landscape and an ongoing open dialogue is essential to ensure we better understand the expectations underpinning regulation and that regulation is founded in an understanding of the customer. Regulators also monitor the high standards by which we operate.
Establishing and developing relationships with elected parliamentarians, government officials, industry peers and key stakeholders (such as campaign groups and media) remains a key focus, particularly in the UK this year with the wide-ranging review of gambling legislation that is underway. We conduct such engagement ourselves and also through industry bodies, such as the Betting and Gaming Council (‘BGC’), the Casino Group (within the BGC) and the Bingo Association. We strive to establish strong working relationships with the aim that our contributions are valued in terms of delivering customer-oriented laws and regulations.
From a compliance perspective, we participate in regular meetings and communications with the UK Gambling Commisson ('Commisson'), as well as other regulatory bodies and authorities by whom we are licensed.
We adopt an open and transparent approach with our shareholders and analysts to communicate our performance and use their feedback to inform our strategy and decision-making.
We adopt a proactive approach to investor relations, conducting a comprehensive programme of regular contact and consultation throughout the year. Our investor relations programme includes regular updates, meetings, roadshows and our Annual General Meeting (held as a closed meeting in 2020/21 in line with Government restrictions and guidance). The other key way in which we communicate with all shareholders is via our corporate website, www.rank.com.
We have relationships with over 3,000 suppliers, ranging from small businesses to large multinational companies. We aim to operate to the highest professional standards, treating our suppliers as key business partners and operating in a fair and reasonable manner, encouraging supply chain transparency and promoting fair working conditions.
We have a dedicated procurement function which engages with our suppliers with the aim of optimising the way that we work with them. We build relationships regionally and locally to better understand the markets from where we source products and services. These relationships and good communication were particularly important during the pandemic, both for the period for which our venues were closed, but also in relation to the collaboration required to implement closures and reopenings throughout the year.