This change to our Articles of Association crystallises a journey we’ve been on for many years and will ensure that public interest remains at the heart of Anglian Water for generations to come.
Our Purpose is to bring environmental and social prosperity to the region we serve through our commitment to Love Every Drop.
Our public interest journey
Water is vital to health and wellbeing, to the economic prosperity of the East of England, and to maintaining a thriving natural environment that we can all enjoy. Yet we face growing challenges to supply from population growth in our region and the escalating climate emergency. To meet these challenges, we all have to play our part in balancing the needs of society, business and the environment to enable a sustainable future.
At Anglian Water we have always recognised the special responsibility we hold as a monopoly provider of an essential public service. We have a duty to deliver wider benefits to society, above and beyond the provision of fresh, clean water.
That responsibility is woven throughout our long-term Strategic Direction Statement and our five-year business plan, which are shaped around the need to facilitate growth in our region, unlock opportunities for our customers and stakeholders, safeguard our environment and provide a resilient supply for generations to come.
Enshrining our Purpose
Our commitment to the environmental and social prosperity of our region goes back many years, even before we set out our Love Every Drop strategy in 2010. We first considered climate change in our assessment of water resources back in 1993 and our education programme has reached nearly half a million people since its launch in 2006. In 2015 we were awarded the Queen’s Award for Enterprise: Sustainable Development in recognition of our work, while in 2017 we were named Responsible Business of the Year, in large part due to our community regeneration work in Wisbech.
In recent years, with the climate emergency accelerating and the challenges of providing resilient supplies to our growing population becoming ever more acute, we have played a leading role in driving industry-wide discussions around the social and environmental purpose of a water company (highlighted by the British Academy in its influential report Principles for Purposeful Business, published in November 2019).
We were instrumental in the development of the water industry’s shared Public Interest Commitment, published in April 2019, in which we each committed to enshrining public interest in our company’s purpose and signed up to five ambitious goals to tackle leakage, carbon emissions, plastics, affordability and social mobility.
With our shareholders’ support, in July 2019 Anglian Water became the first water company to change our company constitution – the Articles of Association – to lock public interest into the way we run our business, both now and for future generations.
By doing so we have ensured that environmental and social priorities will always sit alongside the need to deliver fair returns for our shareholders.
This change underlines our commitment to deliver a sustainable future for the East of England.
Our Articles of Association
Our enhanced Articles of Association require Anglian Water to conduct its business and operations for the benefit of shareholders while delivering long-term value for the company’s customers, the region and the communities it serves, and seeking positive outcomes for the environment and society. Put simply, this means that our Board must take account of the wider impact Anglian Water has on our customers, communities and the environment, as well as delivering a fair return for our shareholders. We’ve summed this up in a simple statement of our Purpose:
“Our Purpose is to bring environmental and social prosperity to the region we serve through our commitment to Love Every Drop.”
As part of the change, our directors made an explicit commitment to consider:
We are already backed by pension funds representing local authorities and other public-sector workers in the UK and overseas. We believe our Articles will continue to attract responsible long-term investors who share our values.
Our Articles of Association means our Board will:
We will also account for our performance and invite challenge from others:
By changing our Articles we have locked environmental and social interest into our core purpose for the long term.
Read more from Peter on our Articles of Association change.
Developing a Social Contract with our customers
We have an unrivalled opportunity to have a positive impact on the environment and the communities we serve. And our millions of customers have a key role to play in achieving that positive outcome. That’s why we’re working with them to develop a two-way social contract, to set out how we can work together to protect and enhance our environment and deliver social prosperity to our region.
Our customers’ views play a huge part in shaping our thinking – our five-year plan for 2020-2025 has been informed by more than 500,000 customer engagements, and we consult regularly via our Online Customer Community, our Customer Engagement Forum, set up in 2011, and our Customer Advisory Board.
So, as we develop our Social Contract, we’re working in partnership with our customers to really understand and address their priorities. We’ve held face-to-face workshops, consulted our Customer Engagement Forum and Online Customer Community and surveyed our employees. The results tell us that words are good, but what matters is action. Customers want to see progress in their local area, understand how we are making a difference to their community, and be equipped with the knowledge and tools to make positive changes themselves.
What they say…
Our Social Contract will be framed around the 10 customer outcomes we have set for our business.
Our draft contract is in its final review stages before launching later this spring. We’re excited about where it will take us.
Embedding six capitals into our decisions
Having enshrined public interest into the heart of our business, we are now working to embed it into decision making.
Our Board have committed to using the six capitals framework. This framework is not new to Anglian Water – this way of thinking was first introduced into our Annual Integrated Report in 2015 – but we will now formalise its use as we begin to deliver our new five-year business plan.
What are the six capitals?
The health of the natural systems and resources that we rely on and impact in our region and beyond; the availability and quality of water in our rivers and aquifers, the protection of our soil and biodiversity and our impact on carbon emissions.
The value of our relationships with stakeholders, including customers, communities and other organisations, the impacts we have on people and society (both positive and negative) and the trust they place in us as a result.
The financial health and resilience of the organisation and our access to and use of sustainable finance.
The ability of our infrastructure to provide resilient services to meet the current and future expectations of our customers.
The knowledge, skills and wellbeing of our people; and the health, happiness and safety of our working environment; our organisational culture and our ways of working.
The knowledge, systems, processes, data and information we hold, create and share within our business and with our alliance partners.
Using a six capitals lens will help us keep our responsibility to customers, communities and the environment at the front of our minds when making business decisions.
We’re developing a set of metrics for each of the capitals to help us understand, track and report on our impact on them.
We have also identified key metrics to embed in our decision making across the business for our investments, purchasing, strategic and operational decisions.
Developing a Responsible Business standard
We are working with the British Standards Institute and a group of companies who share our commitment to responsible business to develop the scope and desire for a Publicly Accessible Specification (PAS) on the principles of sustainability and leadership in business.
Our goal in developing the Responsible Business PAS is to identify and set out the characteristics of a leading organisation that is pursuing a sustainable purpose and is building that into the core of their business.
The Responsible Business PAS could play an important role in helping us hold ourselves to account by giving us – and others – a framework to assess our commitment.
Our Public Interest Commitment
We were a driving force in the development of the industry-wide Public Interest Commitment, made in April 2019 together with our fellow water companies through Water UK. It commits all companies to enshrining purpose – which we were the first to do through the changes we’ve made to our Articles of Association – and sets out five key goals to achieve by 2030:
We are playing a leading role on two of the industry-wide commitments, with our CEO Peter Simpson acting as co-sponsor of the leakage and net zero carbon goals. Our industry leadership on leakage reduction has seen us achieve rates of water loss per kilometre at half the national average, while on carbon reduction, we have played a leading role in the national debate on reaching net zero carbon emissions and in 2017 became the first UK utility to launch a Green Bond.
Read more from Peter on our Public Interest Commitment.
Our environmental, social and corporate governance
We believe it’s important to demonstrate through reporting how we put our social and environmental Purpose into action. You can read more, and find links to relevant reports here.
Our sense of social and environmental Purpose extends to everything we do and everyone we employ. We have created a simple but powerful Values framework which gives us all a common goal – or North Star – to work towards. Find out more on our Values here.
Our sustainable financing
We have led the way in sustainable finance in the UK, making history in 2017 when we became the first European utility to issue a sterling Green Bond. Since then, we have funded a staggering 850 capital investment projects through financing from Green Bonds totalling £811 million. We’re very proud that thanks to our longstanding focus on sustainability, all of our capital investment meets the strict environmental criteria set for Green Bond funding.
The investments made through the five Green Bonds issued to date are expected to save or avoid 160,736 tonnes of carbon – a 61% reduction from our 2010 capital carbon baseline and a significant step towards our 2030 net zero carbon goal.
Our sustainability framework has also allowed us to link £850 million-worth of banking facilities to sustainable benchmarks such as capital carbon reduction, water consumption, leakage, pollution incidents and support for vulnerable customers.
Longer term, Anglian Water plans to secure the vast majority of its financing through sustainable frameworks.
Find out more here.