At Spectra Energy, we talk about the "right here, right now" imperative of the product we deliver and the priorities we address. However, we also know that near-term actions must support the long-term sustainability of our company for the benefit of our investors and other stakeholders. That awareness drives us to focus on all aspects of business success, including economic, environmental and social performance.
We made great strides on all these fronts in 2009.
Financial responsibility. In 2009, we delivered an above-market total shareholder return in a challenging economic environment. We signed long-term contracts with creditworthy customers on a number of expansion projects, positioning us for lasting value and growth. During a year of economic turmoil, we strengthened our financial flexibility, protected our investment-grade credit ratings and preserved a stable, reliable dividend for investors.
Environmental performance. As North America's focus on climate change and greenhouse gas emissions intensifies, we must prioritize and promote the use of cleaner energy sources like natural gas. In 2009, Spectra Energy embarked on an expansive advocacy campaign aimed at communicating the positive role natural gas must play as we seek environmental and energy security solutions. Our commitment to environmental integrity is also evident in the day-to-day work we do, from the care we take in siting and building new infrastructure projects to our pioneering work in carbon capture and sequestration. Our focus on energy conservation within our own operations was recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Natural Gas STAR Program, which named us the Partner of the Year in 2009.
Social commitment. Our 2009 employee survey, benchmarked against peer companies and an index of high-performing companies across North America, confirmed what we know and believe: that Spectra Energy employees are highly engaged and that they value and embrace integrity, social commitment and open communication. Our employees continually strive to deliver their personal best, and they take advantage of our company's extensive learning, development and leadership programs. And members of our team are committed to serving the communities where they live and work. In 2009, employees dedicated 28,000 hours of volunteer service to their communities, and as a team and a company, we contributed more than $7.5 million in charitable giving. Other noteworthy progress in the area of community stewardship for the year included increasing our matching gift limit and creating a new focus area aligned with employee support and volunteerism.
Holding the future in her hands: Sustainable choices begin with informed minds – minds that will change the world for future generations. At Spectra Energy, we're sharing information as widely and transparently as possible. You'll find a wealth of data and discussion regarding our economic, environmental and social performance on Spectra Energy's enhanced online sustainability report. Visit us at www.spectraenergy.com to learn more.