Through Water UK, water companies in England are strengthening their ongoing commitment to working in the public interest and placing wider good at the heart of everything they do. The companies have agreed a series of pledges which form part of a new Public Interest Commitment, which complements their individual business plans by showing leadership at a national level.
The sector will champion measures through which water companies can enshrine what it means to operate in the public interest within their business purpose, in line with best practice among leading socially-responsible businesses. This could include steps such as amending licences or Articles of Association.
As part of the Public Interest Commitment water companies have also agreed to work together towards five challenging goals:
- Triple the rate of leakage reduction across the sector by 2030
- Make bills affordable as a minimum for all households with water and sewerage bills more than 5% of their disposable income by 2030 and develop a strategy to end water poverty
- Achieve net zero carbon emissions for the sector by 2030
- Prevent the equivalent of 4 billion plastic bottles ending up as waste by 2030
- Be the first sector to achieve 100% commitment to the Social Mobility Pledge
A programme of work to help achieve each of the above goals will be led by a member of the Water UK board and an independent panel will be established to report annually on how well the sector is performing collectively.
The Public Interest Commitment has been created by the water industry following companies’ ongoing dialogue with customers, which revealed that they would like the water industry to do more, not just to improve services, but also to play a full role in tackling wider social and environmental challenges.
The precise way in which each company does that will vary to reflect the priorities of their local communities. Following the sector’s biggest-ever customer engagement programme, the improvements recently set out in companies’ five-year business plans to 2025 sit at the heart of the commitment, individually and collectively, to reinforce the water industry’s contract with society. The initiative comes at a time when Ofwat is preparing shortly to set out how all players in the water sector can come together to create a shared vision for its future.